Knives out for Blade

THE Minister of Higher Education Dr Blade Nzimande. Picture: Chris Collingridge/ Archives

THE Minister of Higher Education Dr Blade Nzimande. Picture: Chris Collingridge/ Archives

Published Jan 11, 2024


Durban — Political analyst professor Bheki Mngomezulu labelled political parties’ calls for Minister of Higher Education Dr Blade Nzimande to resign, as being premature.

Instead, Mngomezulu called for President Cyril Ramaphosa to suspend Nzimande because of the pending investigations into alleged corruption with the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).

The alleged corruption was revealed by the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) in a report and leaked audio recordings of meetings with four NSFAS direct payment service providers – and an unnamed third party.

NSFAS board chairperson Ernest Khosa has refuted the “mischievous” allegations involving a potential R1 million donation by the spouse of a director of a company contracted by NSFAS to the SACP conference.

Mngomezulu said that the allegations against Nzimande are serious and the investigations must begin.

“Asking him to resign is still premature. I also strongly feel that such issues can be prevented if the NSFAS is handled directly by the universities,” said Mngomezulu.

Two political parties, the DA and EFF, have opened cases with the SAPS. Nzimande declined to step down during his address at a media briefing held on Tuesday in Pretoria.

During the briefing, Nzimande “rubbished” the accusations and declared that the claims against him and attacks on Khosa are part of a “mischievous fight-back campaign”.

In a statement by the DA shadow deputy Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation Karabo Khakhau said the party has decided to lay charges against Nzimande, for the alleged accusations of defrauding through kickbacks paid to him, NSFAS board chairperson Khoza, and the SACP.

Khakhau said South Africans are tired of politicians who waste ratepayers’ money and never face prosecution. Khakhau said the party will not just sit back and watch politicians do as they please in the country.

“We want Nzimande and Khosa to be prosecuted for defeating the ends of justice and face the music. We also intend to fight for the voiceless students who are locked out of education. These students come from disadvantaged backgrounds and all they long for is to be able to put money on the table once they finish studying,” she said.

EFF member of the portfolio committee on Higher Education, Science and Technology Mandla Shikwamba accompanied by other members of the party opened a case of fraud, corruption and mismanagement of state funds against the minister in Nelspruit police station in Mpumalanga on Tuesday.

Shikwamba told the Daily News that the party demands Nzimande to be removed from his position and be investigated like any other citizen.

“NSFAS board must be dissolved. New members must be appointed. The contracts of all four companies appointed unlawfully should be cancelled with immediate effect,” he said.

IFP spokesperson on Higher Education and Training and IFP Youth Brigade National chairperson Sanele Zondo expressed his concerns about the alleged corruption and mismanagement within the NSFAS. Zondo said this directly impacts the future of the youth.

“The consequences of these improprieties leave us with no choice but to demand immediate accountability. We call for the immediate return of the NSFAS funds earmarked for student disbursement and demand that the four service providers be held accountable,” said Zondo.

In October, Nzimande placed Unisa under administration after dissolving the institution’s council. Nzimande’s decision followed a report and recommendations from an independent assessor. However, in November the court interdicted the minister from placing Unisa under administration.

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