Cyril Ramaphosa, SA deputy President says free higher education for all students in South Africa is not financially feasible.

“Free education for all, whilst it is a desirable notion, in South Africa it will simply not be affordable,” he said while answering questions from MPs in the National Assembly on Wednesday.

Mkhuleko Hlengwa, IFP MP asked about government’s policy 22 years into democracy, given that it was the ANC’s promises of free education that sparked the student protests in October last year.

“If you read the Freedom Charter carefully, you will find that the clause that refers to education, and it says education must be free ‘on merit’,” Ramaphosa answered.

He said government “totally agrees” with the notion of free education for the poor, as well as the subsidising of the “missing middle”; students who did not qualify for NSFAS, but did not get bursaries.

“In the end, it all boils down to can we afford to pay for every student who goes to university, even the children of the people who are sitting here.

“I would say, the children of all of us seated here, should not get free education at university level,” he said to applause from ANC MPs.

“The children of the poor should. I certainly would not be happy if my children were paid for by the State, and so you [Hlengwa] should not be either.”

Rich parents and those who could afford it should contribute towards tuition fees so that money could be channelled to poor and missing middle students, he said.

He applauded students who were willing to talk with government in the middle of protests and looming exams.

“We’ve got a number of role players who are not sleeping at the wheel. That is why the business community has also come to the fore.”

Ramaphosa said the rights to peaceful protest and to freedom of expression were fundamental principles that contributed to social cohesion.

Read also : 25 things you need to know about Deputy Pres. Cyril Ramaphosa.