Fees report not debated despite agreement - Belinda Bozzoli

DA MP says ANC made sudden about-turn yesterday, choosing to hold a NA discussion on Refugees Amendment Bill in its place

ANC does about turn on DA’s urgent debate on Fees crisis

I have again written to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Baleka Mbete, to request a debate on the Fees Commission Report as soon as possible. The Report was not debated yesterday despite a debate having been agreed to.

On 14 November 2017, I wrote to the Speaker requesting a debate on the Report, which was released by the Presidency after over two months of dithering, on 13 November 2017.

The DA received a letter from the Deputy Speaker, Lechesa Tsenoli, agreeing to our request that this important issue should be discussed by the Assembly. We prepared for a debate in which we intended to bring to the attention of the public the degree to which the vagueness and opaqueness of the government’s approach to the funding of higher education is likely to generate a major crisis in Universities in the New Year.

However, the ANC made a sudden about-turn yesterday on the debate, and failed to place it on the order paper. Instead it tabled a discussion on the unscheduled and non-urgent Refugees Amendment Bill.

The DA called for the debate in order to force the Minister to make clear what her approach would be to the funding of students and Universities in the upcoming 2018 academic year. She avoided public scrutiny on the matter.

Perhaps this is not surprising given the reported dispute between the populist President and the fiscally cautious Treasury on the matter and the plethora of other weird happenings around the issue.

The ANC’s fumbling and floundering is a clear indication that they are running scared of debating this matter – because it would reveal the extent to which their plans and approach are in disarray, in the fact of a massive budget deficit and threatened student protests.

It has become more apparent that the dying ANC has so far dismally failed to come up with real solutions to put on the table.

Leaving the entire higher education sector in the dark will almost definitely lead to further tumultuous protests on university campuses, while Universities may wel have to run on budget deficits themselves if no fee increase decisions are made before the end of the year.

The whole fees issue requires responsible oversight and political direction so that the fees crisis can be dealt with decisively. The current damaging uncertainty must be brought to an end. But the ANC is unable or unwilling to provide the leadership required.

Statement issued by Belinda Bozzoli MP, DA Shadow Minister of Higher Education & Training, 1 December 2017