File photo: Denis Farrell
File photo: Denis Farrell

UKZN called to account over bribery claims

By Nabeelah Shaikh Time of article published Jul 3, 2016

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Durban - Parliament’s portfolio committee on higher education and training has asked for a report from the University of KwaZulu-Natal on what is going on in its Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine after allegations emerged that student places were up for sale.

The report, which is being compiled by the university, will be tabled in Parliament for discussion and, if the accusations are found to have substance, a high level decision will be taken on a way forward.

This was confirmed by Higher Education and Training Minister, Blade Nzimande’s spokesman, Khaye Nkwanyana this week.

The university confirmed last week that it was investigating a possible syndicate operating in its medical school after an anonymous whistle-blower sent information to the university administration and the Sunday Tribune.

The Sunday Tribune has since met the whistle-blower and several others in the university who claim to know what is going on and how the syndicate operates.

The allegation, which has not been proved, is that there is a small cabal of staff in the medical school who are working together and who take bribes to secure places for Indian students by passing them off as coloured. This enables a student to secure a highly sought after and contested place in the school.

The university’s investigation is now focusing on 10 students whose race is under scrutiny.

The students were accepted with aggregates below the entrance threshold for Indian students, set at 90.83 percent for the past three years. Coloured students need an average of 65 percent to be eligible to study medicine.

Nkwanyana said the allegations were “extremely concerning”.

“We have liaised with the university... we cannot override university procedure, therefore we will have to wait for them to complete their investigation,” he said.

University spokesman, Lesiba Seshoka said the university condemned any fraud “in the strongest possible terms”.

“We encourage anyone with information to come forward and report it to the university where it can be thoroughly investigated and the necessary action taken.

“The media are requested to provide the university with the space to proceed with its internal processes.”

Seshoka has written a full report on the situation, which is published today on page 21.

The police - through the provincial detective task team - are also investigating, but are focusing specifically on a fourth-year student who faked his matric results to secure a place, allegedly for a bribe of R500 000. But this week a policeman confirmed new suspects were now also being looked at.

Solly Suleman, a director of Sparkport Pharmacy, in Durban, and chairman of the Islamic Medical Association, whose triplets applied to study at medical school, said his daughter was turned away despite a matric aggregate of 91.3 percent. His son won a place.

“She was refused a place, yet coloured and white students with lower marks were allocated places,” said Suleman. If the allegations proved to be true, it would be an injustice to those students who deserved a place based on merit, he said.

Suleman said he had previously engaged with the university and political leadership to challenge the entrance criteria at UKZN.

“My daughter settled on studying pharmacy and she is quite happy there,” he said.

However he stressed that the current quota system was unfair to the Indian students.

“I have not heard of such policy in other countries,” said Suleman.

However the university said the quota for the first year programme was: 69 percent black, 19 percent Indian, 9 percent coloured, 2 percent white and 1 percent other. The university received 8 300 applications for just 250 places.

Of the total intake, places were kept for students from quintile 1, 2 and 3 schools - which are schools in underprivileged communities.

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Sunday Tribune

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