A few hours after students from universities across the Western Cape protested at Parliament on Wednesday over the National Student Financial Aid Scheme’s (NSFAS’s) new direct payment system, the scheme's chief executive, Andile Nongogo, was placed on special leave.
The portfolio committee on higher education has since scheduled a meeting for next month to be briefed about the student grievances and allegations levelled against Nongogo.
Hundreds of students led by their Student Representative Council (SRC) marched on Wednesday and handed over a memorandum, expressing their dissatisfaction with continued payment of their allowances by the direct banking system.
The portfolio committee’s ANC MP, Tebogo Letsie, received the memorandum on behalf of chairperson Nompendulo Mkhatshwa and committed to responding within 24 hours.
This was the second time that students had marched over the same issues.
UWC president Mandla-Onke Notyawa said they needed Parliament's intervention as the highest legislature to intervene since NFAS had failed to respond to them.
“The purview of NSFAS must remain steadfastly rooted in student funding.
“We unequivocally reject the current direct payments system, which perpetuates excessive fees. NSFAS must recalibrate its focus on to its core mission. A proclamation (must be issued) for the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) to investigate NSFAS – the scheme embodies so many questionable practices and there have been many alarming findings by various organisations regarding NSFAS practices. The SIU must investigate the entity to ensure that all their processes are legal,” he said.
Meanwhile NSFAS board chairperson Ernest Khosa said: “In the past few weeks, several allegations were levelled against the CEO of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme.
“The allegations relate to his work with the Services Seta and how this may relate to unacceptable conduct in the awarding of bids at NSFAS. The board recognises that, in the main, the allegations stem from activities in another organisation, and views them in a very serious light.
“In the interest of the image of NSFAS, the board has resolved to investigate the allegations with a particular focus on the direct payment project.
“During the course of the investigation, the CEO will be on leave of absence. Chief Financial Officer Mr Masie Ramones will be acting as chief executive officer until further notice.”