Parliamentary committee on higher education chairperson Philly Mapulane has criticised the political leadership of the department of higher education, science and innovation. This after Minister Blade Nzimande asked to leave the all-important committee meeting that was meant to discuss challenges facing students at universities in the country.
According to a statement released by Mapulane on Wednesday, Nzimande briefed the committee and asked to be released to attend to “another very urgent matter”. Mapulane said Nzimande had assured the committee that his second-in-command, Buti Manamela, would continue with the meeting and respond to issues as necessary on behalf of the department.
However, Mapulane said Manamela later also asked to be released to attend to a meeting of the task team that he was chairing. He said the committee’s request that Manamela postpone his meeting by an hour to allow the committee to conclude its business was not acceded to.
“Based on the absence of the political leadership of the department to respond to the issues to be raised by MPs in a meeting that dealt with critical challenges that have rendered the South African higher education sector into turmoil, the meeting had to be adjourned,” Mapulane said.
He said the committee was being briefed on the challenges facing students at the country’s universities by the department, Universities South Africa, the SA Union of Students and Wits University, which was represented by the university council and management and the student representative council.
“The committee expressed its regret and unhappiness with the fact that a meeting of a committee of Parliament had to adjourn due to the discontinued participation of the political leadership. This is quite sad given the fact that the meeting was convened on an urgent basis in response to the current crisis facing the higher education sector,” Mapulane said.
He said he had to convey the committee’s apology to the invited stakeholders.
“The committee views this abrupt adjournment of its meeting owing to the discontinued participation of the political leadership of the department as an expression of the lack of appreciation of the role of Parliament as a pre-eminent constitutional body responsible for oversight and for holding the executive to account.” Mapulane also said he would take this matter up with Nzimande.
The adjourned meeting will continue on Tuesday next week.