Former president Jacob Zuma questioned why the country took so long to introduce free higher education for the poor and working class when he delivered a lecture in uMlazi, KwaZulu-Natal on Thursday.
"When I took this decision in 2017, it was already three years late," Zuma said in the lecture, broadcast live on eNCA.
He pointed out that the Freedom Charter guaranteed free education, but that it took until last year for this to be realised.
"Why did we take over 20 years before we implemented this...?" asked Zuma.
Since the introduction of free higher education for the poor and working class, people finally have a chance to break the painful "culture" of excellent black matriculants never going any further with their education, he continued.
For decades matriculants who had passed with flying colours were stopped in their tracks for the simple reason that their parents could not afford to send them to a tertiary institution.
The apartheid government also hammered home the idea that black South Africans were never worthy of a decent education, he continued.
He said the apartheid regime even made black South Africans afraid of mathematics, so much so that they thought they would never qualify for jobs that needed a mind for the sciences.
He said that even the report of the Heher Commission of Inquiry into higher education, that was eventually completed following the Fees Must Fall movement's demand for free education, focused heavily on education as a business transaction.
This, Zuma said, was not good.
The former president announced in December 2017, just before the ANC's 54th national elective conference, that education for the poor and working class should be free from 2018.
It starts with first-time entry students from families with a gross combined annual income of up to R350 000.
This boost would broaden the horizons of new generations, he believed.