PRESS RELEASE: SAPTU alarmed at ministers abandoning hot seats over education crisis

SAPTU finds it alarming that top management of the Department of Higher Education, Science and Technology, does not consider the critical challenges facing higher education a priority.

Both Minister Blade Nzimande and his deputy minister Buti Manamela yesterday excused themselves midway through the relevant Parliamentary Portfolio Committee’s meeting about the challenges facing the country’s tertiary institutions, causing massive disruptions to education. The deputy minister did not want to postpone another session he had to attend, and thus the first meeting had to be adjourned.

“The committee convened the urgent meeting expressly to tend to the challenges around financing and protests at tertiary institutions, but the ministers felt it was not important enough to find solutions,” says Adv Ben van der Walt, the general secretary of SAPTU (South African Parastatal and Tertiary Institution Union). “The sector is in turmoil with students protesting, the police intimidating protesters and thousands of students uncertain of their future. Add to that the thousands of employees at higher education institutions who live in fear about their safety and jobs. How can the department abandon a meeting like this?”

It is further worrying that the Deputy President, David Mabuza berated portfolio committees to mind their language when speaking to ministers.

“If ministers are too delicate to handle the burning issues in their departments, they should not be in the hot seats,” says Adv Van der Walt. “This is not the time to mind your manners. Education is crucial to the future, and the minister should take responsibility for government policies’ outcomes. The government created the principle of free education for all and should also handle the fallout instead of passing the buck to universities. Take note when universities like UNISA says they cannot manage 58 000 first-year students. You created the problem. Don’t simply walk out when it is time to discuss solutions.”

Issued by:                  SAPTU

Date:                           18 March 2021

Enquiries:                  Adv Ben van der Walt, General Secretary SAPTU                                                           Cell.: 083 260 8548