Blade Nzimande, Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology at a media briefing at uMhlanga Protea Hotel fire and Ice, in March. Picture: Sibonelo Ngcobo/African News Agency(ANA)
Blade Nzimande, Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology at a media briefing at uMhlanga Protea Hotel fire and Ice, in March. Picture: Sibonelo Ngcobo/African News Agency(ANA)

MPs blast Nzimande for missing portfolio committee meeting

By Mayibongwe Maqhina Time of article published Oct 16, 2020

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Cape Town: Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande came under fire on Friday for failing to attend a portfolio committee to discuss the saving of the 2020 academic year at tertiary institutions.

The MPs across the political divide raised concerns that Nzimande bunked their meeting and said they felt undermined in performing their duty of playing oversight over the department because Nzimande had last week asked for the postponement to this week since he attended a Cabinet lekgotla.

They were so angry that there were calls that he be subpoenaed to come to the next meeting within seven days.

They said some of the questions, including failure to provide some students with laptops during Covid-19 when students studied remotely, required Nzimande's answer.

"We postponed last week on Wednesday because we received his request that we should move the meeting to this week," higher education portfolio committee chairperson Philly Mapulane said.

He said they had turned down Nzimande's request that the meeting be held on Thursday evening.

"We take a view that we would not have meetings in the evening unless in some exceptional circumstances. That is why we have convened today, hence his apology," Mapulane said.

He 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 academic year would be rescued.

"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," Mapulane said.

"There are implications arising from that situation which can be discussed with the minister."

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

"We must express our apologies to the students. It is really disappointing that we find ourselves in this particular circumstance," Mkhatshwa said.

Mapulane concurred that there was uncertainty on the part of students as to what would happen to them in this academic year and what the future was 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," he said.

Mapulane said they would write to Nzimande to express 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." | Political Bureau

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