S. Africa May Use Skills Levy to Fund Colleges Amid Protests

  • Students break into parliament grounds to demand lower fees
  • Finance Minister delivers mid-term budget speech in Cape Town

South Africa’s government may reallocate money collected through a skills levy to help fund universities amid student protests at parliament and the institutions against fee increases that have shut classes.

“There are a lot of imbalances in the system” with state training institutions funded by a skills levy on workers’ salaries running surpluses, Michael Sachs, head of the Treasury’s budget office, said in an interview in Cape Town on Wednesday. “Even this year we have an extra billion rand from the skills development levy revenue that we didn’t expect.”

Riot police fired stun grenades and clashed with thousands of student demonstrators who broke into the parliamentary grounds as Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene was reading the mid-term budget speech. Earlier, security personnel dragged lawmakers from the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters out of the chamber when they disrupted the address. Protests have spread at universities across the country since last week against proposed fee increases of more than double the inflation rate.

Student groups rejected a proposal by Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande on Tuesday to cap increases at 6 percent.

“The higher education and training system has significant resources,” Sachs said. “The distribution of those resources between different elements of its policy agenda is something that would need to be discussed.”

Laws will need to be amended to shift money within the higher education system, he said.

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