Ezaga Holdings (eZaga), one of the four fintech companies implicated in the alleged National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) corruption debacle, has expressed its readiness to initiate legal action to defend its reputation.
This comes after Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande made assertions that the damning recent Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) report was part of a nefarious “fightback” campaign as contracts of disgruntled service providers were going to be terminated.
Nzimande called a media briefing on Monday following mounting calls for his resignation along with NSFAS chairperson Ernest Khosa fuelled by the report and leaked recordings containing discussions of alleged kickbacks, political meddling in the entity and mismanagement.
“This campaign includes threats to the life and person of the NSFAS chairperson. You would recall that a finding was made by Werksmans Attorneys that the appointment of four direct payment service providers was irregular and that, in line with the recommendations of the Werksmans report, the contracts of these services (providers) were to be terminated and that, in doing so, we had to ensure that the students are not affected negatively.
“It is our view, therefore, that the leaked recordings are part of a nefarious fightback campaign that is meant to undermine and frustrate the decision of the NSFAS board to start with the legal proceedings to terminate the contracts of these four direct payment solution service providers, as recommended by the Werksmans report,” said Nzimande.
eZaga chief operations officer Ismail Ally said they were not involved in any discussions, reports or recordings mentioned in the Outa report and “strongly dispute” any implication by association of their involvement.
“This stance is in response to Minister Nzimande’s assertion that the Outa report mirrors the state of affairs with all service providers post the announcement of NSFAS intentions to terminate the contracts. eZaga has never engaged in any of these discussions with any stakeholders, including Outa. We reiterate our position that these allegations are baseless.
“eZaga has procured legal representation to address the allegations surrounding contract cancellations. The company is prepared to initiate further legal actions to defend its rights and reputation against any baseless allegations,” said Ally.
Outa’s CEO Wayne Duvenage said they took exception to the minister’s claims that they were engaging with disgruntled service providers.
“We are not taking any service providers’ side in this matter, and we do our investigation without fear or favour. Outa gets its information from whistleblowers who want to help expose corruption in the Department of Higher Education. We also have no benefit in disrupting the start of the new academic year.”
Meanwhile, former NSFAS CEO Andile Nongogo has lost his bid at the Johannesburg Labour Court where he was challenging the board’s decision to terminate his contract without a disciplinary process.
He was fired after the Werksmans Attorneys investigation of allegations of a conflict of interest in the appointment of the service providers to distribute allowances to students.
The NSFAS board reacted to the court decision, saying it was vindicated following his “irregular involvement” with service providers.
“Following this groundbreaking judgment, NSFAS will vigorously continue with its legal process towards the termination of contracts of direct payment service providers.”