Committee Minutes and Reports

Higher Education, Science and Innovation

27 March 2024
Chairperson: Ms N Mkhatshwa (ANC)
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Meeting Summary


The Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Innovation convened virtually to consider and adopt minutes and reports.

The meeting began with the adoption of minutes from various dates in March, some of which needed correction and consolidation. The Chairperson outlined the agenda items, including briefings from the Department of Higher Education and Training and the National Skills Fund. Members proposed amendments, and the minutes were adopted once the issues were resolved.

The draft reports on departmental performance were also adopted, and Members and support staff were commended by the Chairperson for their contributions to the Legacy Report.

As the meeting was potentially their last, Members delivered farewell speeches. They all praised the Chairperson for her leadership, and recognised the support and camaraderie of their colleagues and staff. A DA Member announced her move to the Eastern Cape legislature, and wished returning Members success in continuing the Committee's work. The Committee's Content Advisor praised Members for their oversight work, and assured them of their lasting impact.

Meeting report

The Chairperson announced that the purpose of the meeting was to review a set of minutes and reports. These included minutes from 1, 6, 8, 13 and 20 March and the second, third, and fourth quarter reports of the Department of Higher Education (DHET). She suggested starting with the minutes from 1 March.

Adoption of minutes

The Chairperson indicated that the minutes from 1 March were intended for a meeting held previously, but she recognised they were incorrect. She requested a brief pause to consolidate all documents into a single file for easier reference, asking for a moment to resolve any formatting issues that may arise. She expressed apologies for the inconvenience caused by her difficulty in navigating between documents.

She then proceeded to outline the agenda, noting a briefing on 6 March by the Department of Higher Education and Training, focusing on updates regarding governance and performance within the sector. She highlighted that these minutes spanned six pages, with the conclusion on page 5. Additionally, she mentioned a briefing on 8 March regarding the National Skills Fund (NSF), requesting a correction to the name if possible. These minutes were noted to be five pages in length, with the final page discussing the conclusion and consideration of minutes and reports.

She also mentioned a visit to iThemba Labs on 13 March to review Committee legacy reports, with the corresponding minutes being four pages long. She then revisited the briefing on 1 March by the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) and the National Research Fund (NRF) concerning work at the Square Kilometer Array (SKA), alongside a briefing on the astra tourism strategy, noting that these minutes also spanned four pages.

Following the Chairperson's invitation for Members to propose amendments, Mr B Pillay (ANC) expressed sought clarification regarding the availability of minutes, noting that he had received minutes for the 6, 8 and 13 March, but not for 1 March.

The Chairperson responded by explaining that a follow-up email had been sent containing revised minutes for the visit to the iThemba Labs on 13 March, along with the minutes for 1 March.

Mr Pillay then moved the adoption of the minutes, with no amendments.

The Chairperson acknowledged Mr Pillay's motion, and asked someone to second the adoption of the minutes.

Mr T Letsie (ANC) intervened, addressing the need for consistency in how Members' names were coded in the minutes. He emphasised the importance of using the same format for all Members' names, suggesting the use of "TW" as initials for consistency.

The Chairperson thanked Mr Letsie for his input, acknowledging that there should indeed be consistency in how names were coded, using TW instead of W, or just the first initial. She confirmed Mr Letsie's secondment of the adoption of the minutes.

Concluding the discussion, the Chairperson noted that the minutes from the specified dates had been adopted.

Committee reports

The Chairperson directed attention towards the reports, starting with the draft report of the Portfolio Committee regarding its consideration of the 2023/24 first, second and third quarter financial and non-financial performance of the Department of Science and Innovation. She requested the insertion of dates into the report, as it had been drafted without them. This draft report comprised 23 pages.

Moving on, she mentioned the report pertaining to higher education, spanning 13 pages. She commented that these were the two reports concerning the first, second and third quarter financial and non-financial performance of both the DSI and the DHET.

She invited Members to indicate if they wished to adopt these reports.

Ms D Sibiya (ANC) initiated the motion to adopt the reports, which was seconded by Mr Pillay and supported by Mr Letsie.

The Chairperson acknowledged the adoption of the reports.

She took a moment to express appreciation for the effort put into enhancing the Legacy Report, particularly highlighting the contributions made by Members, especially regarding the higher education report. She expressed gratitude for the commitment shown by Members to prioritise the interests of the citizens above party lines. She also thanked the support staff for their invaluable assistance, emphasising that their efforts did not go unnoticed.

She invited anyone who wished to add or say anything, considering it might be the final meeting. She mentioned the possibility of future meetings if urgent matters arose, but indicated that this was likely to be the last scheduled meeting according to information from the programming Committee.

Member’s farewell speeches

Ms K Khakhau (DA) thanked the Chairperson for her leadership, commending her diligence and ability to maintain a balanced approach between adhering to party lines and remaining objective. She praised the Chairperson's courage and leadership qualities, highlighting the positive impact she had had on the Committee and South African people, particularly students.

She reflected on challenging moments within the Committee, but acknowledged the Chairperson's perseverance and dedication. Despite occasional disagreements, she expressed appreciation for the participation and collaboration of all Committee Members, emphasising the shared commitment to serving the best interests of students, and ensuring inclusivity.

She thanked the Committee staff for their support and responsiveness, singling out individuals on the support staff for their exceptional dedication. She also extended good wishes to Members who would not be returning, hoping for success in their future endeavours, whether in legislative, governmental, private, or other sectors. For those returning, she expressed hope for a productive Seventh Parliament, built upon the foundations laid by the current Committee's work.

In conclusion, Ms Khakhau encouraged everyone to remain positive and dedicated to their goals.

Ms C King (DA) announced her upcoming move to the Eastern Cape legislature after the next election, thanking everyone for their hard work and dedication. She acknowledged the challenges of following in the footsteps of the late Professor Belinda Bozzoli (DA) but praised the guidance and support provided, particularly by the staff, in navigating her role.

She commended the Chairperson for her leadership, highlighting the positive impact she had had on the Committee's direction. She expressed appreciation for her ability to steer the portfolio effectively, contrasting it with her initial impressions of the former Chairperson. She conveyed her admiration for the Chairperson's leadership style, noting the Committee's improved direction under her guidance.

Expressing her regret at leaving the Committee, she assured her colleagues that she would continue to support higher education concerns. She mentioned specific staff Members whom she would contact for guidance and assistance in the future. On a lighter note, she humorously remarked on the memorable speeches and jokes made by certain colleagues, indicating that she would miss these interactions, but appreciated their good intentions and dedication to student welfare and higher education excellence.

Mr Pillay expressed his gratitude to the Chair for her leadership, noting that the culmination of their efforts was evident in the recent Legacy Report. He reflected on his late arrival to the Committee and the overwhelming workload initially, even leading to missed flights due to extended meetings. Despite the challenges, he had found the experience rewarding, particularly in effecting meaningful changes and impacting the lives of students through rigorous accountability measures.

He appreciated the Committee's commitment to holding government entities accountable, and the willingness to speak candidly, even across party lines, when necessary. He acknowledged the support and guidance received from the Committee leadership, and expressed gratitude to all Members for their contributions. He anticipated missing the spirited debates, acknowledging the differences between the discussions within the Committee and those in the plenary.

In closing, he wished all Members well in the next parliamentary term, and hoped their connections and collaborations would endure beyond their time in the Committee.

Mr Letsie, despite experiencing network issues that affected his audio, expressed his gratitude to the support staff for their unwavering assistance and support, acknowledging their pivotal role in the Committee's functioning. He wished them well in their future endeavours.

He then addressed Dr W Boshoff (FF+), reminiscing about a past conversation regarding a visit to Orania and expressing his appreciation for Dr Boshoff's commitment to holding all parties accountable, regardless of political affiliations. He commended him for his fairness and professionalism in his assessments, even when in opposition to the executive.

He also thanked Ms King, acknowledging their differences at times but also recognising her valuable contributions to the Committee. He wished her success in her future endeavours in the Eastern Cape.

Lastly, he turned his attention to Ms Khakhau, commending her youthful energy and contributions to the Committee. Despite their differences, he appreciated her presence and contributions, particularly recalling a humorous moment during physical meetings. He announced the reopening of the WhatsApp group for the Committee Members.

Concluding his remarks, he wished everyone well and encouraged continued collaboration and engagement.

Mr B Yabo (ANC) acknowledged the difficulty of bidding farewell. Reflecting on nearly five years in the Sixth Parliament, he expressed gratitude for the opportunity to represent the people of South Africa. He highlighted the learning experiences gained, emphasising the importance of continuous learning and collaboration with fellow Committee Members from various parties.

He paid tribute to past and present Members, including late Professor Bozzoli and Dr N Khumalo (DA), acknowledging their contributions. He humorously remarked on the extended tenure of some Members, likening himself and others to fixtures in the Committee room. He expressed appreciation for their collective efforts in revolutionising parliamentary oversight, and emphasised the critical importance of accountability in governance.

He thanked the Committee staff and support team for their dedication and professionalism, noting their integral role in the Committee's work. He commended individual Members for their unique contributions and characteristics, expressing admiration for their dedication and professionalism.

In closing, Mr Yabo thanked the Chairperson for her leadership and resilience, praising her ability to navigate challenges and command respect despite her relative youth. He acknowledged their occasional disagreements, but overall rated her performance highly, expressing gratitude for her willingness to lead and inspire others. He extended his best wishes to all present, expressing love and appreciation for their efforts, and hoping for continued success in their future endeavours.

Dr Boshoff (FF+) regretted his absence from previous meetings, and acknowledged his intent to return to the next Parliament, contingent upon election results. Reflecting on the camaraderie within the Committee, he lamented the likelihood of the group never meeting again in its entirety. He commended the Committee staff and fellow Members for their dedication and professionalism, singling out specific individuals for their contributions and unique qualities.

He highlighted the diverse perspectives and talents among Members, praising their commitment to good governance and legislative oversight. He recalled memorable experiences during site visits and discussions, acknowledging the friendships formed across party lines. He addressed Committee Members and leaders, expressing appreciation for their contributions.

Dr Boshoff emphasised the importance of institutional knowledge and continuity within the Committee, hoping several Members would return to maintain consistency and effectiveness. He praised the Committee's dedication to accountability and good governance, commending their non-partisan approach and commitment to legislative oversight.

In conclusion, he thanked the Chairperson and fellow Members for their collaboration and dedication over the past five years, expressing a wish for continued success and effectiveness in the future.

Ms Sibiya thanked the Chairperson for the valuable lessons and teamwork experienced during their time together. She extended her appreciation to the staff members for their hard work throughout the journey, acknowledging the challenges they had faced collectively.

She reminisced about a humorous incident involving Ms Khakhau being frightened by chickens during a visit to Limpopo, highlighting the camaraderie shared among Committee Members. She also playfully mentioned the Chairperson's difficulty in waking up early in the morning, expressing confidence that they would improve in this regard going forward.

Mr Letsie confirmed the restoration of his audio link, and expressed gratitude to the Chairperson. He noted the absence in the Legacy Report of Mr M Nxumalo (IFP), who had sadly passed away. He reminisced about various Members of the Committee, including those from the EFF, highlighting the challenges and humour experienced during their interactions.

He expressed appreciation for the valuable contributions of Members, particularly mentioning Mr M Shikwambana (EFF) and commending their commitment and insights. He also acknowledged the guidance and friendship of several colleagues.

Acknowledging disagreements within the Committee, he emphasised the importance of maintaining respect and love despite differences of opinion. He praised the Chairperson for her leadership, especially highlighting her resilience and achievements despite facing challenges.

He expressed hope for improvements within the Committee, and emphasised the importance of addressing longstanding issues, particularly regarding the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS). He concluded by wishing everyone well, whether they were returning for the next term or moving on to other endeavours, expressing confidence that they would meet again in the future.

Ms J Mananiso (ANC) began by expressing her gratitude to all present. She appreciated the professionalism and support of the Committee staff, acknowledging their sacrifices and dedication to their work. She highlighted their role in facilitating the Committee's activities and ensuring the smooth progress of their tasks.

She also reflected on the cohesion and effectiveness of the Committee, despite changes in membership from various political parties. She praised the Committee's commitment to their responsibilities, and emphasised their dedication to improving the lives of South Africans.

Acknowledging disagreements within the Committee, particularly regarding energy issues, she reiterated the shared goal of serving the interests of the people. She commended the professionalism and contributions of fellow Members, highlighting their efforts to address important issues such as gender-based violence (GBV) and language inclusion.

Reflecting on her experiences within the Committee, Ms Mananiso expressed appreciation for the opportunities to learn and grow, especially in the fields of science, innovation and technology. She wished her colleagues well and encouraged them to continue their valuable work in Parliament.

The Chairperson expressed gratitude to Ms Mananiso and all Members for their heartfelt contributions. She acknowledged the emotional atmosphere that had permeated the meeting, starting with Ms Khakhau's speech and continuing with each subsequent input from Members.

Ms Mamphago Modiba, Committee Content Advisor, expressed gratitude to all Members for their exceptional oversight work in the higher education sector. She commended them for elevating the sector to greater heights and assured them their efforts would be remembered fondly. Despite working behind the scenes, she acknowledged their effective representation and wished them the best in their future endeavours.

The Chairperson expressed heartfelt gratitude to all Members for their commitment and dedication to the work of the Committee over the past five years. She acknowledged the challenges they had faced and the emotional toll it took. She highlighted the importance of objective leadership and the responsibility to protect the integrity of the Committee's work, emphasising the need to focus solely on the interests of South Africans.

She commended the Members for their resilience, objectivity, and dedication to their oversight responsibilities. She praised their ability to navigate complex issues and their commitment to serving the people of South Africa. She also acknowledged the support and professionalism of the Committee staff, thanking them for their dedication and hard work behind the scenes.

The Chairperson recognised individual Members for their contributions and strengths, highlighting their unique perspectives and abilities. She praised their professionalism and commitment to excellence, noting their unwavering dedication to their duties despite challenges.

In closing, she expressed her gratitude to all Members for their contributions to the Committee's work and wished them success in their future endeavours. She emphasised the importance of continuing the Committee's legacy of excellence and commitment to serving the people of South Africa.

The meeting was adjourned.


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