Acting Minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni under scrutiny
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Politics: Acting Minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni has come under scrutiny for bunking meetings of the portfolio committee playing oversight over her Department of Small Business Development before the unrest.
Yesterday, opposition parties took a swipe at Ntshavheni who has been acting in the ministerial position previously occupied by the late minister Jackson Mthembu.
Ntshavheni was conspicuously absent when the MPs serving on the small business development committee met to plan for an oversight visit to the two provinces.
Neither her deputy Rosemary Cape nor director-general Lindokuhle Mkhumane was in attendance to brief the committee on the department’s intervention in the wake of the unrest.
The no-show of the department’s leadership saw an official in Ntshavheni’s office asked to brief the committee though not aware that she was meant to speak to the committee.
Chief of staff Humbelani Tshikalange said the ministry has visited malls in Alexandra and Mamelodi, among others, where most of the malls were burnt.
Tshikalange also said the department was still busy checking what to do in terms of assistance to affected small businesses.
“The DG would have been better if he was here to find out if they have finished what they were packaging so that SMMEs can be helped,” Tshikalange said.
EFF MP Dumisani Mthenjane said they were very much saddened by the unrest and blamed it on the ANC infighting.
Mthenjane noted with concern the committee met without the political head of the department in attendance.
“As a committee we are sitting without a minister of this department. We sit without a deputy minister,” he said.
Mthenjane also said they could no longer have a minister who doubled between two departments.
“We have said this minister must rather serve in the presidency as a permanent candidate. We are saying we need to get a minister in this department who is going to be here full time so that he or she can take this department seriously,” he added.
This prompted committee chairperson Violet Siwela to ask Mthenjane to stick to the meeting’s agenda.
“We visit the two provinces and those other issues we shelve them for another meeting,” Siwela said.
Babalwa Mathulelwa, an EFF MP, would not let go saying the Small Business Development Department had never developed small businesses in South Africa since it was established.
Mathulelwa said although they often complained about Ntshavheni, Capa sometimes attended their meetings.
“It is sad, chair, that the minister never misses meetings of the presidency. She would have been the first to attend if it was the presidency,” she said.
Mathulelwa also said it was painful to pretend when Ntshavheni did not take them seriously.
“It does not sit well with us as members of this committee,” she said.
Siwela would only say the issue of the minister was noted.
“Lets allow the process to unfold and then we will do those engagements,” she said.
The committee agreed to visit KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng after the support staff developed a programme and it was approved by House chairperson of committee Cedric Frolick.
The plan is to visit uMgungundlovu, King Cetywayo and eThekwini in KwaZulu-Natal as well as Ekurhuleni and City of Johannesburg, and maybe Tshwane, in Gauteng.
They said they wanted to engage directly with small businesses during their oversight visit.
ANC MP Faiez Jacobs said they should be alert to the economic relief package being developed by the government for the affected business.
“We must rally around it and ensure that the government has capacity to implement the package,” Jacobs said.
ATM’s Vuyo Zungula said: “We must find a way to direct the government to prioritise small businesses.”
Siwela said their plan would be to take stock and liaise with the department on their findings.
“We are going there to gather information so that we can come back, sit down and advise the department how best they can assist our small businesses,” she said.
Responding to comments from members of the portfolio committee, Ntshavheni said the committee conducts its own oversight without the department.
Ntshavheni’s spokesperson Moira Mogomotsi said the department was not invited to the meeting of the committee.
“The portfolio committee performs their oversight function without the supervision of the department. The Minister and the department conducted their own assessments of damaged infrastructure including meeting with representatives of businesses such as NAFCOC, FABCOS, South Africans Informal Traders Association , Franchising Association of South Africa, and National Health Care Professionals Associations.
“These engagements were to inform the Department’s response to the unrests and economic challenges. Just for clarity, the Department was not invited (correctly so) for the Portfolio Committee oversight,” said Mogomotsi.