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New parties, new faces, to have a say on science committee

Image: David Stanley [CC BY 2.0], via Flickr

There were plenty of new faces in the room when the South African parliamentary portfolio committee for science and higher education met for the first time on 2 June in Cape Town.

The meeting was brief—less than 15 minutes in total. As expected, the African National Congress MP Philemon Mapulane was elected as the chair, a shoo-in given the his earlier nod for the post and ANC’s majority on the committee. 

Research Africa has previously reported that Mapulane has no obvious links to science or higher education. The committee provides oversight over the merged Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology, which joins the Department of Science and Technology and the Department of Higher Education and Training under one policy roof. 

Mapulane called on all parties in the committee to work together to hold the new ministry accountable. “I would like the committee to be proactive in character and try to get civil society to also participate in the work we do here at parliament,” he said.

He added that the committee would have to work hard, especially on budget matters, given that its workload used to be shared by two separate parliamentary committees. 

Who’s in

The new committee contains no members of the now-defunct portfolio committee on science and technology, which was uncharacteristic in its spirit of cooperation between parties and government in a fraught fifth parliament under former president Jacob Zuma.  

The ANC has seven members on the committee of 13, including Mapulane and Nompendulo Mkhatshwa, who was nominated by the party as the whip. The other ANC MPs on the committee are Walter Tebogo Letsie, Thlologelo Malatji, Jane Seboletswe Mananiso, Duduzile Patricia Sibiya, and Bafuze Sicelo Yabo.

The Democratic Alliance has two members: the DA’s shadow minister for higher education, science and technology, Belinda Bozzoli, and her deputy, Baxolile Nodada.

The Economic Freedom Fighters, the second largest opposition party, is represented by Phuti Keetse.

Three new parties debut in the committee with responsibility for science. Wynand Boshoff represents the conservative Freedom Front Plus, Siphosethu Lindinkosi Ngcobo sits for the Inkatha Freedom Party, and Lulama Ntshayisa is on the roll for the African Independent Congress. 

Boshoff might raise eyebrows as he is a resident of the controversial whites-only town Orania, which his father founded.

Mapulane’s election was uncontested even though the largest opposition party, the DA, had previously promised to field alternative candidates for the post.