Nzimande’s missing middle fund challenged by opposition parties

Minster of Higher Education, Science and Technology, Dr Blade Nzimande. Picture: Chris Collingridge

Minster of Higher Education, Science and Technology, Dr Blade Nzimande. Picture: Chris Collingridge

Published Jan 20, 2024


Opposition parties, including the DA, ActionSA, BuildOne SA (Bosa) and civil society movements have poked holes on Minster of Higher Education, Science and Technology, Dr Blade Nzimande’s R3.8 billion fund for parents earning between R350 000 and less than R600 000 a year.

The current system only funds students from households with a total family income of up to R350 000.

This week, the embattled minister, who has been called on to step down amid accusations of bribery following an Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa)’s expose two weeks ago, presented his plan to help affected students get access to financial assistance courtesy of the National Financial Students Aids Scheme (NSFAS).

According to the proposed fund, students who obtain 70% or above on average and within prescribed time will get 50% reduction on loan on request.

Nzimande said government has committed itself to the initial investment of R3.8 billion to fund just under 50% of the missing middle students.

“Government has committed the initial capitalisation fund, totalling R3.8 billion, to support the loan scheme in 2024. This amount comprises R1.5 billion from the National Skills Fund and Training Authorities [Setas]. This amount will cover 47% of the estimated 68 446 missing middle school students — that is, 31 884 of the 68 446 missing middle students,” the Minister said.

Nzimande was presenting his plan at the GCIS offices in Tshwane while members of ActionSA Youth Forum picketed outside, calling for him to step down. Chairperson of the forum, Hluphi Gafane, said young people were frustrated by the minister’s detached approach to their issues, especially when it came to the National Students Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).

Nzimande indicated that, the first phase of the funding model will be implemented in 2024 with a budget of R3.8 billion, while the second phase is expected to be implemented in 2025 with an estimated budget of R4.2 billion.

“The second phase will be available for undergraduate and postgraduate students at public universities and colleges across South Africa. However, the student must sign a loan agreement with NSFAS,” Nzimande said ahead of his Davos trip this week.

“Joined by our activists and councillors across Gauteng, ActionSA repeated our demand for the immediate resignation of Minister Blade Nzimande and the entire NSFAS Board.

“With an ever-growing set of challenges facing the sector, ActionSA believes that the ongoing crisis can be solely attributed to the disastrous 13-year tenure of the faux communist Blade Nzimande at DHET. He has single-handedly, with the endorsement of the corrupt ruling party, presided over the abdication of the Department’s responsibility to meet the needs of South African students,” Gefane said.

The DA, which laid a criminal complaint last week, also echoed ActionSA’s sentiments with the party saying President Cyril Ramaphosa must not only fire the minister but also direct him to issue an SIU proclamation against him due to an endless list of accusations.

“Barely a week since the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) released it report, as well as leaked recordings, allegedly tying the Minister, NSFAS board chair Ernest Khosa and the South African Communist Party (SACP) to corruption, Netwerk24 revealed that Nzimande-advisor, Tilson Manyoni, was awarded a R44-million NSFAS tender,” the DA said.

Saturday Star