Treasury says no money to fund zero percent fee increase

By Ayanda Mgede and Laura Pisanello

The National Treasury has said that they have not budgeted for a zero percent fee increase for 2017, causing speculation that another series of #FeesMustFall protests could be possible.

The statement was made on Friday at the Fees Commission and coincided with a report by the Council of Higher Education (CHE) stating that another 0% increase in 2017 would not be possible as university fee increases should at least be on par with inflation. They recommended an increase of 6.3% for both tuition and registration fees. The CHE also cautioned that without an increase in fees, universities would be in a worse financial position.

The CHE also included in the report its recommendation to increase the state subsidy to universities by R5.7 billion in 2017/18 therefore allowing universities to recover some of their shortfall caused by the 0% increase in 2016. The CHE did, however, caution that the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) would still have a shortfall of R300 million.

The CHE proposed a blanket increase for all universities that would essentially ensure that students see no fee increase between 2016 and 2017, possibly with the exemption of some residence fees.

But the National Treasury said on Friday that when the announcement for a 0% increase was made the budget had already been planned for the next few years, making it very difficult for the Treasury to reallocate funds to higher education. Michael Sachs, who presented on behalf of the National Treasury, said that they had budgeted on fee increases for the following years.

At a town hall meeting last week, Wits Vice Chancellor Adam Habib said that that Wits would need an 8% increase for 2017, if the university did not receive an increased subsidy from the government.

Mzwanele Ntshwanti, the projects, media and campaigns officer for the Wits Student Representative Council (SRC) and member of the Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) told Wits Vuvuzela that they opposed any fee increase.

“We still don’t want any increment, SAUS (South African Union of Students) doesn’t want any increment, SRC doesn’t want any increment, no one wants a fee increment and we are still trying to negotiate and see what can come out,” Ntshwanti said.

He also told Wits Vuvuzela that a statement regarding a possible national shutdown would be released shortly.

EXCLUSIVE: Wits loses another Dean

By Thuletho Zwane and Dineo Bendile

Wits University has lost yet another senior member of staff after the Dean of Commerce, Law and Management, Professor Nqosa Mahao, gave Wits Vuvuzela exclusive notice of his resignation.

Mahao was appointed as Dean in February 2012, and will leave the university after just under two years in his position.

In an interview with Wits Vuvuzela Mahao said he was not being driven out of his position as Dean, but made the decision to resign in order to broaden his horizons.

“Yes I have resigned from the university. I am going to explore other interests. Period,” Mahao said.

GOING, GOING, GONE!: Professor Nqosa Mahao has announced his resignation as the dean of Commerce Law and Management.

GOING, GOING, GONE!: Professor Nqosa Mahao has announced his resignation as the Dean of Commerce Law and Management. Photo: Provided


However, Oliver Seale, the director of special projects at Wits, said there had been a general review of the Commerce, Law and Management faculty earlier in the year on the basis of particular challenges that were raised about the faculty’s leadership, management and administration.

“Out of that [review] process there were certain recommendations that were made with regard to leadership, the management of the faculty and administration. What that has resulted in is that negotiations have started with the Dean of the faculty in terms of his future at the university,” Seale said in an interview with Wits Vuvuzela last week. In an email from the vice-chancellor’s office minutes ago, Prof Adam Habib confirmed the resignation.

“I take this opportunity to thank Prof Mahao for his undeterred service to the university.”

Mahao’s resignation, follows the recent resignation of the director of the Wits Business School, Professor Wendy Ngoma, who announced her resignation in August. The business school forms part of the Commerce Law and Management portfolio that had been placed under Mahao’s responsibility.

In less than 200 days since Habib has been in office, there have been other senior members of staff who have left or been removed from their positions. The Director of Transformation, Nazeema Mohamed, has also recently resigned and the Dean of Student Affairs, Prem Coopoo, has been placed on special leave with no indication of when she will return. The Dean of Health Sciences Professor Ahmed Wadee left his post after being recalled by the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS).

Mahao said he will leave the university at the end November, after serving a two-month notice period.



Mighti: Wits is not the SRC’s Spaza Shop


THE MIGHTI LEADER: Jamie Mighti talks about his hopes for improved student-management relations. Photo: Prelene Singh

THE MIGHTI LEADER: Jamie Mighti talks about his hopes for improved student-management relations. Photo: Prelene Singh

INCOMING Vice Chancellor  Adam Habib has agreed to an open meeting between Witsies and management early next semester, to forge a connection between them and address student issues.

[pullquote align=”right”]“You have turned the university into your personal spaza shop and are holding us all at your mercy.”[/pullquote]

The meeting was suggested by Wits Debating Union’s president, Jamie Mighti, who criticised the SRC for failing to represent students adequately. The idea behind the town hall-style meeting is to give students a chance to speak directly to management, as “we’re losing touch with each other”.

He made the suggestion two weeks ago during an interview with Habib and Wits SRC secretary, Tasneem Essop on Talk Radio 702. The interview followed an open letter Mighti posted on social media. The letter went viral, getting over 960 “likes” and being shared by nearly 400 people on Facebook alone.

In his letter, Mighti said the SRC had “chosen to ignore the ‘R’ in SRC” and questioned some of the decisions made in previous months. He said the SRC, while not incompetent, had no vision, discipline or capacity to deal with students’ issues.

“I love many of the people on the SRC as individuals. They are great people and will do well in politics. But we have had enough of your politics at our expense. You have turned the university into your personal spaza shop and are holding us all at your mercy.”

He said he was worried the SRC was dividing students and “alienating” themselves (the SRC) from management. “We need collaboration versus confrontation with the university.”

Essop said while she could agree there had been a breakdown in communication between the SRC and students, it was unfair to suggest the SRC was not doing anything for them. “We’re just not good at advertising our success.

“It’s a fallacy that we don’t think of more immediate issues,” she said, responding to Mighti’s claim the SRC was more active in international activism than in tackling on-campus issues.

“We’re not trying to dispel student issues  … we’re putting suggestion boxes around campus. We also have an open-door policy.”

Essop said the SRC was happy to be part of the town hall meeting, and that it was in their diary.

Related links:

Wits Vuvuzela May 10, 2013 Petitions, protests and perplexity

Wits Vuvuzela May 17, 2013 The charges against the eleven will not be dropped

Wits Vuvuzela April 26, 2013 SRC accused want a public trial