Minister of Higher Education and Training & Minister of Justice and Correctional Services: progress report

NCOP Petitions and Executive Undertakings

06 September 2017
Chairperson: Mr M Mhlanga (ANC, Mpumalanga)(Acting)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee met to consider the progress reports on the executive undertakings made by the Minister of Higher Education and Training on 9 June 2015, and by the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services on 26 May 2015.

The Minister of Higher Education and Training (DHET) reported that the Centre for African Languages teaching campus was operational, and would address the decline in the teaching of African languages in higher education institutions. According to the 2011 census, about 18 million South Africans were in need of adult basic education and training. In response to this, the DHET had established a community basic education and training branch which focused on improving peoples’ formal education, and had so far established nine basic education and training colleges, one in each province.

There was a need to expand the higher education certificates, to increase opportunities and address issues relating to life skills. This had increased the pressure on Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges to have higher intakes, since access to universities was limited. There were 13 memorandums of understanding (MOUs) between universities and these colleges to enable the colleges to offer certificates that were accredited by the universities. The DHET was working with the Department of Basic Education to strengthen the provision of vocational and occupational education.

The Minister of Justice and Correctional Services reported that the rationalisation of the magisterial districts was in line with the constitutional objective of ensuring access to justice, especially in the rural, far flung areas which had been affected by the segregation policy of the apartheid regime. The magisterial districts would be aligned to municipal boundaries, as well as being harmonised with the jurisdiction of the high courts. 54 new courts had been built since 1994, reducing the time, distance and cost of obtaining legal redress.

The Department had conducted 56 ethics awareness sessions which focused on whistle-blowing policies, and remunerative work outside employment in the public service. It had also taken appropriate disciplinary action where the allegations of fraud, corruption and unethical behavior had been investigated and substantiated. In the current financial year, 52 disciplinary cases had been initiated.

The National Commissioner had retired on 31 August, and the post would be advertised within the next few weeks.

 

Meeting report

Minister of Higher Education and Training

Mr Blade Nzimande, Minister of Higher Education and Training, said that the DHET had supported the establishment of the Centre for African Languages Teaching. The campus was operational and dedicated to the training of teachers. It was in partnership with the University of Johannesburg, other philanthropies and United States Aid for International Development (USAID). It would address the decline in the teaching of African languages in Higher Education institutions.

The 2011 census indicated that there were 18 million South Africans in need of adult basic education and training. In response to this, the DHET had established a community basic education and training branch. However, this programme focused only on improving one’s formal education, yet South Africans needed wider opportunities. The post of the Deputy Director General (DDG) would be announced to be filled on 5 September. The DHET had so far established nine basic education and training colleges, one in each province. Council members and principals had also been appointed to work with the community colleges.

However, the programme was under-funded, and this posed a challenge not only to the programme, but also to the Department’s mandate. The division of revenue operated under certain assumptions, one of which was the percentage of youths in schools. However, these assumptions were exaggerated since there were many more who drop out by grade nine. These dropouts join colleges which, due to budget constraints, cannot cater for them adequately. There was a need to expand the higher learning certificates, to increase opportunities for addressing life skills. There was increased pressure on these colleges to have higher intakes, since access to universities was limited. Statistics showed that out of 100 people at grade one, only 12 went to university, leaving 88 people who needed to be catered for in community colleges.

There were about 13 memorandums of understanding (MOUs) between universities and colleges for the colleges to offer higher learning certificates that were accredited by the universities. This would allow those persons who passed to proceed to the universities that gave the accreditation. The DHET was working with the Department of Basic Education (DBE) to strengthen the provision of vocational and occupational education.

However, the costs of the additional programmes being offered by the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges were not subsidised at the college level, and remained at the university level fee structure.

Discussion

Ms B Engelbrecht, DA Gauteng, asked how many students had been enrolled at the Siyabuswa campus of the University of Mpumalanga, and the results experienced so far. What type of training would be given at these colleges, and how many students had been enrolled? She asked whether the Department had started teaching people practical training courses and also why the higher learning certificates fees were not currently being subsidised.

Mr M Chetty (DA, Gauteng) said that the sooner people in South Africa were educated, the sooner they became employable in spite of the job shortage in South Africa. He asked whether the Minister was aware that the students studying medicine in China had been placed on a moratorium, and could not be employed in hospitals.

Ms G Manopole (ANC, Northern Cape) asked whether the DHET could reprioritise its projects and allocate the budget towards the Higher Learning Certificate education programme.

Minister Nzimande said that the DHET would be introducing the National Senior Certificate for Adults (NSCA), which would cater for older students in community colleges. However, the courses offered in the TVET colleges were based on need. There was no further room for reprioritising since the Department was under heavy budget constraints due to the ‘Fees-Must-Fall’ campaign, which cost R5 billion. Any further reprioritisation would mean the discontinuation of certain programmes.

Ms Manopole asked where the community colleges were placed.

Mr Nzimande referred to the issue of the misallocation of the R40 million grant, and said the Department would investigate whether it had been a mistake or a deliberate action.

Minister of Justice and Correctional Services

Adv Michael Masutha, Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DoJ&CD), said that the austerity measures taken by the Department to support the ‘fees-must-fall’ campaign had affected the Department as well. The DoJ&CD had had to halt its graduate hiring programme, despite the need for graduates.

In implementing the dispensation of services in line with the constitution, the DoJ&CD had to reallocate the courts’ infrastructure to where the people were in order to ensure access to justice. Since democracy in 1994, 54 new courts had been built -- two in every year -- with a specific emphasis on rural far flung areas which had no access. The courts’ jurisdiction also had to be rationalised to enable people to benefit from nearby courts and eliminate travelling costs. The new constitution had created the imperative that each new province had to have a dedicated high court division. This objective had been almost completely achieved, as the court in Mpumalanga would be completed next year once some of the logistical challenges had been resolved. The president of the court had already been appointed and judges from other divisions would be transferred.

The construction of the Mpumalanga High Court was nearing the 90% completion mark. It was anticipated that the work would be completed by the end of 2017. A task team had been established to resolve identified issues and challenges.

In June 2015, the National Commissioner of Corrections had been appointed, but he had turned 60 on 30 August 2017, and would be retiring in terms of the Public Service Act. There had been interviews for the position of Chief Deputy Commissioner (CDC), Human Resources, which become vacant over a year ago. However, no decision had been made about the interviews.

Discussion

Ms Manopole said that the Department was facing a potential leadership vacuum due to the delayed appointments of key personnel, and asked when the positions would be filled.

Ms Engelbrecht asked how the implementation of the rationalisation of the magisterial districts had affected the jurisdiction of the high courts in those areas, and whether they had affected pending cases before the respective courts. She also asked on how many officials have been dismissed for corruption and maladministration since the implementation of the Department’s anti-corruption strategy. What was the situation regarding the procurement of uniforms for the wardens and inmates?

Ms T Wana (ANC, Eastern Cape) said that there were reports that the Umtata High Court was going to be closed and litigants referred to Germiston. She asked about the current position of the matter. She also asked for more information on the occupation special dispensation (OSD).

Minister Masutha, said that due to cost constraints on the part of the government, there had been public-private partnership projects which allowed private players to provide the infrastructure. At the time, the model was to handover the whole project to the private sector, but different models had been adopted over time where the government had focused on service delivery. These public-private partnerships ensured that there was a standard of training for the social integration for inmates. Their contracts restricted the number of inmates they could have in order to prevent overcrowding. The Department was looking for an ideal model that was sustainable and affordable.

Despite the current austerity measures, employee wellness remained a priority. Cost cutting had affected the infrastructure maintenance projects throughout the country.

Regarding the anti-corruption strategy, in 2016, there had been a total of 37 cases, 19 dismissals, 10 final written warnings, seven written warnings and one verbal warning.

In respect of the vacancy issue, there had been challenges in the Department’s absorption capacity, as there was a need to match the ratio between the number of offenders and officers.

The policy of the new high courts was to let the pending cases in the other cases be determined in their respective courts.

Ms Wana requested the Department to revisit the issue of the beneficiation of the private prisons, and to identify who the beneficiaries were.

Ms Manopole asked for more detail on when the Department would begin filling the vacancies.

Minister Masutha said that the Department was conducting a cost benefit analysis on whether they should outsource or in-source for its future projects. The filling of the vacancies should be completed within the next few weeks.

The meeting was adjourned.

 

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