Premier must Explain Himself on University Announcement

Anthony Benadie

DA Leader in Mpumalanga

The premier, Mr David Mabuza, has once again shown his disregard for oversight and public participation when he announced that the province’s new university campus would be located in White River, and by doing so, denying more needy communities the opportunity for economic growth and development.

The DA is further concerned over the announcement, especially because there was no public consultation process, nor any parliamentary portfolio committee meetings to discuss the university, its composition, or its location. Although a feasibility study was done on the above, its findings and recommendations were not made public.

The minister of higher education and training, Dr Blade Nzimande, made it clear on January 25 that the task team “could not make a clear recommendation on where the seat of the university should be established”, contrary to premier Mabuza’s announcement. In a speechread to delegates in Nelspruit during the national road show to meet with stakeholders in the education sector, Dr Nzimande elaborated that much work still needed to be done, and that a project management team and steering committee would be established, and that the formal announcement would be made later this year in July.

If Dr Nzimande’s statement is true, then the DA believes that the process is still ongoing, and accepts that public and legislative participation is still on the agenda. That being the case, the DA accepts that premier Mabuza made a premature announcement and that the entire issue is still up for consultation.

To confirm this assumption, the DA will now write to both premier Mabuza and Dr Nzimande, and ask them to make government’s position clear, and the plan of action going forward to establishing the university in Mpumalanga. Premier Mabuza will also be asked to explain the criteria used for choosing White River, and which (if any) other towns were considered. The DA will ask both minister Nzimande and premier Mabuza for a full consultative process to be followed, as well for the composition and accreditation of the university to be explained.

The DA also believes that the location should be subjected to a transparent bidding/lobbying process, and that municipalities and interest groups be allowed to make their submissions and argue for the university campus to be located in their area. The DA has on numerous occasions spelt out the economic and financial advantages a university could hold for the province in general and municipalities with a smaller tax base in particular, and that this should also play a role in the selection process.

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