President Zuma to respond as debate ends


President Jacob Zuma will today respond to a two-day debate by Members of
Parliament on the State of the Nation Address (SONA) he delivered to South
Africans earlier this week.

The last day of the debate in the National Assembly continued until late on
Thursday evening, with MPs using their allocated time to scrutinise and debate
several topical issues, some of them arising from the SONA.

Guests and members of the public sat in the gallery to listen to the second
day of the heated debate, which began on Wednesday. As seen during
Wednesday?s session, yesterday was also marked by robust debate, as is the
nature of these sessions.

The Chairperson of National Council of Provinces, Thandi Modise, who
presided over the first session of the debate, was continuously called upon to
rule on objections to several contentious statements made by some MPs.

Throughout, President Jacob Zuma, who sat next to Deputy President Cyril
Ramaphosa, listened attentively as each speaker took to the podium. While the
occasion was meant to be a platform to debate the SONA, parties could not
resist taking a swipe at each other, something which has come to be accepted
during these debates.

"It?s the nature of parliaments. You go all over the world, parliaments are
like this. It?s better here. In some countries, MPs even resort to physical fights,'
observed one international journalist, who recorded the debate from the media
gallery of the National Assembly.

Investing in the youth through education

As things got heated up, it was Higher Education Deputy Minister Mduduzi
Manana, who seemed to have succeeded to calm the house down. Manana
chose to steer away from politics and mud slinging, and instead dedicated his
address to speak about education and lauded progress that has been made in
higher education since 2009. There was relative calm and less hackling
throughout the 25 minutes of his address.

"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.

"We are building two new universities in post-apartheid South Africa that
will change the lives of the people of the Northern Cape and Mpumalanga,'
Deputy Minister Manana said.

2014 had been declared as a year of artisans, he said.

President Zuma stated in his address to the nation on Tuesday that the
number of young people in universities and colleges has increased over the
years, adding that contractors will move on site in September to build the new
universities in the Northern Cape and Mpumalanga.

By January next year, the first intake of medical students will be enrolled at
the new medical university in Limpopo. In addition, 12 training and vocational
education colleges will be built to expand the technical skills mix in the country.

Manana said the Sol Plaatje University in the Northern Cape and the
University of Mpumalanga represented a milestone in the transformation and
expansion of higher education in South Africa.

"These were the only provinces without universities. The infrastructure for
these two universities will be able to accommodate an increase in the number of
students over the coming years.'

The National Student Financial Aid Scheme was increasing its support to
poor students and assisted more than one million students since 1991.

To address the issue of skills shortage, Deputy Minister Manana said the
Department of Higher Education will build a number of skills centres in
communities where people will be trained on various skills to 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 Minister of Communications Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams used her debate
slot to call on young people to celebrate the gains that the country has made
since 1994. She said the youth of 1976 remained the "heroes', who laid the
foundations for today?s generation.

"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.

South Africa was faced with difficult challenges and young people needed to
come up with solutions to those problems. There was a need to enhance the
capacity of the state for South Africa to meet its development needs.

Deputy Minister 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. -