Naledi Pandor has been appointed South Africa’s new higher education minister in a Cabinet reshuffle.
The former minister of science and technology has been tasked with stabilising higher education after former president Jacob Zuma’s surprise announcement in December that the government would “extend fully subsidised free higher education to [those from] well over 90 per cent of South African households”.
Ms Pandor, who replaces Hlengiwe Mkhize, oversaw a complete overhaul of the education system during her tenure as minister of education from 2004 to 2009.
New South African president Cyril Ramaphosa announced his Cabinet on 26 February. Several former allies of Mr Zuma were demoted or lost their jobs.
In last week’s 2018 budget announcement, former finance minister Malusi Gigaba, who was appointed home affairs minister in the reshuffle, said that the government had allocated R57 billion (£3.5 billion) over the next three years to fund free fees for first-year tertiary students. The expense will be partly funded by revenue raised from an increase in value-added tax.
It means that higher education is now the government’s fastest-growing spending category, with an annual average growth of 13.7 per cent, according to Eyewitness News.
Under the free fees proposal, which took effect for those starting university this month, any student from a household with a combined annual income of less than R350,000 (£20,700) is eligible for free tuition and financial support.
Sector leaders have raised concerns about the long-term sustainability of the programme.