The Democratic Alliance has questioned why the minister of finance, Pravin Gordhan, is not part of a newly formed Ministerial Task Team on higher education.
President Jacob Zuma has established a ministerial task team to assist the minister of higher education and training, Blade Nzimande, to ‘normalise’ the situation at higher education institutions across South Africa.
It follows a week of violence and destruction by student protesters demanding free education. The protests have threatened the future of the 2016 academic year due to the closure of many university campuses over the past month.
The task team comprises:
- Minister in the presidency for planning, monitoring and evaluation Jeff Radebe as convenor;
- Minister of higher education and training, Blade Nzimande;
- Minister of science and technology, Naledi Pandor;
- Minister of justice and correctional services, Michael Masutha;
- Minister of police, Nathi Nhleko;
- Minister of state security, David Mahlobo;
- Minister of defence and military veterans, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula;
- Minister of home affairs, Malusi Gigaba.
Belinda Bozzoli, DA shadow minister of higher education and training, questioned why the president chose to include Gigaba, while leaving Gordhan off the list. “It is clear that the president and the ANC are out of touch with the crisis engulfing our higher education sector.
“At the heart of the crisis is the chronic under-funding of higher education over the last decade. This has resulted in Universities being forced to rely on student fees as a major source of income, making it more difficult for poor students to access tertiary education,” Bozzoli said.
“If President Zuma was really serious about finding a long-term solution to this, he would have wanted his best-minds around the table, including his Minister of Finance. This is especially the case when any funding solution will have to go through the budget process, which Minister Gordhan oversees,” the DA education lead said.
“One can only assume that his decision not to include such a critical minister in this team is due to internal party politics. If this is true, it shows yet again that Jacob Zuma more interested in his own power, than ensuring the future of young South Africans is protected,” Bozzoli said.
Gordhan meanwhile, has been issued with a summons by the Hawks on charges of fraud relating to the early retirement of his former deputy, Ivan Pillay.
The finance minister is expected to deliver his medium-term budget on 26 October 2016, thereafter he will appear in court with his co-accused on 2 November.
Zuma again condemned the acts of violence and the destruction of property at institutions of higher learning, in a statement on Tuesday, and urged all students to return to class while solutions are collectively sought to the challenges of higher education in the country.
He said government reiterated its full commitment to promoting access to higher education for the children of the poor and the working class.