Go back

What South Africa’s political parties say about research

 Image: SEAN GLADWELL, via Getty Images

These are the science and university funding policies of the parties contesting next week’s election

On 29 May, South Africans will be heading to the polls to cast their votes in the country’s seventh democratic general election.

The ruling African National Congress is widely expected to get less than half of the vote for the first time. This has opened up the playing field for South Africa’s other parties, who might wield more power after the polls as part of governing coalitions.

In the election run-up, Research Professional News has scoured the parties’ manifestos to pick out what they say about higher education, science and technology.

This is a summary of that work with links to more detailed analysis.

African National Congress

South Africa’s ruling party says it will improve access to education while expanding the use of science and technology to transform society for the better.

It picks out green technologies and climate change as key areas for investment, alongside artificial intelligence and blockchain.

It also aims to increase both enrolment and graduation of students at the country’s universities, with a focus on students who come from previously disadvantaged demographic groups, and students with disabilities.

Full analysis of the ANC’s manifesto

Democratic Alliance

South Africa’s largest opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, makes the country’s higher education “funding environment” a focus of its manifesto.

This includes reforming the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), turning it into a “tiered system” offering loans and grants with a stronger eye towards repayment to make the scheme more sustainable.

The DA also says it will “invest in research and innovation” to improve higher education outcomes and attract top researchers from around the world.

Full analysis of the DA’s manifesto

Economic Freedom Fighters

The Economic Freedom Fighters promises to triple national research funding in its 255-page manifesto, the longest of any party.

Many of its pledges revolve around expanding access to higher education, including offering free accommodation and food for those who need it. 

To fund its education promises, the EFF says it will introduce a two per cent education and training tax for private companies with turnovers of R50 million or more.

Full analysis of the EFF’s manifesto

Small parties

Many of South Africa’s smaller parties also include higher education policies in their manifestos.

The Patriotic Alliance aims to fight “brain drain” by preventing state-funded university students from emigrating for an “agreed-upon, significant space of time in recognition of the investment that the state has made”.

The Inkatha Freedom Party says it will reform NSFAS by moving its administration and management back to tertiary institutions. This will ensure greater efficiency, transparency and responsiveness, it says. 

Meanwhile, former president Jacob Zuma’s newly formed uMkhonto we Sizwe party indicates it will promote higher education within the borders of South Africa.

Full analysis of the small parties’ manifestos