20 June 2014
The second day of debate on President Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation address saw heated exchanges between Members of Parliament in Cape Town on Thursday, with presiding officer Thandi Modise, chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, frequently called upon to rule on objections to MPs’ statements.
“It’s the nature of parliaments,” observed one international journalist who recorded the debate from the media gallery. “You go all over the world, parliaments are like this. It’s better here. In some countries, MPs even resort to physical fights.”
Zuma, seated next to Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, listened attentively throughout. The President will respond to the debate on Friday.
As things got heated up, it was Higher Education Deputy Minister Mduduzi Manana who chose to steer away from politics and mud-slinging.
“The National Development Plan requires that by 2030, at least 30 000 qualified artisans are produced per year. Our department is on a mission to champion artisanship as a career choice,” Manana said, adding that 2014 had been declared the Year of Artisans.
Zuma said in his address on Tuesday that South Africa needed “engineers, electricians, plumbers, doctors, teachers and many other professionals to build our country’s economy.
“Education therefore remains an apex priority for this government,” Zuma said, announcing that contractors would be moving on site in September to build South Africa’s two new universities, Sol Plaatie in the Northern Cape and the University of Mpumalanga in Nelspruit.
“By January next year, the first intake of medical students will be enrolled at the new medical university in Limpopo,” he added. “In addition, 12 training and vocational education colleges will be built to expand the technical skills mix in the country.”
On Thursday, Manana said the Department of Higher Education would be building skills centres in communities across the country to train people to help meet local economic needs.
“We will also prioritise the areas of career guidance and dissemination of information to curb the skills mismatch that we find in the country,” he said.
Deputy Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams used her debate slot to call on young people to help come up with solutions to the challenges the country was facing.
“Today as we engage in the struggle to defeat unemployment, poverty and inequality, we count young people among the main contributors and those who stand to gain the most from this struggle,” she said.
Ndabeni-Abrahams said work to professionalise the public service was continuing, with the recent introduction of the School of Government set to improve the capacity of public servants.
“These interventions will assist us to forge a disciplined, people-centred, efficient and professional public service. They will help us to infuse within our public service the Batho Pele (people first) principles,” she said.