Lobby group Equal Education (EE) says the government should examine the personal taxation structure of the top 10% of South Africa’s earners.

“This income bracket together with the high net worth individuals (HNWIs), who have thus far evaded taxation, could generate a substantial increase in available public revenue to fund higher education,” said EE during hearings by the presidential commission investigating the feasibility of fee-free education in Cape Town on Monday.

Quoting research, EE said there were about 48 800 HNWIs with an accumulated wealth of R70-million each.

“If only 10 000 of these HNWIs paid income tax like the 3 337 income millionaires did in 2013, instead of hiding outside the tax system, this would yield an additional R37-billion in tax revenue.”

EE’s other recommendations included:

  • No student who meets the requirements for admission to a university course should be excluded for financial reasons; and
  • Poor students need to be prioritised in the realisation of free higher education in South Africa.

EE said universities should be funded as comprehensively as possible “to discharge their important socioeconomic, political and cultural mandates”.

“The number of bailouts Eskom, SAA and other state-owned enterprises have received in past years has averaged billions — funds that could have been used in other sectors to better equip the public and enhance our health and education sectors,” said the organisation.

EE’s submission said it was generally agreed that the higher education system was chronically underfunded.

“The minister of higher education himself has accepted the need to access additional resources for higher education. Therefore, there should be focused interventions on this.”

EE said the affordability of higher education was a real challenge “considering the inability of NSFAS [the National Student Financial Aid Scheme] to provide financial support to all deserving cases.”