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Durban - Internal disciplinary proceedings have started against a group of Durban students believed to have bribed their way into studying medicine at the Sefakgo Makgatho Health Sciences University (SMU, formerly Medunsa) in Pretoria North.

The students include four men from a prominent Durban North school who are alleged to have been admitted to the institute for a R500 000 bribe through a Durban syndicate.

A well-placed source within the institution confirmed to the Sunday Tribune this week that the case has also been handed over to police for criminal action to be taken against the students.

SMU’s investigation came after the arrests of three people in Durban alleged to have been selling places at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and within the faculty of health sciences. Further investigations into the syndicate revealed that they had links to SMU.

The arrested suspects included restaurateurs Varsha and Hiteshkumar Bhatt, who own the Little Gujarat restaurant, as well uMhlanga businesswoman Preshni Hiramun.

The students are believed to have been admitted into SMU without meeting the requirements, one of them not having a single A symbol in matric.

SMU spokesman Eric Pule said the requirement for Indian students to study medicine at the university was a minimum of four A symbols in maths, physical science, life sciences and English as well as an admission point score of up to 49.

SMU’s vice-chancellor Professor Chris De Beer, who was appointed last week after being in an acting position since 2015, said the investigations were at an advanced stage.

“The SMU is committed to a policy and value framework of zero tolerance of fraud and corruption and will, depending on the outcome of the investigation, take appropriate action against individuals contravening the codes of conduct of the SMU and will co-operate fully with the state agencies involved in the investigation of alleged syndicate activities,” said De Beer.

Meanwhile, it is is unclear when UKZN will institute disciplinary action against staff, parents and students involved in the syndicate.

Despite having a fully functional communications unit and a legal department at UKZN, the institution has directed all queries from the Sunday Tribune to law firm Shepstone & Wiley.

A Shepstone & Wiley representative said in a letter: “As far as initiation of internal disciplinary proceedings by UKZN is concerned, we record that on instruction from the National Prosecuting Authority our client is yet to institute such proceedings in order to avoid the possibility of a successful criminal prosecution being compromised.

“The prosecuting authority has undertaken to inform our client as to when it would be appropriate to commence with such internal disciplinary measures and our client awaits this directive.”

UKZN student representative council spokesperson Ncebo Mazibuko said it was frustrated with the way the university was handling the investigation.

The university made promises to hand over a forensic audit into fraud and corruption at the medical school three weeks ago, but the SRC has still not received it.

Another SRC representative who did not want to be named said: “We are saying to UKZN management over and over again. Who are you protecting in this investigation? Every name in that report must be investigated thoroughly and not by a company like KPMG who no longer has any credibility because they have recently been implicated in money laundering. We want to see that report and we want to see the names in that report,” said the representative.

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Sunday Tribune