December 02, 2020

Question Time provides few answers

One of Parliament’s chief objectives is oversight of the executive, and a tool it uses to achieve this is Question Time. Questions for oral or written reply can be put to the President, the Deputy President and Ministers, and gives Members of Parliament the opportunity to monitor the government’s service delivery. However, much of the time the answers leave South Africans with more questions and few answers. Here is a small sample.

NSFSAS recipients still awaiting funds

H Bucwa (DA) asked the Minister of Higher Education and Training: (a) What is the total number of students at each higher education institution who are eligible for National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) living allowances but have so far not received all or part of the grant that they are entitled to, (b) what is the specific reason for the nondelivery of allowances and (c) what steps has NSFAS taken to address this?


Of the 243 853 students for whom allowances are due, 17 147 have not had all or part of their allowance grant paid. That means of the R5.839 billion due for payment, R5.094 billion has been paid to students and R745 million has not yet been paid.

The reasons are many and varied. Late submission of academic results to NSFAS and/or increased requests for “top up” allowances and/or problems with integrating the NSFAS systems with the new institutional student funding systems and/or difficulties in getting students to sign their Loan Agreement Forms/Statement of Particulars and/or frequent changes in students’ cell phone numbers and/or NSFAS system time-outs resulting in incomplete applications. It’s not surprising that even more students aren’t still awaiting their grants.

What’s being done to make Table Mountain Reserve safer?

Ms D Carter (COPE) asked the Minister of Environmental Affairs about the attacks on visitors hiking in the Table Mountain National Park, (a) how many incidents, including the severity thereof in each case, have been recorded since 2013 and what action has she taken or intends to take to put an end to these incidents? 


This year was the first time a murder has been recorded but there have been 85 robberies in Table Mountain National Park since 2013. In response “additional resources” (unspecified) have been deployed. “Various operational plans are being reviewed and considered, including joint operations with South African Police Services (SAPS); surveillance observation points to monitor the mountain; increased patrols in the area; and deployment of a South African National Parks dog unit. Also media relations interventions are ongoing.

And there is more. “Strategic focus areas were identified for investigation, including: planning and implementation of operations; permeability of the urban edge; establishment of a Joint Operations Centre; establishment of a rapid response team; technology options; ranger capablity to meet ever-changing challenges; and proactive communications”.

So even if not much is actually being done, a whole lot, including some some fairly incomprehensible strategies, are being considered. Meanwhile, what is being planned for areas in which there are more than 85 robberies in five year?

This question gets the prize for the most useless answer

 Mr M S F de Freitas (DA) asked the Minister of Police: With regard to the investigation into the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa, what (a) number of cases will the Hawks be investigating, (b) is the current status of each investigation and (c) is the current capacity of the Hawks team to undertake the investigations?


Apparently the Hawks are investigating only two cases, and all we know about the are their case numbers (Brooklyn, CAS 278/09/2015 and Hillbrow, CAS 405/07/2015). “The investigations are ongoing, more witnesses still need to be interviewed and affidavits obtained. The investigations are conducted by a team of investigators.” That last may provide reason for hope.

And second prize goes to…

D America (DA) asked the Minister of Higher Education and Training: (1) Whether she has been informed of the investigation undertaken by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate and the Inspector General of Intelligence that seeks to establish whether funds from the secret service account were used to fund aspects of the #FeesMustFall protests on higher education campuses; if not, what is the position in this regard; if so, what are the relevant details; (2) has she engaged with (a) the Minister of State Security and/or (b) the Minister of Police on this matter; if not, in each case, why not; if so, what was the nature of the engagement in each case; (3) has her department commissioned any investigation into the alleged involvement of any members of the Cabinet in fuelling some #FeesMustFall protests; if not, why not; if so, what are the relevant details?


 “The Minister is not aware of any investigation being undertaken by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate and Inspector General of Intelligence. There has been no need to engage with the Ministers of State Security and/or Police. The Department does not commission investigations on speculation or hearsay.” Does that mean it waits for the investigation to turn up evidence before starting an investigation?

SA rejects Trump’s ‘unilateral’ decision on Jerusalem

Ms D D Raphuti (ANC) asked the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation: What is the position of the government with regard to the recent announcement by the President of the United States, Mr Donald J Trump, that the United States Embassy will be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem?


An unequivocal ‘no’ was the answer, with a comprehensive statement on SA’s commitment to peace and resolution in the Middle East based on a two-state solution. It’s a long reply, but here are some extracts: “it is wrong and undermines the Middle East Peace Process and unnecessarily worsens an already volatile situation in the area... recognition of the independence of the State of Palestine based on the 4th June 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital… flies in the face of numerous United Nations Security Council and United Nations General Assembly Resolutions for peace in the middle east…”

In short, “we reiterate our call to the USA government to reconsider its decision to relocate its Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem”.

Guptas? Who are the Guptas?

H O Mkhaliphi (EFF) asked the Minister of Home Affairs: In light of the extraordinary circumstances under which members of the Gupta family were given citizenship and all the allegations against them, (a) when will the department revoke the citizenship of all the members of the specified family and (b) why are the members of the family not yet classified as undesirable persons?


“There are no extraordinary circumstances under which the mentioned individuals were granted citizenship. Those implicated in certain criminal investigations do not hold SA citizenship and the member is requested to furnish information relating to this claim.”

So who does get rights of citizenship?

Ms Z Jongbloed (DA) asked the Minister of Home Affairs: (1) What number of foreign nationals (a) entered the country on (i) visitor visas and/or (ii) holiday visas in 2017, (b) departed on or before the date on which their visas expired in 2017 and (c) of each nationality did not depart in 2017; (2) (a) what number of applications for asylum were received in 2017, (b) what is the nationality of each person whose asylum application was approved and (c) what were the reasons given for applying for asylum in each case?


There were 15,083,238 total recorded arrivals in 2017 on visitor’s visas for holiday purposes and 16,181,312 departures. If this sounds unlikely, consider that at least 384,357 visitors, all from SADC countries, had not yet departed by the time their visas had expired. It doesn’t add up.

A total of 24,174 applications for asylum were received in the 2017 calendar year. Of these 2,267 were approved. They are from Angola, Burundi, Congo, DRC, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, India, Ivory Coast, Jordan, Liberia, Rwanda, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Syria and Zimbabwe. They had experiences persecution for their political views, their parent(s) and/or brother(s) and/or sister(s) were killed, civil war and political instability, religion and external aggression.

Last modified on Thursday, 15 March 2018 22:04

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Notes from the House is an independent online publication that tracks and monitors Parliament’s role in fulfilling its constitutional responsibilities to improve the lives of South African citizens. Published by Moira Levy with the support of the Claude Leon Foundation.

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