DPW budget will not benefit the poor, it will benefit the President

Honourable Chairperson, allow me to use the words of wisdom by, Caesar Chaves:
“History will judge societies and governments — and their institutions — not by how big they are or how well they serve the rich and the powerful, but by how effectively they respond to the needs of the poor and the helpless”.
Honourable Chairperson, on the 1st of April 2017, South Africa woke up to an unprecedented cabinet reshuffle.
To our dismay, unfit, notorious, and corrupt ANC Ministers remained in the cabinet while competent and incorruptible Ministers were substituted with the young lions with no teeth.
To us it has become clear that the redeployment of Minister Nathi Nhleko to this department is to continue with the second phase of Nkandla.
This is a testament that the budget of this Department will not benefit the poor and the vulnerable people of South Africa but only the President and his ANC cronies.
It is actually regrettable that the Department of Public Works is permanently under a cloud of corruption scandals. This is a great pity, seeing as this department has the potential to contribute to the built environment and the economy of this country.
Minister, you and your predecessor were amongst President Zuma’s men, in the Nkandla cover up scandals and you continue to do so.
The DA finds it highly suspicious that the new Minister, mysteriously cancelled a press briefing scheduled for the 25 April 2017, which was supposed to explain the new upgrades and improvements planned at President Zuma’s private homestead in Nkandla.
Despite the confirmation from both senior Public Works officials and the Minister of Police that these upgrades are going ahead.
The public needs to be taken into confidence, they have the right to know how their tax money is spent. They also need the assurance that there will be no further upgrades at all at Nkandla.
This “Mantashing” by the Minister is very suspicious and strongly suggests that there is something to hide. South Africans have not forgotten the role you played in defending the Nkandla scandal from the beginning, most notably your infamous innovation of the ‘Fire pool’.
The DA strongly urges you to avoid a similar performance going forward.
Honourable Chairperson, in a written response to a DA parliamentary question, Minister Nhleko has revealed that 8 of the 14 companies contracted to carry out the notorious upgrades to Nkandla have since been rehired by the Department to perform other work. It would seem then that there has been no accountability.
He also confirmed that not a single one of the 14 companies involved in these upgrades have been blacklisted. This is a shocking revelation considering that the Constitutional Court found these upgrades to be fraught with corruption and unlawful enrichment. It clearly proves that the more connected and corruptible you are, the more valuable to the ANC government you become.
Honourable Chairperson, one of the Department’s entities, the Property Management Trading Entity was established in April 2006, with the prime focus of executing all property management related functions, such as maintenance of properties and property rate payment on behalf of the Department of Public Works.
However, it took the Department of Public Works 9 years to operationalise this entity.
The Department indicated that this entity has a 39% vacancy rate in critical positions. It does not have the specialist skills to ensure the sustainable operationalization of excellent property management.
This entity of the South African government can make the most appropriate property investment for a developing country.
The DA calls on the new Minister to make sure that this important entity is well resourced with the specialised skills required, to fulfil its mandate. This is an entity that accounts for half of the budget of the Department.
Honourable Chairperson, it is really disturbing that another entity of the department; the Independent Development Trust is in a crisis. This trust plays a crucial role in the delivery of social infrastructure in provinces, where there is a dire need and substantial backlog of facilities such as schools and clinics.
However since 1997 this entity:
• Has had a number of leadership challenges.
• Loss of critical staff in key areas of financial administration and management and as a result the entity struggled to collect management fees for all the projects it has been involved in.
• The frequent changes in leadership of client departments threatens the continuity in the IDT’s delivery of programmes and meeting of obligations to service providers.
• The budget cuts and the deliberate delays in transfer of funds by the clients’ department exposes the IDT to litigations due to late processing of service providers.
• For the past three financial years this entity has received a negative audit opinion/ disclaimer from the Office of the Auditor- General.
• The entity does not show any profit.
Honourable Minister, the DA is calling on you to transform this entity so that it can fulfil its mandate or we should scrap it once and for all. Let’s make sure that the tax payer’s money is used effectively.
Honourable Chairperson, when the DA gets into government we will make sure that state resources are used in a responsible and transparent manner. We are already doing this in the cities where we govern.
We will make sure that state resources benefits the poor and vulnerable people of this country. Leaders will not use their positions of power and state resources for self-enrichment when the DA governs.

South Africa must take cybercrime seriously

Honourable Speaker
Honourable Minister
Members of Parliament
Met die swak leierskap deur die President geopenbaar, het dit ongeveer 2 jaar geneem om die pos van Inspekteur Generaal van Intelligensie in die Department van Intelligensie aan te stel.
Die vertraging het meegebring dat belangrike sake rakende intelligensie nie met dringendheid aangespreek kon word nie. Dit het Suid-Afrika ook op die agtervoet geplaas ten opsigte van ander lande.
South Africa suffered the most cyber-attacks on the African continent in just over one year, in 2014, with losses alone estimated at about R50 billion.
The private sector and government are not taking these threats seriously enough.
Cybercrime often goes unreported but research has found that it is growing rapidly.
The Cyber Crime and Cyber Security Bill is due to be processed by Parliament this year, which will allow the public to give input into the issue when it is opened for comment.
South African law enforcement agencies are poorly equipped to prosecute the perpetrators of cyber-attacks, whether they are locally or internationally based.
Wêreldwyd is kuberbedreiging beslis die belangrikste aspek van enige land se veiligheid. Met die druk van n knoppie kan ‘n land en sy mense duisende kilometer verder in gevaar gestel, of uitegewis word.
Illegal mining is a further ongoing concern across South Africa and the African continent.
With neighbouring countries such as Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland, Lesotho and 2500km sea line we need a most effective management and border security system.
Borders and their control has become one of the most hotly debated issues around the world over the last few years.
Immigration concerns led to the two major political events of 2016: BREXIT and Donald Trump’s presidency in the United States.
In South Africa we must address concerns over our borders.
The South African-Zimbabwean border must be addressed. If you want to bring something across the border, it is wide open.
Drug trafficking over the borders is also a serious concern.
South African police confiscated heroin to the value of R100 million shortly after the vehicle carrying it passed through the Golela border post from Mozambique.
President Jacob Zuma mentioned in his speech on Freedom Day that there is a lack of collaboration on efforts to defeat cross-border crime and criminals were taking advantage of this lack of coordination.
Safety at OR Tambo International Airport in Gauteng has been severely comprised in the past few months with reports of criminal activity on the increase.
South Africa has lost millions in revenue as a result.
To improve passenger security and speed up to process of moving through checkpoints, airports need to upgrade their systems.
While drones offer great promise to the benefit of society, the ability to detect and control the improper or illegal use is a critical requirement for public safety, privacy and security.
Hommeltuie en hul operateurs neem vinniger toe as wat die lugvaart owerheid lisensies kan uitreik. Die problem met onwettige hommeltuie is dat dit moeilik is om die operateurs op te spoor.
Suid-Afrika is een van die eerste lande wat wetgewing ingestel het om hommeltuie te reguleer.
Aan die begin van 2017 was daar reeds 465 geregistreerde hommeltuie teenoor 216 in die vorige jaar.
Nasionale sleutelpunte, reservate, vlieg in slegte weer, besope operateurs en vlieg buite sigafstand is verbode.
Individue wat die wet verontagsaam moet vervolging te wagte wees.
In conclusion we can say that due to a failure to keep up with rapid technological advances, as well as a lack of trust between the JSCI committee and the President, the Minister and the different intelligence sectors, this department is not in a state to protect South Africa optimally.
I thank you

Intelligence Community becoming increasingly partisan to ANC factionalism

It is the task of a regularised and neutral intelligence community to provide government and the South African public with independent risk assessments to protect the communities they serve.
We have however, recently seen the intelligence community either being partisan to ANC factional battles or being misused by politicians. Both scenarios are inexcusable in a modern, constitutional democratic dispensation.
The recent use by the President of the so-called “Intelligence Report” to fire the former Finance Minister and his Deputy, indicates the the intelligence community is being used to settle factional disputes in having the Finance Minister and his Deputy fired.
Alternatively, it possibly means that an intelligence structure may have used an “Intelligence Report” to obtain a political outcome to please its political masters.
Both scenarios are unacceptable and illustrate unconstitutional actions by intelligence structures and the ANC government – which should be rooted out immediately.
Following legal action by the DA, requesting reasons from the President as to why he fired former Minister Pravin Gordhan and Deputy Minister Mcebisi Jonas, the truth will soon be revealed.
The legal framework of the intelligence services appears to be defective and in need of reconsideration.
Acts passed by the previous apartheid government are still on the statute books and despite the General Laws Amendment Act passed in 2013, a careful analysis of the legal framework is required to ensure that it conforms to the Constitution. Urgent attention by the Standing Committee on Intelligence is therefore required in this regard.
Recent media coverage concerning Minister David Mahlobo and his alleged links with a massage parlour owner, have done a major disservice to the intelligence community. The unfortunate death of a motorist in which the ANC minister’s official vehicle was involved, has created further damage to the image and integrity of the intelligence services and its political head.
As a broader democratic society, we are duty bound to hold the intelligence service to account.
The recent appointment of the Inspector General of Intelligence (IGI) will assist in dealing with complaints against intelligence structures. It is important that the IGI remains independent and alert to any alleged form of kleptocracy or autocracy by the services and reports fearlessly to the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence.
The latest media reports relating to the global virus “WANNACRY,” illustrates the need for effective cyber security measures in curbing a growing cyber war phenomenon.
South Africa needs to be able to rely on modern and effective equipment in rooting out this illegal activity in a responsible and accountable manner. It is clear that more needs to be done in this respect.
We are all duty bound to ensure that the Intelligence service accounts responsibly and acts in a responsible manner.
I thank you.

Millions in taxpayer money to be spent on Nkandla

Note to Editors: The following speech was delivered in Parliament today by the DA Shadow Deputy Minister of Public Works, Dianne Kohler Barnard MP, during the Budget Vote on Public Works.
There are massive issues in the Department of Public Works, but Minister Thulas Nxesi and his team were slowly but surely turning this shipwreck of an entity they inherited from the previous Minister, around.
Sadly the current President decided to shift this man behind the success story and put in his place South Africa’s Cecil B. DeMille award-winning producer of the world famous 2015 Nkandla Firepool movie.
It’s difficult not to wonder just how handy it will be for this Minister to finally control exactly how much more of taxpayers’ money will be spent on the KZN palace of corruption.
Indeed just 24 days after his appointment his department were frantically denying a Times newspaper story about further plans to lavish more as-yet unknown millions on the Nkandla homestead, which has already been upgraded at a cost of R246-million.
As a committee we’ve seen the sad departure of our stellar chairperson, the now Deputy Minister Ben Martins, congratulations on your promotion, Sir. But we do have a newly elected chairperson who for some bizarre reason is an acting-chair – why?
Just for once, please appoint an eminently suitable chairperson without first waiting month-after-month on permission from Luthuli House.
A year ago I raised the issue of 24 affidavits where individuals were refused EPWP jobs by three ANC Councillors, two men and a woman, from Illovo and uMlazi – because they didn’t have ANC membership cards.
This is of course just the tip of the iceberg, but I received from the Department a carefully worded letter in answer.
However, I know full well that Ward Councillors across ANC run municipalities, and certainly in eThekwini, are mandated to and do hand out EPWP job opportunities.
Further proof of the corruption and political influence that permeates the EPWP, certainly in one of the last few Metros the ANC still controls for now – eThekwini – was proven when a DA Councillor walked into an EPWP meeting at the ICC on the 7th March. He was ordered to leave by the eThekwini mayor, as it was “an ANC caucus meeting”!
Despite the fact that I have been assured over and over again by Deputy Minister Cronin that the EPWP does not see work opportunities given only to ANC cadres, what happened in Durban indicates that I have been misled. All eThekwini EPWP workers were in the meeting, and the Mayor, we are informed, went on to promise to extend the EPWP contracts until the work opportunities became permanent jobs.
It is abuse, clear and simple.
The proliferation of EPWP job opportunities for the people of all the DA-run metros is a priority. Tshwane’s new DA Mayor is determined that the EPWP does not repeatedly benefit the same group of individuals to the exclusion of others. In Johannesburg, Mayor Herman Mashaba is determined that the EPWP does not repeatedly benefit the same group of individuals to the exclusion of others.
His approach completely excludes councillors from involvement in the recruitment process. This is a DA solution to avoid any possibility of the programme being abused by certain parties for political purposes and vote-buying.
The ability to work is key to personal dignity, and DA Metros are committed to creating opportunities for more people to find jobs, earn money and support their families.
Then there are the construction site invasions of KwaZulu-Natal. There is a feeling that the Police have done virtually nothing about this. Both government and private construction sites are invaded, and, for example, the R8-billion residential and hotel resort project near Sibaya Casino was shut down by armed invasions.
Over and over, at site after site, the perpetrators arrive lead by Delangokubona – 15 vehicles, 50 heavily armed people – invade, and demand that 40% of the work of a legally appointed tender be handed over.
It is irrelevant to them that construction companies have followed all protocols promoting opportunity for community upliftment and skills development. The invaders announce that they will not allow work to continue until they are handed the tender.
The installation of bulk sewage and water services was stopped. Construction at the Sibaya project stopped. Construction at the R1,8 billion Sun Coast development has been abandoned. Business operations are simply being shut down all across KZN, and these invasions, it is claimed, will soon reach the EC and Gauteng.
As long as these invasions are swept under the carpet, jobs will be lost.
Now to look at the Property Management Trading Entity, and the Immovable Assets Register. The national register is getting there. But to track down the ownership of an abandoned Government building is an exercise in chasing your own tail.
The Province hands your query to a municipality, who hands it to national, who hands it back to the Province. These are the buildings which are 15% of the immovable assets which should basically be condemned. That is some 17 000 buildings – abandoned, invaded, rat and lice infested, or sold by criminals using fake papers which has led to over 1200 properties lost altogether.
Having such a building in a residential area ensures that a slum is created and property prices destroyed. Finding out which level of Government owns it is a massive undertaking.
I revealed a year ago that there were rather strange co-ordinates for many of the listed properties: I had details of over 200 such properties with GPS co-ordinates showing them settled at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. Those I referred to were from a single province.
Of course the Department frantically denied all this, but I know what I have. I also know there is a dedicated team trying to make a credible database of state-owned properties.
Operation Bringback is underway – nationally and provincially. 10 illegally transferred properties have been located; 10 other properties were referred to Gauteng government – where valuable properties were simply fraudulently exchanged for cheap properties.
The team has also examined the deeds records to look at 41 DPW employees who actually bought DPW properties, and have determined there are 2000 illegally occupied properties. Yet we rent buildings for departmental offices.
Possibly one of the most shocking facts revealed to the committee has been that R212m per MONTH is what we pay on leases.
1200 lost buildings, 17 000 derelict buildings, and we fork out R2,5 billion each year on renting private buildings – rentals paid to unknown bodies – unknown because I have asked but never received a reply as to who these property owners are.
The ANC government is making a connected few millionaires while Government-owned properties rot.
Finally the issue of no rates or services having been collected from certain government buildings over the past nine years. The debt nationally came to over R5,241-billion running back to 2008.
A year on and the DA now heads up numerous metros and municipalities, and has discovered that as with Cape Town when we took it over, no rates or services had been collected from government buildings. Money in terms of rates, equals the ability to deliver services. So we are collecting them, and we are delivering.
Much work needs to be done, much corruption needs to be rooted out, but meanwhile I’ll await the new movie: Nkandla – the Sequel.

Budget falls short on realizing targets for 2017/18

Innovation has always played a pivotal role in the economic and social development of countries. It is the main source of economic growth and it helps improve productivity which also makes it the foundation of competitiveness and improving welfare.
The success of our education and skills development systems and our capacity to innovate, will become increasingly important as the global economy shifts from resource to knowledge based.
Knowledge economies that have moved beyond manufacturing, rely on networks of insight and innovation, that depends upon the high level attributes of training and knowledge which allows individuals and groups to bring together ideas and learning in new ways.
South Africa needs a more skilled and innovative population.
The department of science and technology is a key driver to realizing this goal, particularly as it relates to innovation for energy, food security, poverty alleviation and health care – which also requires a serious approach to research and development.
According to the Global Innovation Index and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), South Africa’s investment on R&D to drive innovation is comparatively low, with South Africa spending 0.76% as compared to its member countries which on average invest 2.38% of GDP in R&D.
The expectation of spending 1% by 2019 on R&D is unrealistic given the current economic outlook of a direct influence by rating agencies downgrade.
The budget is supposed to realize the potential of science and technology in social and human development. The disappointing 2% increase of R128 million, will deter the innovation in both government and business from this goal.
The staff compliment in the department decreases by 42, as vacancies will not be filled, of which 17 are critical posts vital for the department of science and technology to perform efficiently.
The spiral effect in staff reduction, will result in reduced targets in a number of indicators. Research and development infrastructure grants reduce from 70 to 30, while new knowledge and innovation products will drop from 35 to 17. 100 fewer interns will be funded in Research and Development related Design.
The decrease of 9% for the Socio-Economic Innovation Partnership, is disappointing, particularly for small-medium size enterprises.
This budget clearly indicates that under the ANC government, South Africa is moving away from being a creator of innovation to an importer of innovation.
Government has neglected to match its policy commitment to improved education and skills with a dedicated focus on innovation and design to drive job creating growth.
The institutions created to promote innovation and research, such as the National Research Advisory Council on Innovation, have been largely invisible and their activities have not been appropriately coordinated or integrated with initiatives in the private sector.
The DA believes that the quality of South Africa’s post–school education and training outputs and the country’s innovative capacity can be strengthened through:
• A coordinated system for post-school education and research driven through a single integrated department.
• Greater collaboration and coordination towards the achievement of shared goals in private sector, public higher, further and adult education and training.
• Stronger incentives for private sector involvement in education, training and research- driven innovation.
• Making sure the regulatory environment supports, rather than inhibits innovation and academic endeavor.
• Dedicated system to ensure that innovation extends beyond research and ideas, to actual design of products, processes and services which contribute to economic growth through entrepreneurship.
The ANC-government has failed to promote innovation in post-school education, and the department’s budget will once again put this in the back burner.
The DA’s proposals can strengthen our post-school education and innovation and make them effective for growth and development.

The dream of South Africa as a learning nation is “alive and well” in the DA

Chairperson, Honourable members
I recently reminded the Minister of the dream which we all shared in the 1990’s.
A dream that this nation would become a learning nation. One in which all South Africans would be able to break the shackles of poverty and unlock their potential, through an effective public training system.
TVET colleges were part of that dream. Yet, instead of growing the number of college students, we saw a 32% decline from 2015 to 2016 in the number of students enrolled for the National Certificate Vocational (NCV) Level 4.
60% of TVET colleges are dysfunctional with a pass rate of less than 40%. Less than 5% of the initial intake passed Level 4 in the prescribed time. The department is only providing 54%, of the operating budgets that TVET colleges are entitled to. And due to the complete lack of a capital budget for years, most of the equipment needed for training is completely outdated.
While young people in Pakistan are taught to fix cell phones, our curricula still refer to the sending and receipt of telegrams.
We saw last year that numerous examination papers only arrived at examination centres after the due date for the examinations. The late release of examination results has become the norm, resulting in students not knowing whether they should register or study for the supplementary examinations.
Those that do pass, have to wait for years to receive their certificates from the department. The Minister seems oblivious to how serious the situation is. The department is constantly passing the buck and blaming the colleges for the department’s mismanagement.
DA run governments are, in contrast to this, recognised for their good administrative practices. Accountability will ensure that the problems that I referred to earlier, be addressed.
A DA run department of Higher Education would make sure that TVET colleges received the necessary support they need. We would align the pass requirements and level of the NCV with that of the National Senior Certificate examinations.
Pass and through-put rates would form part of the performance assessment of college principal’s work.
The out-dated NATED or N-programmes’ curricula would be thoroughly overhauled, and we would undertake a critical assessment of the costs and practicability of the trimester system.
The college councils would be given freedom to develop their own organograms within approved staff budgets, in order to attract lecturers with the necessary qualifications and to provide for local challenges.
The TVET colleges would be assisted to improve their images with prospective employers, while employers would be incentivised to partner with public colleges for workplace-based training.
Chairperson, as you can see, the dream of South Africa as a learning nation is “alive and well” in the DA.
I thank you.

In a fair society, students would have an equal opportunity to succeed

Madam Speaker,
“Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity, it is an act of justice, it is the protection of fundamental human rights – particularly the rights to dignity and decent life.”
Poverty is not natural, it is man-made. It can thus be overcome and eradicated by man-made actions. As such, when we make attempts to reverse the legacy of the past as governments and servants of the people, it is not a favour to anyone, it must happen and should happen. This is a joint responsibility that we all share as South Africans. Our primary mandate as public representatives is to advocate for the people of South Africa and this finds expression in the laws and budgets that we pass.
We find ourselves during a critical time in history, a time that requires the government to remain true to its promises and realisation of the rights enshrined in the Bill of Rights, particularly the right to education.
It is common cause that there is unequal access to resources and infrastructure, which has a direct impact on the level of access to education, lack of success in institutions of higher learning and a lack of inclusive change that works for all and not for some. Often, students are forced to live in undignified conditions, using desperate measures to survive. It cannot be that in a constitutional democracy, many young people are without jobs and skills.
Yet, the Department of Higher Education and Training has underfunded students and institutions of higher learning in relation to the constraints that they face. The increased medium term allocation of R5 billion is unlikely to make a dramatic impact on access to education in institutions.
One of the cornerstones of the Democratic Alliance’s approach to redress is education and skills training. University and TVET college students from previously disadvantaged backgrounds face dire constraints to excelling and completing their courses. Academic success throughout is essential to economic growth and a growing tax base.
A DA run department of higher education would increase the budget to ensure that there is:

  • appropriate subsidies for our institutions of higher learning;
  • stability and change in our TVET colleges;
  • a drastically improved NSFAS system while ensuring that funds are made available for the support of the missing middle; and
  • a restructured Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETA’s) so as to ensure that we produce an adequate supply of skilled individuals required by business and the wider economy.

A DA run department would ensure that no student who is academically deserving is denied access in an institution of higher learning because of their circumstances.
In a free society, students would be free to live with dignity whilst pursuing a higher qualification.
In a fair society, students would have an equal opportunity to succeed.
In an opportunity society, success is based on hard work and talent rather than the circumstances of one’s birth.
I thank you.

Higher Education is stagnating

The vast Ponzi scheme that is the ANC-run economy is running out of money. The ANC bottom-feeders who rely on patronage for their well-being are getting anxious. More looting needs to be found to appease them.
Thus, Nuclear Energy must take priority, even if it means bankrupting us all. For only through a huge new scheme like this, can enough be found to mollify those who depend on the “Politics of the Belly”.
Other budget items of unquestionable social good are neglected if they cannot be plundered. Higher Education is one of these. And so, as a sector, it is stagnating.
We might be forgiven for thinking that things are going much better in Higher Education.
Measured against our low standards for stability, “only” a handful of reports of rioting and protests have emerged in the past few months. Registration seems to have gone relatively smoothly, and R1.2 billion in additional funding has been pumped into NSFAS this year with more to come.
But this all hides a darker reality. The public is generally unaware that the fundamentals in this sector remain shaky, if not downright crumbling.
Students are appeased for now, but deep structural weaknesses remain.
The institutional weaknesses resulting from financial neglect will take decades to fix. And new money is needed for this. Instead of new money, the current R5 billion Higher Education boost has mainly been taken from within Higher Education via the Skills Levy – without any guarantees that the skills that the Levy was designed to produce would be forthcoming.
Not only that: an increase in NSFAS funding does not represent a real change in income for Universities and Colleges themselves.
Putting money into NSFAS assists students, of course; but the most NSFAS funding can do for Universities and Colleges themselves is to reduce what is owed to them by students. This is important, but it does not address the fundamentals of the system.
The real indicator of Higher Education financial health is the level of subsidy. Which is a disaster.
University subsidies are far below what is required and will continue to increase at way below the required rate of 8 to 10 percent, putting severe pressure on students, universities and academic staff.
This is the hidden truth of University funding.
On the College side: the R7.4 billion allocated to Colleges (54% of what they actually cost to run) is pitiful.
As a result, the savings and investments of institutions – where they have them – have been reduced, and in some cases completely decimated, over the past two years, to pay for the costs of the demands made upon them.
Several Universities are experiencing severe financial stress. Rescue funding might be needed for some.
So serious are the challenges that the department has reduced its growth targets for the next three years.
One-third of our 900 000 university students – some 300 000 – attend UNISA. But UNISA is now creaking at the seams, plagued by inefficiency, and has had to reduce its student numbers, thus slowing the department’s growth ambitions for Universities.
The Universities are stagnating.
But this is nothing compared to Colleges – planned growth by 2020 is down from R1.2 million to R700 000.
Half a million students will not be offered a College place as planned.
Our TVET Colleges are anyway outdated and stale and students are not flocking to attend them. Built in another era, they flounder in the modern economy, and struggle to find staff with the requisite experience, or students with the requisite school subjects.
The Colleges are stagnating.
The third arm of the department, the Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETA), are meant to provide us with another route to skills acquisition, and the R13.6 billion they control should go a lot further than it does. But many of the SETAS remain shaky rent-seeking institutions.
The Minister has abandoned all of his plans to restructure the sector until 2020 and nobody knows what will happen then.
The SETAs are stagnating.
In all three sectors of his department Minister Nzimande is managing a holding operation. Perhaps he is looking forward to 2019 when he retires after the ANC loses the election.
So immense are the needs, both educational and financial, of this sector that I suspect he has given up trying to find ways of meeting them. The bold ambitions of the Post-School Education White Paper, are one by one being shelved.
In fact, of course, in a rapidly changing world, stagnation means decay. History rolls on, and Higher Education stays still.
The Commission of Enquiry into Fee Free Higher Education is due to report in a matter of weeks, and its findings are very likely to be controversial.
Fee decisions for 2018 are going to be considered in the middle of this year. Underfunded Universities and Colleges will have no choice but to increase fees by significant amounts. We all know what that means.
The society is already in a state of generalised anger and upheaval. The President is effectively in hiding from his own people. None of this augurs well for the remainder of this year in both Universities and Colleges.
As is the case in our cities, towns and villages, discontent in our Universities and Colleges will probably once again spill over into damaging protests, led by extremely dissatisfied and highly politicised students and possibly staff.
For this ongoing tragedy, we have only the government to blame.
But the Nuclear Deal remains the number one priority for the Bernie Madoff of South Africa – our chief Ponzi scheme owner, President Jacob Zuma. Shame on him.
The DA, by contrast, is committed to a flourishing Higher Education sector, to an end to waste and neglect and to ensuring that our youth are provided with the skills and knowledge to make a real contribution to a growing economy.

Science and technology in South Africa needs more financial support

Note to Editors: The following speech was delivered in Parliament today by DA Shadow Minister of Science and Technology, Dr Annelie Lotriet MP, during the Budget Vote on Science and Technology.
Honourable Chairperson,
The role and challenges of Science and Technology were brought to the world’s attention when scientists around the world decided to march for science on 22 April this year.
South Africa’s scientists joined by having a march in Durban. These marches highlighted the critical role of Science and Technology in all of our lives.
The message at the marches was clear: we all benefit from the products of science, technology and innovation. However, we seldom ask or consider how science, technology and innovation (STI) impact on our lives and what is needed to ensure that we continue to benefit from STI.
Without science, technology and innovation we will not be able to address critical and life threatening challenges such as food security, clean water, sufficient energy, preventing and treating diseases, epidemics and climate change.
The investment in Research and Development is crucial for the health, social and economic welfare and growth of any country. Without scientists, researchers and investment in STI, a country cannot develop and progress.
Scientific knowledge should in fact underpin government policy.
Hence, it is essential that there is sustained, adequate and strategic support by government and that an environment is created that will encourage investment in STI.
A country cannot afford to fall behind in the field of STI, as the cost to catch up, has to be measured not only in increased costs, but also missing out on innovation opportunities and knowledge acquisition.
However, not falling behind does not mean that it is sufficient to just maintain the status quo. There is the added challenge of staying abreast with a technological revolution such as the Fourth Industrial Revolution that will fundamentally alter our world.
Our country cannot afford to be behind these developments. The Fourth Industrial Revolution has an impact on almost every industry and entire systems of production and management will be transformed. It also has the potential to raise income levels and to improve the quality of life of people.
The Department of Science and Technology has to be at the forefront of this Revolution. Not only in the sense of enabling research and development in the fields of artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things, 3-D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, big data and so forth, but also in terms of research on the effect this revolution will have on jobs, inequality and society as a whole.
All of this however, requires sufficient funding and support.
The question is, does this budget do this?
The budget for the department has increased from R7.4 billion in 2016-17 to R7.5 billion in 2017-18.
Although any increase is welcomed, even as modest, as 1.7%, the reality is that there is in fact a budgetary decrease of 4.3% when inflation is taken into consideration. In other words, the budget for Science and Technology has not increased in real terms.
Not only is inflation a problem, our researchers also have to compete internationally. Equipment, journals and other resources are priced in foreign currency and a weak local currency creates a major obstacle.
According to the World Economic Forum 2016 Global Information Technology Report, the largest barrier in South Africa is reversing the trend of a deteriorating business and innovation environment. There is a deterioration in South Africa’s technology and venture capital availability, government procurement of the latest technologies and the time and procedures it takes to start a business.
Investment in science and R&D plays an important role in raising economic productivity. Stimulating innovation can lead to start-ups, SMMEs and jobs.
However, a concern that was also raised was the bureaucratic stumbling blocks that innovators face when they want to take their innovations to the level of commercialisation especially by starting small businesses.
In a country where we have almost 9 million unemployed people, this is the area where it should be made as easy as possible to become an innovator and to create jobs. It is therefore mind boggling why the ANC rejected the DA’s Red Tape Bill that was designed to make it easier for SMME’s to do business and to create jobs.
The harsh reality in 2017, following the latest decisions by President Zuma, is that we unfortunately now also have to factor in the effect of the country being downgraded to sub investment grade. This will have a negative impact on foreign investment in R&D so desperately needed and will also lead to capital outflow.
This can have a serious effect on the level of investment by local businesses in R&D. Up to now government has been the largest spender on R&D as opposed to the situation in other countries where business drives R&D spend.
This does not auger well for our science institutions. An institution such as the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) is dependent on external funding for research. Currently 52% of its budget comes from government and with a cut of R20 million in its budget there is the possible danger of retrenchments. There is a real concern, given the current economic situation, whether the HSRC can remain a going concern. South Africa cannot afford to lose one of the pillars of research.
Another concern that was raised by a number of the entities when the Portfolio Committee interacted with them, was the issue of duplication on the one hand, and fragmentation on the other. It is becoming increasingly important to address this, given the current economic situation. Minister, hopefully this will be addressed in the revised White Paper.
I earlier referred to the international science marches and one of the reasons for these marches is the current international threat to the science project. This is most prominent in the Trump administration in the USA where there have been severe cuts in the science and technology budgets. This concern was also raised by some of the department’s entities as this could have a negative impact on funding from the USA.
These are realities that have to be taken into account and there will have to be contingency planning from the side of government to support the entities affected by this.
Minister, this department is referred to as the “Good News” department. As usual the department and the entities have to be commended for the excellent work they do. However, we cannot continue to expect of them to perform wonders when their financial support is dwindling. Something is going to give.
The ANC-government has not been able to successfully utilise the country’s science and technology potential for sustainable growth and development.
The DA understands the critical role science and technology has to play. And in terms of our vision of freedom, fairness and opportunity, our Innovation policy places innovation at the centre of economic growth and job creation. It focuses on greater coordination and cooperation between the different role players and a simplified coordinated funding system. This is the only way we can provide a bright and sustainable future for generations to come.
This is elegantly described by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson:
“Once you have an innovation culture, even those who are not scientists or engineers – poets, actors, journalists – they, as communities, embrace the meaning of what it is to be scientifically literate. They embrace the concept of an innovation culture. They vote in ways that promote it. They don’t fight science and they don’t fight technology”.