Angry MPs send deans packing

2010-09-15 18:57

Cape Town - Members of Parliament have cancelled a briefing by university health science faculties after the deans of three of the institutions failed to arrive for the meeting and the others arrived unprepared.

The eight deans, most of whom had flown to Cape Town from around the country and were put up in hotels at the taxpayers' expense, were supposed to have briefed Parliament's portfolio committee on health on Wednesday morning on their curriculums and criteria used to admit students.

"I'm not sure if people do understand the importance of Parliament," committee chairperson Monwabisi Goqwana said.

"We take it that when someone is called here, the interest is for them to present and tell what they are doing with the taxpayers' money they are given."

Goqwana said the committee had intended to discuss "a very pertinent issue".


He said the three absent universities, the universities of Pretoria, Witwatersrand and Free State, were "catering for a particular race group in South Africa" and had to answer on how they had "transformed".

"The policies of UCT are not same as Wits or Walter Sisulu. It makes it very difficult when there are some not here. We won't know what is happening in their universities.

"The way you select Walter Sisulu is not (the) same at UCT. We need to know what is going on in South Africa. All those things encompass whether we have transformed and we are responding to the challenges of South Africa.

"There are three universities not here. We want to know what is going on. Did they know that they were supposed to be here today? They were invited more than two months ago. It was quite a long time."

DA MP Mike Waters said it was "unacceptable" for the deans to arrive unprepared.

"If it is two months' notice and they aren't here. It is unacceptable," he said.

"Where is the documentation from each university? We understand they are busy, but so are we."

Unclear briefing

Health science faculties' committee chairperson Khaya Mfenyana apologised to the committee on behalf of the deans.

"I think we have to maybe take the responsibility of apologising. We are in a transitional stage. I am new in the position. If we were aware that every dean has to be here, we would maybe have handled the matter slightly differently."

In the corridor outside the meeting he told journalists a briefing letter sent to the deans had not been very clear.

"We thought the briefing was not very clear. We have a prepared a lot better. It is towards the end of the year. Other things are going on. Now that we know what is expected, we will prepare for it next time."

Willem Sturm, dean of the faculty of health sciences at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, said the unnecessary trip had cost "a few thousand" for each dean. The cost of the trip was covered by universities, which were state-funded.

"My time is also costly. It really is a matter of insufficient briefing," he said.