The DA has lodged a complaint against Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande with the joint committee on ethics and members’ interests in Parliament.
This comes after allegations were made by the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) that Nzimande, the SACP and the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) chairperson Ernest Khosa received kickbacks from a bursary fund service provider.
DA MP Chantel King said the allegations, if true, would mean that Nzimande had violated the parliamentary code of ethical conduct and disclosure of members’ interest as well as the principles of selflessness, integrity, objectivity, openness, honesty and leadership.
“It is crucial that this investigation determines whether the minister is guilty of ethical misconduct and if any public funds were indeed mismanaged.
“If the minister is innocent, as he proclaimed, although he has not yet provided any evidence to support his case, he should welcome the opportunity to clear his name.
“If the minister is guilty, however, he must be fired,” King said.
Nzimande has on record stated that he was not guilty of corruption and that there was no need for him to resign.
He also said he intended to challenge Outa’s allegations.
“As the Minister of Higher Education, Science, and Innovation, I have never used any money from any of my departments’ entities for the purpose of funding the South African Communist Party (SACP).
“Nor have I received any personal kickbacks from NSFAS or its entities,” Nzimande said two weeks ago.
King noted with concern that every year thousands of vulnerable students who depended on NSFAS were let down in some way.
“If their money isn’t paid late, then they never receive their accommodation allowances, or they’re wrongly deregistered mid-year.
“And every year the Minister makes excuses or attempts to shift the blame as the Minister is trying to do now by blaming universities for the late payment of last year’s outstanding allowances,” she said.
On Tuesday, Nzimande urged colleges and universities not to prevent NSFAS-funded students with outstanding payments from registering for the current academic year.
Independent Media reported that Nzimande announced that NSFAS would process up to R4.2 billion as an upfront payment to all government colleges and universities before the finalisation of applications and registrations.
He was quoted as acknowledging that the scheme faced challenges with outstanding allowances, citing a thorough data analysis provided by institutions to finalise payments for the 2023 academic year.
NSFAS has received 1.5 million bursary applications by January 21.