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Uncertainty about 2020 tertiary academic year

Members of parliament are unhappy with the Minister responsible for Higher Education, Blade Nzimande as he has repeatedly failed to attended the portfolio committee to discuss saving the 2020 academic year at tertiary institutions and to answer the MPs other questions. Now they are talking about issuing a subpoena for him if he won't attend the meeting.

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Minister of Higher Education Blade Nzimande is not popular with the parliamentary portfolio committee as he has repeatedly failed to attend their meetings. The members of parliament wanted to discuss the saving of the 2020 academic year at tertiary institutions and address some other very important topics.

Nzimande had asked for postponement of the meeting to this week because he attended a Cabinet lekgotla, but still didn't attend this week's meeting.  He gave his apologies for this meeting saying that he had to chair interviews in the Department of Science and Technology.

Minister Nzimande sent the Director General of the Higher Education and Training Department, armed with a detailed presentation and a group of senior officials - but it wasn't enough. 

Rather than listen to the officials presents the members of parliament, one after the other, expressed their desire to postpone the meeting.  The members expressed how they felt undermined in performing their duty of playing oversight over the department. 

I am very disappointed that every time the Minister must come to the portfolio committee we hear apologies, said Jane Mananiso MP.

The members of parliament were so angry that some called for the Minister to be subpoenaed to attend a meeting within seven days. 

Mr Baxolile Nodada from the Democratic Alliance was in support of the plan to subpoena the Minister. We must subpoena the Minister because we have those powers.

"We need to have the political head to come an account on certain things we were briefed on - by him by the way. What needs to be procured, and various other issues that we have picked up on. I feel that we are being really completely undermined that the Minister requested a postponement to this particular date".

Mapulane also said the MPs were correct that there were matters that require political leadership of the department in the form of the minister to take them on board and into his confidence on how the 2020 academic year would be saved.

We are in October. The academic year normally comes to an end in November. In some institutions there is a suggestion that they may finish in February, March and others in April next year. We don't know, 

-Higher education portfolio committee chairperson Philly Mapulane

ANC MP Nompendulo Mkhatshwa said the students were being disadvantaged in the delays that hindered progress. 

These delays continue to hinder us in making progress in ensuring that students are represented and that their needs are championed. We must express our greatest apologies to the students. It is really disappointing that we find ourselves in this particular circumstance, 

-ANC MP Nompendulo Mkhatshwa

It was noted by Mapulane that there was an uncertainty amongst tertiary students as to what would happen to them in this academic year and what the future holds for their studies. 

It is important we have that session so that the minister can come and attend to the concerns that are there and it is the minister who can allay the uncertainties,

-Higher education portfolio committee chairperson Philly Mapulane

 Mapulane said that the committee would write to Nzimande to express the concerns raised by MPs about his unavailability. 

The proposal of summoning the minister will be entertained as the last resort. If there is no compliance with that request Parliament has an instrument to ensure there is accountability, that instrument is a subpoena.

-Higher education portfolio committee chairperson Philly Mapulane

The full video recording of the (short) parliarmentary portfolio committee meeting is available on YouTube

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