Nzimande bunks again to join the march

If one could be in two places at the same time, Blade Nzimande would have been in Cape Town and Durban on Wednesday morning.

As the minister of higher education and training, Nzimande would have been in Parliament attending an important portfolio committee meeting, but as general secretary of the South African Communist Party (SACP) he would be marching in the streets with Cosatu, protesting against e-tolls and labour brokers.

Nzimande’s dual leadership positions this week brought to the fore the balancing act he has to pull off to fulfil their demands, one sometimes at the expense of the other.

Although he was scheduled to brief the portfolio committee on his department’s green paper on post-school education and training — after his controversial non-appearance last week forced the postponement of the same briefing — Nzimande informed the committee only on Tuesday that he would be flying to Durban.

“The minister met me in person yesterday [Tuesday] to indicate that, by reason of his political organisation, he’d have to attend the march,” said Ishmael Malale, chairperson of the committee.

Sympathetic to Nzimande’s other commitments
Two committee members said on Wednesday morning, well before the briefing was due to start at 9.30am, that they were under the impression that Nzimande would be there. But Malale said the committee had “expected that the minister would not be present because of the national protest organised by Cosatu”. “As a senior leader in the tripartite alliance, he had to participate in the protest,” Malale said.

In his stead, the department’s director general, Gwebinkundla Qonde, presented the green paper.

Last week he arrived an hour late for the meeting — only to report that Nzimande would not be attending.

The SACP announced in a press release late on Tuesday that Nzimande would join the Cosatu-led march in Durban. The party’s statement stopped short of saying Nzimande would march against e-tolls which, with labour broking, sparked Cosatu’s nationwide action. It said “the SACP is in full solidarity with its alliance partner, Cosatu, and in full support of the workers’ — struggle for a safe, reliable and affordable public transport system”.

Presenting an SACP statement to the media last week, Nzimande said the measures announced by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, which included reducing e-toll tariffs to 30c a kilometre for light vehicles, “will go some way to alleviating the burden on users of the system”.

Nzimande’s absence from the portfolio committee last week irked members, who said this was because he was giving a press briefing. It was shortly after that botched meeting that an incensed ANC MP alerted the Mail & Guardian to plans to ask Nzimande to sack Qonde because “he is incompetent in implementing strategic programmes”.

But Nqaba Bhanga, a committee member from the Congress of the People, said it was the minister’s competence that should be questioned, not the director general’s.

“The person who’s incompetent here is the minister don’t shift the blame to the director general,” Bhanga said.

Annelie Lotriet, the Democratic Alliance spokesperson on higher education and training and also a committee member, said: “The green paper’s vision on that entire, vital area is from now till 2030. The minister must get his priorities right.”

Nzimande told marchers in Dur­ban he would not resign as higher education minister, the Sowe­tan reported. “The issue of deployment of SACP people to government positions was taken a long time ago by the SACP,” Nzimande said.

The ministry’s spokesperson, Vuyelwa Qinga, said there was no reason to accuse Qonde of incompetence. “At no stage has any member of the committee brought any complaints or expressed unhappiness against the director general.”


Mkhwebane moves to halt ‘grossly unfair’ impeachment process

Mkhwebane moves to halt ‘grossly unfair’ impeachment process

Chaos theory: How Jürgen Klopp has harnessed the unpredictable

The Liverpool manager has his side playing unstoppable football but it’s the attention to detail off the field that has bred the success

South Africa could use a communist party

The SACP is not building socialism, or even social democracy. Sadly, it has become just another party advancing the politics of patronage

Miners speak out against Sibanye

Not a year into buying Lonmin, Sibanye is accused of mistreating the mineworkers who were injured eight years ago during the Marikana massacre. But the platinum giant says it is a miscommunication. Athandiwe Saba and Paul Botes visit Marikana to find out the truth

Press Releases

Wellcome Trust award goes to UKZN mental health champion

Dr Andr? J van Rensburg, a senior researcher in UKZN's Centre for Rural Health, received the Wellcome Trust Discretionary Award.

MTN gears up to deliver improved customer service

On 28 January, the first batch of MTN contract customers will be migrated onto the new customer service platform.

Request for expression of interest on analysis of quality and outcome indicators for regional and district hospitals in Lesotho

Introduction The Ministry of Health of Lesotho with the support of the World Bank funded Nutrition and Health Systems Strengthening...

MiX Telematics enhances in-vehicle video camera solution

The company has launched the gold MiX Vision Bureau Service, which includes driver-coaching tools to ensure risky driver behaviour can be addressed proactively and efficiently.

Boosting safety for cargo and drivers

The use of a telematics system for fleet vehicles has proved to be an important tool in helping to drive down costs and improve efficiency, says MiX Telematics Africa.

Silencing the guns and firearms amnesty

Silencing the guns and firearms amnesty

Gender-based violence is an affront to our humanity

Gender-based violence is an affront to our humanity

UK-Africa investment summit 2020: Think Africa Invest SA

UK-Africa investment summit 2020: Think Africa Invest SA