A corruption cake never flops

Henry

By Charné Mostert

While champagne corks were still being popped and “Happy New Year” wishes rang out at the start of 2024, rumors of corruption in the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) began to do the rounds.

On January 4, 2024, the Organization Against Tax Abuse (Outa) revealed that they had obtained leaked voice recordings implicating the Minister of Higher Education, Blade Nzimande, and the chairman of NSFAS, Ernest Khoza, in corruption. The recordings claim that at two specific meetings there was talk of service providers paying Khoza and Nzimande for tender awards and protection for service providers.

Without comrades, the recipe for corruption in South Africa will not work. Simply add one cup of cadre deployment and you can bake an NSFAS corruption scandal.

In one of the surveys, it appears that the South African Communist Party (SACP) received at least R1 million in reimbursements for a conference. And he also donated money to the same company that made T-shirts and bags last year.

Step one: Make Nzimande the secretary general of the SACP for 24 years. Step two: make Nzimande the minister of higher education for 13 years. Step three: Add camaraderie, be instructed by Blade Nzimande the chairman of NSFAS, and bake until golden brown before serving at the Communist Party conference.

On 1 April 2018, Khosa was appointed as a non-executive member of the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) board and in the same year Nzimande, then Minister of Transport, made Khosa chairman of SACAA’s board. In December 2020, Minister Nzimande, who was then re-appointed as the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, appointed Khosa as the chairman of the NSFAS board. These events make a cake with a cherry on top.

Unfortunately, thick wallets and full stomachs represent unpaid 2023 study grants and threats of expulsion for thousands of students. NSFAS beneficiaries come from poor backgrounds and depend on the grants to fund their tertiary academic studies and to pay for their food and housing during semesters. This fund revolves around students and ensures academic security, but the future of NSFAS and the care of its beneficiaries looks bleak. On top of the academic stress they have to deal with, the rug will be pulled from under more than 87,000 students’ feet, as the National Treasury has announced a possible budget cut of 10% for 2024. A corrupt minister and individuals in positions of power stand in the way of thousands of students’ tertiary education.

As leader of the ANC, Cyril Ramaphosa also uses the NSFAS in his election propaganda and scaremongering. The ANC threatened that NSFAS and other social grants could disappear if the party did not return to power.

What the ANC is doing here is to openly threaten that your already small slice of cake baked by corrupt officials may disappear completely if they do not remain in power. The corruption scandal caused an uproar and made corruption hit the front pages again. Ernest Khoza has taken leave from his post, but Blade Nzimande simply denies all allegations against him.

Students, civil society organizations and citizens across the country have called for Nzimande to resign or for the president to fire him. A more pressing issue, however, is whether these criminals will be held accountable for their alleged financial crimes.

NSFAS is extremely important for more than a million students in South Africa to achieve a good qualification in a difficult economic environment. Many of these students have an extremely strong will to create a better future and they know that their qualifications cannot be taken away from them. If those implicated in this latest corruption scandal get away scot-free and do not bear the consequences of their actions, it will be just one more damning proof that the ANC does not have the will or ability to root out the corruption in which their cadres are involved .