The ANC has proposed a graduate tax for all graduates of institutions of higher education. The proposal has been met with opposition from many youth and student organisations.

According to The Sowetan, the ANC made this resolution at its elective conference in Mangaung last year. Details were limited with no explanation given regarding timelines for the implementation of the tax or the likely percentage to be levied. The tax was reportedly intended to contribute to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme. The scheme was expected to play a major role in government’s plans to introduce free education to all undergraduate students.

SASCO stands in opposition to the graduate tax. SASCO Chairperson Kwara Kekana believes that the proposed tax would impose an additional burden on the working class and the poor. “We believe that a graduate tax works against the logic of the implementation of free quality education, which appreciates the historic burden of the poor graduate and seeks to redress the gap between the rich and poor in our country. Our country has more than half a million unemployed graduates who remain destitute and we wonder what implications this tax will have on them,” said Kekana.

SASCO has called for an education tax which would require businesses and the rich to contribute towards education.

DA Youth Leader Makashule Gana believes that graduate tax could discourage students from acquiring tertiary education. “An additional tax on working graduates would simply be unfair. It would mean an extra payment on top of their income tax at a time when many are struggling to make ends meet. Many students are battling to pay off huge student loans. Student debt in 2009 was around R3 billion and has risen considerably since then,” he said.

DASO Tuks Branch Leader Thorne Godinho said, “A graduate tax will make it even harder for graduates to cope with living in a country where economic growth is negligible, jobs are not being created and many students have to deal with student loan debts.” DASO believes that a Youth Wage Subsidy, which will incentivise businesses to hire more young people, should be created.

AfriForum Youth spokesperson Danie Ungerer believes the proposed tax would create a climate where young people will be discouraged from furthering their studies and more graduates will consider emigrating. He added that having a degree does not guarantee that one can afford the additional tax.

AfriForum Youth will ask the sub-committee for education to open up the process for public discussion.

Temporary Student Committee (TSC) President Christopher Pappas said, “It is utterly absurd that students who are already overburdened by student loans which charge exorbitant interest rates will now have to fork out more after completion of their tertiary education. Graduates are struggling to find employment and a steady income as it is. This graduate tax will only add to the hardships of the youth of South Africa. We as the TSC will do all in our power to resist the ANC’s ridiculous proposal.”

In a statement on 8 February, ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu said, “We want to clarify that this was not a firm recommendation. [It is] safe to say that the [education] commission agreed that this recommendation needs to be considered in future. To this extent, no consideration has been made by the sub-committee or the ANC on this recommendation.”

Click here to read SASCO, DA Youth and AfriForum’s full statements.

Illustration: Simon-Kai Garvie

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