FF Plus, DA also insist on Nzimande’s dismissal

Henry

The DA appeals to Pres. Cyril Ramaphosa to immediately relieve the minister of higher education and training, Blade Nzimande, of his duties as minister and to launch an investigation into his involvement in the National Scheme for Financial Assistance for Students (NSFAS) funds.

Chantel King, the DA’s spokesperson on higher education, says the president must also use his power to suspend Ernest Khosa, chairman of the NSFAS board, from any involvement in state funds.

This follows after the pressure group Outa shared an investigative report and two voice recordings with the Special Investigation Unit (SUE) – which has been investigating corruption at NSFAS since 2022 – to support damning allegations of a patronage network in the department of higher education. Nzimande and Khosa are immediately placed under suspicion.

However, Nzimande and the NSFAS board are outraged by Outa’s statement and have dismissed it with contempt.

King says the voice recordings between Khosa and Thulas Ntumba, a service provider and an anonymous individual have exposed a corrupt patronage system that only aims to divert funds from students.

“These polls shed light on corruption under the current council chairman at NSFAS who is controlled by a syndicate whose long fingers also extend to the Sectoral Education and Training Authority’s (SETA) funds.

“Nzimande’s war room to tackle challenges at the start of the academic year is therefore nothing but a smokescreen to distract attention from the fact that more than 20,000 students are still not on board,” says King.

Another report by Outa reveals how accommodation service providers (institutional and private) will be adversely affected when they apply to the NSFAS centralized system for per bed accreditation and are charged a monthly fee of 5% to NSFAS, leaving many NSFAS students in need will leave

“Tender agreements with service providers must also be thoroughly studied, as well as the involvement of NSFAS’s current acting chief executive manager, Masile Ramorwesi, as the then financial director.”

King says the allegations and recordings must be tested without interference.

“Pres. Ramaphosa must bear in mind that these corrupt activities regarding funds have caused that 87,712 students will not be funded this year.

“Students and the higher education sector in general are essential to develop educated and skilled people for the economic progress of the country.

“The DA will ensure that the reports issued by Outa – and any criminal charges or investigations submitted – are thoroughly investigated and appropriate punitive measures or even imprisonment are imposed against those responsible.”

The FF Plus says it requested an urgent meeting of the parliamentary portfolio committee for higher education after the NSFAS was “rocked again with new allegations of corruption”.

Dr. Wynand Boshoff, FF Plus MP and spokesperson on basic and higher education, says that NSFAS has been in a constant state of emergency since 2018 – when the scheme had to fulfill the ANC promise of free higher education.

“There is a constant cloud of corruption hanging over the scheme and its budget of more than R40 billion.

“The current board was appointed in 2021 after NSFAS was under administration for two years. Accusing the minister and the chairman of receiving bribes is very serious.

“The portfolio committee, whose duty it is to hold the minister, as well as the department and entities within the department (such as NSFAS) accountable, has a clear responsibility here to fulfill,” he says.