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No, SA’s higher education budget has not increased 6 times under Zuma

This article is more than 7 years old

Defending South African President Jacob Zuma against criticism and calls for his resignation the country's minister of water and sanitation claimed that funding for higher education had increased sixfold.

Speaking to an African National Congress Youth League rally, Nomvula Mokonyane said that “the budget of higher education has been multiplied 6 times under President Jacob Zuma.”

Our readers asked Africa Check to verify Mokonyane’s claims.

‘That’s the assumption I’m having’

Africa Check tried to get the source of this claim from Mokonyane’s spokesman, Mlimandlela Ndamase, but he told us he didn’t have one.

“But I suppose if you look at the budget of higher education in 2009 up to 2016/2017 it will give you that indication. That’s the assumption I’m having,” Ndamase advised.

Ndamase further added that he didn’t have the figures Mokonyane referred to at hand and directed Africa Check to the department of higher education and training.

Nearly R70 billion allocated for current financial year

Zuma became president during the 2009/10 financial year, in May 2009. That year, the department of higher education was established following the separation of the former department of education into a department for basic education and one for higher education and training.

Because of this, higher education was not allocated its own budget in 2009/10, but was earmarked R17.5 billion as part of the education department’s budget. However, audited figures, treasury and the department of higher education confirmed that the budget was around R28.5 billion .

In 2016/17, the last completed financial year, R66.8 billion was allocated to the department. An estimated R68.9 billion has been allocated to higher education and training for the current financial year (2017/18).

Based on the audited expenditure of R28.5 billion, the department's budget increased 2.4 times to R68.9 billion in 2016/17.

YearAnnual budget (rands)

Spending as % of total budget

The total state budget also increased over this period, from just over R747 billion in 2009/10 to R1.3 trillion in 2016/17.

Data from the department of higher education shows that South Africa’s total public university budget increased from 2.2% of the total state budget in 2009/10 to 2.8% in 2016/17. This figure excludes the department’s operational costs.

Real government university subsidy per student

Economics professor and head of the economics department at the University of the Free State, Philippe Burger, calculated the “real government subsidy per student” between 2000 and 2013.

This figure is calculated by dividing government’s subsidy by the number of students. It is then adjusted for inflation to enable comparisons between years.

Burger’s calculations show that, in real terms, government’s per student subsidy increased by R327 from R17,823 in 2009 to R18,180 in 2013 (in 2010 prices).

Conclusion: Department budget increased 2.4 times

Minister Nomvula Mokonyane claimed that “the budget of higher education [in South Africa] has been multiplied 6 times under President Jacob Zuma.”

Although higher education was only allocated R17.5 billion in the first year of Zuma’s presidency, expenditure was audited at around R28.5 billion. The most recent budget figures, from 2017/18, show that the budget increased 2.4 times to R68.9 billion.

Edited by Anim van Wyk


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