President Jacob Zuma: Replies to questions in National Assembly on 23 November

23 Nov 2016

Prof C T Msimang (IFP) to ask the President of the Republic:

With reference to the registration of university students in 2017, (a) has the Government reached consensus with students on whether there must be no tuition fees or that there shall be no increases in tuition fees and (b) what is the Government’s position and response to the demand that there must be no tuition fees, that is fees must fall?                                                   

Reply:

Honourable Speaker

Government is committed to ensure affordable higher education for all and to support poor and working class students to access higher education and training.

Government supports that university fees should be regulated and be made affordable to all. No student should be denied access on the basis that their families are not able to afford fees.

Njengohulumeni sifuna zonke izingane eziphuma emakhaya ampofu, zikwazi ukufunda emanyuvesi nasemakolishi emisebenzi. Asiphikisani neze nezicelo zabafundi zokuthi abasizwe uma imali ingekho yokufunda.

Miningi imizamo eyenziwayo, ukwenezezela kulesisikhwama sokusiza abafundi esikhona i-NSFAS.

After consultation with a wide range of stakeholders including elected student leaders, Government announced that all students at universities and Technical and Vocational Education and Training colleges, from families with an income of up to six hundred thousand rand (R600 000), will experience a zero percent fee increment in 2017.

This includes the poor and so-called “missing middle”, who are students from households who have an annual income of between one hundred and twenty thousand rand and six hundred thousand rand.

It follows the announcement of the Minister of Higher Education and Training on 19 August 2016, that university fee adjustments for the 2017 academic year should be capped at eight percent of the 2015 fees.

No institution has announced a fee increment of more than eight percent.

Government will carry the fee increase through a gap-funding grant on behalf of all poor, working class and the “missing middle” families.

I established the Commission of Inquiry into the Feasibility of Fee-Free Higher Education and Training in South Africa early this year. Today I released its interim report to the public.

The Report covers the three following areas:

  • An overview by stakeholders of the Terms of Reference of the Commission;
  • Post-school education and training in South Africa; and
  • The funding of institutions of higher learning and training and understanding their operational costs.

The Commission has not yet addressed five areas, which are:

  • The nature, accessibility and effectiveness of student funding by government, private sector and foreign aid;
  • The meaning and content of “fee-free” higher education and training;
  • Alternative sources of funding;
  • The social, economic and financial implications of fee-free higher education and training; and
  • The feasibility of providing fee-free higher education and training and the extent of such provision.

The final report is expected by 30 June 2017.

I thank you.

Mr B H Holomisa (UDM) to ask the President of the Republic:

Whether, with reference to the reply of the Minister of Mineral Resources to an urgent oral question 205 on 7 September 2016, he has applied his mind to the proposal of the Inter-Ministerial Committee, which was chaired by the Minister, to look into the closure of the accounts of Oakbay Investments (Pty) Ltd by major banks;

if not, what is the position in this regard; if so, what has been his decision in this regard?

Reply:                                        

Honourable Speaker,

As the Cabinet and the Presidency have publicly stated on numerous occasions before, Cabinet appointed the Ministers of Finance, Labour and Mineral Resources to open a constructive engagement with the banks on the matter of the closure of bank accounts.

The team reported back to Cabinet. No other mandate was given to this team of Ministers.

As we have stated before, the statement released by Minister Zwane does not represent the views of government and Cabinet.

I reprimanded the Minister for the remarks and he apologised.

I thank you.

Mr B A Radebe (ANC) to ask the President of the Republic:

In light of the implications of taking political decisions on matters that have economic consequences as witnessed with the Brexit decision which is a global phenomenon and that we have little control over countries that engage in this kind of political decision-making that has economic consequences, what, therefore, will be the nature of our economic diplomacy be over the next decade?               

Reply:

Our economic diplomacy strategy is informed by the National Development Plan and is designed to promote inclusive growth and the creation of jobs and economic opportunities for our people.

We plan to achieve this by enhancing our ability to attract foreign and local investment, improve our export capabilities and attract tourists to the country, among others.

It is for this reason that we promote the Nine Point Plan, which is designed to promote growth in areas including energy, manufacturing, transport, telecommunications, water, tourism, the ocean economy, mining, agriculture and the Industrial Policy Action Plan.

It also includes work such as managing workplace conflict.

As correctly stated by the Honourable Member, our economy is integrated into the global economy makes South Africa vulnerable to occurrences around the world.

We are strengthening our diplomatic ties with our partners in the world so that when they make decisions that have serious economic consequences for us, they can do so with sufficient appreciation of the implications of their decisions for our economy.

In this regard, our participation in global institutions such as the G20, BRICS and the World Economic Forum remain critical and central to our strategy.

Renewed efforts are also being made to further enhance economic cooperation with various countries individually in Africa and other regions.

The economic cluster is studying the implications of the so-called Brexit for our trade relations with the United Kingdom which the Honourable Member has mentioned as an example.

Let me emphasise that our relations with the United Kingdom remain very strong and cordial and we will continue to work at deepening these relations further.

We will continue to directly promote stronger economic cooperation, while working to cushion our economy as well from any adverse effects.

Ultimately the unity of all sectors and all our people, will enable us to deal with global economic challenges that arise.

I thank you.

Mr S N Swart (ACDP) to ask the President of the Republic:

Whether he has found that sufficient steps have been taken by the Government to satisfy the concerns expressed by sovereign ratings agencies earlier in 2016 in order to avoid a sovereign ratings downgrade in their next review?                    

Reply:

Honourable Speaker,

The reviews by rating agencies are important for the country.

They form part of many monitoring mechanisms that encourage us to improve governance in both the public and private sectors.

In the continent, South Africa is a strong proponent of the African Peer Review Mechanism in which we submit reports and also engage the reports of other countries, to encourage improvements in governance.

To reignite growth and improve the global competitiveness of our country, we initiated active collaboration between government, business and labour leaders.

The purpose is to work together, to reduce policy uncertainty, improve confidence in the country’s ability to achieve inclusive growth.

Progress has been made in this regard and the following short term-measures are being implemented:

  • R1.4 billion has been committed by the private sector to support small business enterprises;
  • Companies have pledged to offer internships to one million young work seekers
  • The Independent Power Producer Programme in renewable energy has attracted investments generating more than 2500 Mega Watt of energy.
  • The performance of some of our State Owned Companies has improved and work is continuing to support them.

Cabinet has also approved specific frameworks relating to, amongst others, the appointment and remuneration of boards of directors in state owned companies as well as private sector participation in the state owned companies.

Efforts to introduce labour market reforms are also gaining momentum.

The announcement by the Deputy President on progress made in negotiating the National Minimum Wage is a significant step in the right direction.

We congratulate the Deputy President and his panel, as well as our social partners at NEDLAC for a job well done.

This shows that when we work together we can achieve a lot more.

On the finance side, the 2016 Medium Term Budget Policy Statement adhered to the expenditure ceiling announcing a further reduction of R26 billion in the spending ceiling over the next two years.

The unforeseeable spending pressures such as the increased university subsidies in 2016/17 were accommodated through the contingency reserve.

We also remain committed to measures such as promoting infrastructure development as part of boosting the economy.

We have budgeted over nine hundred and eighty seven billion rand (R987 billion) for infrastructure development over the medium-term expenditure framework period, with continual large investments in energy, transport and telecommunications.

I believe we have indeed done a lot, working together, to create favourable conditions for economic growth and to stave off any downgrade.

I thank you.

Ms E M Coleman (ANC) to ask the President of the Republic:

How does the Government characterise its strategy going forward in the diplomatic, trade and security arenas, with reference to the annual South African Heads of Mission Conference that was held in October 2016, where the matter of geopolitical developments and their impact on the Republic’s diplomatic, trade and security status was discussed, and in view of the observation by the World Economic Forum that South Africa has shown progress in 10 of the 12 indicators measured in respect of global competitiveness, the country nevertheless faces an unstable geopolitical global environment?                                   

Reply:

Honourable Speaker,

We organise the Heads of Mission Conference once a year to brief our ambassadors and high commissioners representing us abroad on policy issues at home.

The aim is to prepare them to accurately represent and promote the interests of the country abroad.

The economic challenges facing the world necessitates an enhanced implementation of our economic programmes especially our economic diplomacy within Africa and in the world at large.

Through the Nine Point Plan that I have mentioned earlier, we are implementing ways of responding effectively to the persistent slow global economic growth.

Challenges such as the decision of Britain to withdraw from the European Union and its possible impact on South Africa is also important and is being looked at carefully as mentioned earlier.

Other challenges in the environment have been the falling commodity prices which have necessitated that we diversify our economy and improve the performance of sectors such as tourism, agriculture, beneficiation and others.

Another key aspect is the promotion of intra-Africa trade and regional integration so that we do not depend on markets beyond our continent only.

This will also help to promote sustainable development in Africa. The establishment of free trade areas in the continent by the African Union is thus a key aspect of the continental economic strategy.

The SADC region has also development a regional industrialisation strategy which augurs well for the future.

Peace and security in the continent and beyond has a serious impact on economic growth and development and receives attention continuously. South Africa participates in peacekeeping and peacemaking missions in the continent as we understand the importance of peace and stability for human development.

Global peace and stability must also return to other regions and countries from Libya to Syria or Yemen and Palestine.

Ultimately, we want to coexist peacefully and productively with our neighbours and economic partners all over the world.

This will contribute to our goals of building a growing economy which creates jobs for our people. In this regard, the latest statistics which have reported that the unemployment rate is now 27 percent, is cause for concern. This development makes us more determined to improve our collaboration with business, labour and the community sector.

We need move together to cushion the economy and reignite growth.

Government will continue to improve the environment and the other parties will be encouraged to play their part as well, for the good of the country.

All these will contribute to the realisation of the goals of the National Development Plan to promote growth and create much-needed jobs. 

I thank you.

The Leader of the Opposition (DA) to ask the President of the Republic:

Whether he and/or his legal team instructed (a) the Minister of Mineral Resources, Mr M J Zwane and/or (b) the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Mr D D D van Rooyen, to lodge applications to interdict the release of the Public Protector’s report, entitled State of Capture, due to the specified persons’ alleged relationships with the Gupta family; if not, in each case, what is the position in this regard; if so, what are the reasons in each case?                                       

Reply:

According to section 34 of the Constitution of the Republic, everyone has the right to take any dispute to court or to another independent and impartial tribunal or forum.

That right extends to Ministers Van Rooyen and Zwane. They do not need my permission to exercise this constitutional right.

I thank you.

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