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Debate Speech by Honourable S Mchunu on Higher Education Amendmebt Bill [B36 - 2015]

Empowering the Minister to issue Ministerial Directive for maintanance of Good Governance and Administration at Institutions of Higher Learning

24 May 2016

The African National Congress supports the adoption of the Higher Education Amendment Bill.

Honourable Chairperson, I strongly believe that a vote against this Bill is a vote against stability in governance, administration and the preservation of a quality academic enterprise of the institutions of higher learning.

The Higher Education Act regulating the system became law in 1997, since then many lessons have been learnt. We believe that the amendments allow for a more flexible and progressive approach of dealing with the public accountability of higher education institutions by providing options to issue directives.

The Committee considered 46 clauses and the DA objected to five, relating to the Minister Powers to issue Ministerial Directives. I must say, this is a good bill aiming at working constructively with universities in order to strengthen them.

Honourable Members, soon after the Committee adopted the Bill on the 11th of May, the DA (through their Shadow Minister, Hon Bozolli) published an article on the BDLive titled: "THE CONTROVERSIAL HIGHER EDUCATION AMENDMENT BILL IS ONE STEP CLOSER TO BECOMING LAW". They reiterated their position on the objections to the Bill.

Fellow South African, see the hipocricy of DA, they talk change out there yet they object to this bill which is about real change in the Higher Education sector.

Their argument is that the Bill gives too much power to the minister and in so doing threatens the university autonomy and academic freedom. In addition, they allege that the Bill won't make any significant contribution towards solving the chronic problems in the university sector", and we as the ANC disagree. They even criticized CHE, an independent statutory body for throwing its weight behind the Bill.

On the 20th of May, another article titled: "WHERE IS BLADE DURING FORT HARE POLICE LOCK DOWN?" was published on Times Live. Ironically, in this article the DA wants the Minister to make an Executive Statement to address the recent spate of violent protest and also explain what steps he will be taking to prevent further incidents from recurring.

After reading the article one had in mind these questions: Why is the Minister summoned by the same party, which objected to empowering Him through legislation to be able to intervene at Fort Hare University where the same party alleges financial mismanagement by the University? Was the Minister not going to encroach on the autonomy of Fort Hare University? Or Is it because Fort Hare is a Historically Black Institution while hands off from our Historically White Institutions? This is not how you win back the SRC of the institution. Once again, this is hypocrisy of the highest degree. It is cheap politicking by the DA.

Members, in the last seven years, four universities have been placed under Administration as a result of maladministration, corruption, and financial mismanagement, conflict of interests in the procurement processes by both council and individual members of the executive.

Honourable Chairperson, when such signs of institutional distress surface, the Minister has no legal leg to stand on, in order to intervene or issue a directive early to salvage the institution before it plunges deeper into crisis.

For instance, The Minister tried to intervene at Central University of Technology but he was blocked by the council. Supporting the Bill will ensure that the Minister will be able to issue directives to councils to address matters raised and if well implemented there will be no need for Independent Assessors and Administrators.

We also support the Ministerial Directive post-administration period, as provided for in the Bill, because observations are that some institutions revert back to old ways of doing things and had to be placed under administartion again.

Concerns raised by the stakeholders were taken into consideration. This Committee has not rubber stamped every clause in the original Bill. Evidence is contained in the Committee's amendments as contained in the B36A - 2015. We took much care in ensuring that there is a balance between institutional autonomy and public accountability.

SiwuKhongolose siyazeseka zonke izinhlinzeko eziqukethwe kuloMthethoSivivinywa futhi siyakholelwa ukuthi uzothuthukisa, uphinde ulethe izinguquko ekukade sizilangazelela ezikhungweni zemfundo ephakeme.


I Thank you

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