The Presidency on Sunday has rejected the claim President Jacob Zuma was planning to announce free tertiary education during his State of the Nation Address in February.
According to The Sunday Times, Zuma wanted to institute free higher education as early as February this year but was stopped by shocked Treasury officials. The president was reportedly also planning to reveal a R40-billion free higher education plan on Tuesday last week but was stopped in his tracks by senior officials in Treasury warning it would spur an economic crisis.
In response to the story, the Presidency on Sunday said Zuma never planned to make such an announcement, calling The Sunday Times story a fabrication.
"The President had appointed a commission of inquiry into higher education funding headed by Judge John Heher. The President waited for the Commission to conclude its business. At no stage did he plan to make any announcements that would undermine the work of the Commission," the Presidency's spokesperson Bongani Ngqulunga said in a statement.
He said the president has tasked an inter-ministerial committee on higher education led by Minister Jeff Radebe to "process the Heher Commission report and advise him on how to respond to the content thereof".
"Any action going forward will result from careful consideration by relevant structures in government," he said.