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Minister Blade Nzimande: 2015 post-SONA debate in National Assembly

18 February 2015

The Speaker of the National Assembly
Ministers and Deputy Ministers
Honourable Members

In his State of the Nation Address, President Jacob Zuma, reminded the nation that 2015 marks 60 years since the adoption of the Freedom Charter. As a government we have come a long way in translating the visionary Freedom Charter into reality.

Under the leadership of President Zuma, and building on the achievements of the ANC since 1994, education has been made an apex priority for our country. The Freedom Charter says "the doors of learning and culture shall be opened" and that is precisely what this ANC government is doing.

Our intensive focus on education is starting to pay off:

  • A major achievement is tripling the Grade R enrolment, from 272 000 in 2002 to 813 044 in 2014;
  • South Africa has effectively achieved the universal primary education with 99.3% enrolments in 2013;
  • Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) college student headcount enrolments increased by 94% just in the last five years - from 345 566 in 2010 to almost 1 million this year;
  • Student headcount enrolments at universities have doubled between 1994 and the present to approximately one million students.
  • Intensive efforts to improve have been and are being undertaken at all levels.

In order to bring about expansion, we have had to expand our infrastructure. However, infrastructural development has not been rapid enough and we have become victims of our own success in expanding educational opportunities. It is for this reason that the President has emphasised our plans for further educational infrastructure in his SoNA, some of which are already being implemented.

Allow me to highlight some of these infrastructure developments especially to those members who decided to go AWOL on Thursday:

  • In 2011 the Accelerated School Infrastructure Delivery Initiative was established to replace schools built from inappropriate material prior to 1994. Important progress has been made with new schools built and water, electricity and sanitation provided to many more;
  • Plans have been developed for 12 new TVET College campuses and the refurbishment of two existing campuses; construction has already commenced at of the three sites;
  • Three new universities, i.e. Sol Plaatjie University in the Northern Cape, University of Mpumalanga and the Sefako Makgatho Allied and Health Sciences University in Gauteng have been established. Major new infrastructure programmes are being rolled out at SPU and UMP, and this investment and activity will continue over the next 10 years.

Government has invested over R13 billion over the past decade in university infrastructure. During the last three-year cycle (2012/13 to 2014/15), R6 billion has been invested in all categories of infrastructure. A disproportionate amount, (more than R2.5 billion) of this has been allocated to historically disadvantaged institutions (HDIs). One of the most urgent needs is for student housing, especially at the HDIs; of the R1.6 billion allocated to student housing at all universities, R1.4 billion has been allocated to HDIs.

A priority focus of new university and TVET college infrastructure is that education facilities must be universally accessible to ensure that disabled students, staff and visitors are not compromised in their use of campus spaces and buildings.

As our President said in his State of the Nation Address, Siyaqhuba. Siyasebenza. We are a nation at work.

A caring government assisting the poor and working class households

Our educational programmes assist poor and working class households. No-fee schools have been greatly increased and the School Nutrition programme has been extended. In 2009, approximately 46% of learners attended no-fee schools. By 2014, 87% of all schools were no-fee schools, accommodating approximately 79% of all learners, an increase of over 4 million learners in the previous five years. The School Nutrition programme increased significantly to cover 9.1m learners by 31 March 2014. This includes an increase over 2 million learners in the past five years alone.

The National Student Financial Aid Scheme has enabled more than 1.5 million students from disadvantaged families to access post school education. Many of these become the first in their families to attend college or university. In 1999, NSFAS was responsible for disbursing R441 million in financial aid to students; this has now increased to over R9.5 billion. For 2015,NSFAS has earmarked R69.3 million to provide financial aid to disabled students.

Despite this expansion of financial aid, problems remain and lead to disruptions on various campuses. Part of this is no doubt because of the inevitable administrative problems resulting from a massive expansion of the system. In addition, we have received allegations of corruption and fraud involving both students and people working in the administration of funds. A forensic investigation into financial aid provided through NSFAS to determine the levels of corruption and fraud will be conducted in 2015.

Innovation and Research Capacity

The National Development Plan recognises the importance of research and innovation for the development of our country and research support is among the top priorities of this government.

The research output subsidy mechanism has been instrumental in augmenting and stimulating the country`s research productivity. Over a 5-year period, between 2008 and 2012, the sector`s journal publication output units increased by 44.5%. In order address distortions in the system, the Research Development Grants have been largely allocated to Historically Disadvantaged Institutions or those that are less research-intensive to enhance their research capacity and capabilities primarily through staff development programmes.

Government also supports the development of research infrastructure through the allocation of infrastructure grants for different specialist requirements such as new laboratories, equipment and research support facilities. The Department of Science and Technology, through the National Research Foundation, provides advanced research equipment to ensure that universities are fully equipped to support research and innovation in various scientific fields.

The announcement on 25 May 2012 that South Africa has won the bid to host the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope project was of massive scientific significance to South Africa, Africa and the Southern hemisphere. This is significant as it includes the recognition of the MeerKat telescope, a South African product, as a critical component of the SKA project, which will also see the training of a large number of students in radio astronomy and attract high-level researchers to our country.

A highlight of the past 5 years was the expansion of broadband connectivity to all the major campuses of tertiary educational institutions through the continued implementation of the SANReN programme. A total of 173 research and educational sites have been connected with high-speed networks, ranging from a minimum of 1 to a maximum of 10 gigabits per second. Close to 1 million researchers and students now have access to broadband connectivity for collaboration between national and international institutions.

Government`s Wireless Mesh Network technology project has connected 190 schools in the Nkangala (Mpumalanga) and Sekhukhune (Limpopo) districts to increase internet access penetration in rural areas, and to support teaching and learning programmes. This project has since been expanded to a further 55 rural schools by launching the Northern Cape phase of the Wireless Mesh Network technology initiative.

Protecting the gains of the past 21 years

The destruction and vandalising of public property, including critical infrastructure, deprives communities of much-needed services and creates the additional burden of resources being diverted to restore and repair these damages.

The principle that "The people shall govern", is embedded in our Constitution and this forms the legal basis for the expression of the people`s will. The right to protest and express oneself freely is an important element of our democracy, which every South African has enjoyed since 1994. Kodwa sithi kubantu bakithi masingalimazi impahla yomphakathi nezindlu zokufundela. Ukuphatha izwe kusho ukuthi Maqubela yithi miphakathi esivikela impahla eyakhiwe nguhulumeni ngoba ingeyethu.

The destruction of government infrastructure when expressing dissatisfaction infringes on the rights of others, thus impacting negatively on the country`s development by hampering all efforts to create a better life for all, undermining our hard won democracy.

Fitbit masingavimbeli izingane zethu ukuba ziye esikoleni uma kukhona okungasiphethe kahle. Loku kubulala hayi nje kuphela ikusasa lezingane, Kepha elesizwe imbala.

The life of most South Africans has improved and continues to be better than it was prior to 1994. The African National Congress (ANC) is the only party that has the heart and capacity to continue changing the lives of our people for the better.

History will judge President Zuma as a leader who did what he said in making education an apex priority. The ANC and 62% of SA voters have full confidence in you as the President of the Republic of South Africa.

It is no wonder, therefore, Speaker that the DA is behaving as it is. The DA wants to divert the country`s attention from these successes. It wants the country to forget that the ANC has just last year been overwhelming endorsed by the majority of our people.

But what is at the heart of this agenda? An attack on majority rule! In the one legislature and the number of municipalities that the DA controls, the Speakers are DA, yet we are told here the Speaker must not come from the ANC! So majority is only good for the DA but not for the ANC!

The DA offensive has been correctly referred to as the anti-majoritarian liberal offensive. It is premised on the racist narrative that blacks cannot govern, and that where they are governing they are inherently corrupt. This is a continuation of the old racist narrative prior to 1994, that said "look north of the Limpopo and see what happens where blacks have taken over".

The DA is the inheritor and custodian of decades of white conservative liberalism that opposed black majority rule right up until the beginning of negotiations in the early 1990s. It was dragged by the ANC-led struggles kicking and screaming to grudgingly accept this.

During the negotiations the NP and DP wanted the protection of white minority rights at the expense of majority rule. Today, the ANC wins elections but the minorities want to rule by using every trick in the book, including taking government to court at every turn. In fact I am not surprised you wore black clothes last week, because you are still grieving for the end of white minority rule.

But this anti-majoritarianism has now got out of hand and has led to desperate acts of disrupting parliament. A question does have to be asked of the DA: Is your new-found alliance with the EFF - under the leadership of the latter - not leading to the hooliganisation of DA politics? Sections of the media must also take part responsibility for elevating and supporting anything that goes against the ANC. What last week showed was the exposure of any pretence from sections of media of being fair or impartial. We have to interact with these sections of the media as such - an extension of the Opposition!

The less said about the EFF the better. The Party has no ideas. Where is your manifesto? In fact you are doing all this in order to divert from the fact that your leader owes SARS millions of rands and is under provisional sequestration.

We wish to commend the Presiding Officers for acting swiftly in dealing with anarchy. You must do it again and again until we restore order and the dignity to the House. We must just never tolerate this in our parliament. Surely, we cannot be a parliament where the rights of 6 and 20 `percenters` are elevated above those of the rest of the MPs. Their right to freedom of expression cannot compromise my right to listen to the President.

I thank you, Speaker.

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