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Infrastructure projects unaffected by Covid-19 cuts, says SA minister

Message contradicts earlier warnings that building programmes will ‘slow down’

South Africa’s higher education minister has said that no current infrastructure projects at universities will fall victim to Covid-19 budget cuts.

Blade Nzimande, the minister of higher education, science and technology, made the comment in a reply to a question by Belinda Bozzoli, the Democratic Alliance’s shadow minister. Bozzoli asked for details of infrastructure funding and how it would be affected by the cuts.

“The department has not received any confirmation from universities of projects that may be slowed down or postponed as a result of the cuts and reprioritisation of funding,” he said.

On an earlier occasion Nzimande told MPs that there would be a “general slowing down of infrastructure programmes” due to emergency budget cuts in response to the pandemic. Payouts to universities by the Department of Higher Education and Training were slashed by R3.8 billion (US$220 million).

But Nzimande admitted in his response to Bozzoli that R750m will not be transferred to universities for infrastructure projects in the 2020/2021 financial year. These projects were already approved but will now be delayed by a year.

“This will have a knock-on effect in that there will be less funding available in the first year of the next infrastructure cycle for new projects,” he added.