President Zuma to respond as debate ends

Friday, June 20, 2014

Cape Town - President Jacob Zuma will today respond to a two-day debate by Members of Parliament on the State of the Nation Address (SONA) he delivered to South Africans earlier this week.

The last day of the debate in the National Assembly continued until late on Thursday evening, with MPs using their allocated time to scrutinise and debate several topical issues, some of them arising from the SONA.

Guests and members of the public sat in the gallery to listen to the second day of the heated debate, which began on Wednesday. As seen during Wednesday’s session, yesterday was also marked by robust debate, as is the nature of these sessions.

The Chairperson of National Council of Provinces, Thandi Modise, who presided over the first session of the debate, was continuously called upon to rule on objections to several contentious statements made by some MPs.

Throughout, President Jacob Zuma, who sat next to Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, listened attentively as each speaker took to the podium. While the occasion was meant to be a platform to debate the SONA, parties could not resist taking a swipe at each other, something which has come to be accepted during these debates.

“It’s the nature of parliaments. You go all over the world, parliaments are like this. It’s better here. In some countries, MPs even resort to physical fights,” observed one international journalist, who recorded the debate from the media gallery of the National Assembly.

Investing in the youth through education

As things got heated up, it was Higher Education Deputy Minister Mduduzi Manana, who seemed to have succeeded to calm the house down. Manana chose to steer away from politics and mud slinging, and instead dedicated his address to speak about education and lauded progress that has been made in higher education since 2009. There was relative calm and less hackling throughout the 25 minutes of his address.

“The National Development Plan requires that by 2030, at least 30 000 qualified artisans are produced per year. Our department is on a mission to champion artisanship as a career choice.

“We are building two new universities in post-apartheid South Africa that will change the lives of the people of the Northern Cape and Mpumalanga,” Deputy Minister Manana said.

2014 had been declared as a year of artisans, he said.

President Zuma stated in his address to the nation on Tuesday that the number of young people in universities and colleges has increased over the years, adding that contractors will move on site in September to build the new universities in the Northern Cape and Mpumalanga.

By January next year, the first intake of medical students will be enrolled at the new medical university in Limpopo.  In addition, 12 training and vocational education colleges will be built to expand the technical skills mix in the country.

On Thursday, Manana said the Sol Plaatje University in the Northern Cape and the University of Mpumalanga represented a milestone in the transformation and expansion of higher education in South Africa.

“These were the only provinces without universities. The infrastructure for these two universities will be able to accommodate an increase in the number of students over the coming years.”

The National Student Financial Aid Scheme was increasing its support to poor students and assisted more than one million students since 1991.

To address the issue of skills shortage, Deputy Minister Manana said the Department of Higher Education will build a number of skills centres in communities where people will be trained on various skills to meet local economic needs.

“We will also prioritise the areas of career guidance and dissemination of information to curb the skills mismatch that we find in the country,” he said.

Deputy Minister of Communications Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams used her debate slot to call on young people to celebrate the gains that the country has made since 1994. She said the youth of 1976 remained the “heroes”, who laid the foundations for today’s generation.

“Today as we engage in the struggle to defeat unemployment, poverty and inequality, we count young people among the main contributors and those who stand to gain the most from this struggle,” she said.

South Africa was faced with difficult challenges and young people needed to come up with solutions to those problems. There was a need to enhance the capacity of the state for South Africa to meet its development needs.

Deputy Minister Ndabeni-Abrahams said work to professionalise the public service was continuing with the recent introduction of the School of Government set to improve the capacity of public servants.

“These interventions will assist us to forge a disciplined, people-centred, efficient and professional public service. They will help us to infuse within our public service the Batho Pele (people first) principles,” she said. –

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