Following the leak of the highly anticipated Fees Commission report by City Press on , social activism group Equal Education has expressed concerns about the income-contingent loan (ICL) loan system that the report proposes replace the current National Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).
The ICL is "criminal" according to the Equal Education's secretary general Tshepo Motsepe.
According to leaked documents in the possession of City Press, the ICL model would only exempt those students whose careers are not expected to reach a threshold that triggers a repayment obligation from paying fees.
"You have this weird system that says if you earn more, you have to repay your fees," Motsepe told HuffPost.
All black students should be exempted from fees, he argued, because South Africa's unequal society has especially harsh implications for them.
"The majority of young black graduates are the first in their families to receive degrees, especially when they graduate from the sought-after disciplines like the sciences. Those students have to then pay what is known as 'black tax'," he said, referring to financial support extended families typically expect from these first-generation graduates.
While Equal Education welcomes the scrapping of the old NSFAS, introducing an ICL system, which will have its "tentacles" on new graduates, is the wrong approach, he said.
"South Africa is not a poor country. South Africa is riddled with corruption."
Government could afford free tertiary education for the poorest students, if only officials spent money wisely.
"South Africa is not a poor country. South Africa is riddled with corruption [and] misappropriation of funds. With better management of our resources, we can really attack inequality in the country," he said.
Furthermore, Motsepe raised concerns about the Fees Commission's recommendation that government also fund private institutions.
"That is quite problematic and should not be considered. Instead, there should be a concerted effort to rather fund historically black universities and colleges," he elaborated.
Equal Education welcomed the proposed scrapping of fees at technical and vocational (TVET) colleges.
"Poor black students will now go to the TVET sector," he said.
Following two consecutive years of student protests, President Jacob Zuma formed the Fees Commission in January 2016. Chaired by retired judge Arthur Heher, the commission has investigated the possibility of free higher education and training and submitted its findings in a report at the end of August. The report is yet to be officially released by the presidency, which issued a statement over the past weekend stating that the president was still "finalising the processing of the report".
According to the statement, "the Presidency will consult with the relevant Ministers to ensure that government is ready to implement the President's decision."
The presidency also stated that consultations were at an "advanced stage" and it is expected that they would be finalised during the course of next week.
When approached for comment on the City Press coverage of the report, presidency spokesperson Dr Bongani Ngqulunga declined to comment.
"We do not comment on leaked documents," he told HuffPost.
Disclaimer: This headline has been edited for accuracy.