“Fee-free education” plan sets the record straight

The so-called architect behind President Jacob Zuma’s fee-free education plan says it was not his brainchild alone, but rather a collective effort.

Speaking to PowerFM presenter Iman Rappetti at the ANC’s 54th elective conference on Wednesday, Mukhove Morris Masutha said the plan was aimed at “decommodifying education” and addressing the lack of trust between higher education students and the ruling party.

Clad in white ANC regalia, a passionate Masutha said attempts to individualise his attempts to attain free education as “a bogus intervention coined by some 28-year-old from Venda” were unfair, saying he had a genuine interest in finding a solution to free education without debt.

“It’s not my policy. It’s not my strategy. It’s not my intervention. I participated like all other South Africans who were invited to participate in the commission and I did so deliberately because I believed that the movement was missing policy direction,” he said.

READ: What Zuma does with fees commission report is entirely up to him – Heher

Masutha said he was angered by the direction that the Fees Must Fall campaign had taken, saying that the trust between the young protesters and the ANC needed to be addressed before the 2019 elections.

“Fees Must Fall is a protest against our movement’s failure to implement Mangaung and Polokwane resolutions.

“The job of a youth leaguer is to hold the ANC by its throat until it implements its policies, until we arrest the widening trust deficit between the ANC and the youth who are protesting against it,” he said.

Pushing back on free education

He added that, because there was a lot of money to be made in education, many people were pushing back on introducing free education.

In an exclusive News24 report, it was reported that Masutha was a State Security Agency spy who was part of counter-intelligence before he moved to the Union Buildings as a specialist advisor to Zuma.

In his best-selling book The President’s Keepers, journalist Jacques Pauw mentioned that intelligence agents played a role in the 2015 and 2016 Fees Must Fall movement.

Responding to this, Masutha said attempts to link him to Fees Must Fall were an insult to the campaign’s true activists.

He said he had only participated in the campaign in 2016, as a lecturer at University of Johannesburg, where he says he is still lecturing.

“That narration by News4 seeks to insinuate that I was behind Fees Must Fall, it’s a myth. I was in England when it started and it’s an insult to true activists who started Fees Must Fall which moved from Rhodes Must Fall and gained momentum,” he said.

Masutha said he was recruited into economic intelligence after his Masters work was seen by a chief economist in the City of Tshwane.

Masutha said he became involved in fees through his education when he had to investigate the structural deficiencies in the National Student Financial Aid Scheme.

READ: Higher Education Minister welcomes release of Fees Commission report

In 2016, he – along with a team from the Centre of Emerging Researchers and Thusanani Foundation – came up with submissions to make to the Heher Commission around fee-free education.

The commission was put in place by Zuma in 2016 following countrywide protests on several higher education campuses by students, attempting to force government and their respective administrations to find a solution to the student funding crisis.

A week after Masutha and his team presented their submissions to the commission, they presented their idea to the inter-ministerial committee as well as various other structures, including the presidential fiscal committee and ANC’s national executive committee, he said.

Masutha rubbished claims that he was engaged to Zuma’s daughter, Thuthukile Zuma but admitted that he knew her very well.

Zuma unexpectedly announced free education on Saturday – a day before the ANC’s elective conference commenced, sending the country into panic about where the money would come from.