File photo: Denis Farrell

The University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) has confirmed it is investigating a syndicate that could be selling sought-after places at the medical school.

The syndicate involves high ranking academics and administration staff.

Following inquiries from the Sunday Tribune, UKZN spokesman, Lesiba Seshoka, said a preliminary investigation had been launched andwrapped up.

He said further investigations were now being carried out, and if sufficient evidence came to the fore, the matter would be referred to the police.

“The allegations were brought to our attention in April. We received the initial claims from a whistle-blower about the alleged syndicate and an investigation is on-going.

“We strongly condemn corruption at the university. Those making allegations need to come forward with any information that can assist the university with their investigation,” said Seshoka.

The Sunday Tribune has established that the investigation centred on a list of students (not all necessarily in the same year of study) whose race is in question.

It is believed the university registered them on the basis that they were coloured.

However, their race is under scrutiny.

In 2015 and 2016 Indian South Africans needed to score a minimum of 90.83 percent overall in matric to be eligible to study medicine at UKZN. For the same period, coloured pupils needed a score of 65 percent.

It is believed the syndicate allowed Indian South Africans to pass themselves off as coloureds and gain entry to the medical school.

It is further alleged that this was done for a sum of money.

The guidelines for the selection of first year students states that the university should take 69 percent African students, 19 percent Indian, nine percent coloured, two percent white and one percent other.

But the university said these were guidelines which were applied as best as possible but other factors like the calibre of students and the number of applications received in a year were also taken into account.

Seshoka said the 10 students were all registered as coloureds on UKZN’s database and there was no way for the university to confirm their ethnicities until an investigation was done.

“This could be a flaw in the system. If the allegations are found to be true then this means that the students would have lied about their ethnicity to cheat the system.

“This could be a method that is being used to get into medical school. If we investigate and find out that the students are Indian South Africans and that they lied, they will be removed from the university. We also need to establish if there are people assisting them with this,” Seshoka said.

Meanwhile the Sunday Tribune has established that police have launched an investigation of their own. Their probe involves a student who was admitted to study medicine by faking his matric marks. It is also alleged that he paid a bribe of half a million rand.

The KZN provincial detective task team confirmed their investigation. An arrest in this matter is imminent.

Two academics who work at the university have confirmed that they were aware of the allegations that some places at the medical school were up for sale.

“This is not the first time that this allegation has emerged. Some academics who knew what was going on, reported it to the ethics committee in the past and to their superiors but no action was ever taken.”

At one stage, the bribe rate was said to be R250 000.

“On some occasions, parents would send suspicious e-mails to academics wanting to enquire about how they could get a place for their children, saying they would do anything to get them in,” said this academic, who did not want to be named.

A second academic (who also requested anonymity) said he was aware of students with low averages mysteriously getting into medical school.

“The allegation has been made and investigated before but the findings were never made known to academics. I believe there were always attempts to cover it up. There are definitely loop holes in the system, which is being used to get students with low averages into medical school and to exploit them you need help from someone on the inside. These concerns have been raised to management time and time again. The policy needs to be revisited to avoid corruption in future,” said the academic.

nabeelah. [email protected]

Sunday Tribune