Tertiary institutions are preparing themselves for possible chaos during registration, reports the City Press.
Registration begins on Monday for some institutions of higher learning, and later this month for others.
In December, President Jacob Zuma made the surprise announcement that free higher education will be provided for poor and working-class students.
As late as this week, the presidency, Treasury and the department of higher education were unable to say where the billions of rands needed to fund the initiative would come from.
All they have been able to say is that Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba – who has already stated that the fiscus was facing a shortfall of R51bn for the coming financial year and R209bn over the next three years – will provide details in his 2018/19 budget speech in February.
Zuma's ambitious new funding policy will cover tuition, accommodation, food and transport costs.
Mayihlome Tshwete, Gigaba's spokesperson, confirmed yesterday that Treasury was still trying to find the money within existing resources.
Tshwete said there was no tension between Treasury and other government departments over the funding question -- adding that there were no plans to obtain additional funds from the International Monetary Fund, as has been speculated.
Last week, Universities South Africa (USAF) said that there would be no walk-in applications accommodated from prospective students when registration opens for the 2018 academic year -- to the opposition by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).
There are now concerns of upheavals after the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) student command -- who announced that it would lead a mass walk-in registration drive at campuses. The EFF says this is aimed at ensuring that all deserving students benefit from Zuma's move.
Some universities, however, have since changed their tune on walk-in applications.
Former higher education Minister Blade Nzimande was also concerned about the plan.
"Can we afford free higher education, as announced on the 16th of December...Can we do these things? Where is this money going to come from?" Nzimande asked, during his address in Soweto, at Joe Slovo's 23rd anniversary celebrations.