Higher Education, Science and Technology Minister Blade Nzimande. File picture: Siyabulela Duda / GCIS.
Higher Education, Science and Technology Minister Blade Nzimande. File picture: Siyabulela Duda / GCIS.

Complaint laid over Nzimande's appointment of a senior position at NSFAS

By Kenneth Mokgatlhe Time of article published Jun 21, 2020

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Johannesburg - The appointment of Higher Education, Science and Technology Minister Blade Nzimande’s former chief of staff to a senior post at the National Student Fund Aid Scheme (NSFAS) is the subject of a complaint at the public protector’s office.

A complaint against Sibongile Ncwabe’s appointment as NSFAS chief corporate services officer (CCSO) was laid this week by one of the 39 suspended employees of the R35 billion student loan scheme.

This comes a week after Sunday Independent revealed that Ncwabe, who is also said to be Nzimande’s former office administrator, was appointed with effect from June 11, 2020, according to an internal memo.

The complainant confirmed approaching Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane, saying she wanted Ncwabe’s appointment to be declared illegal and set aside.

“On Tuesday, I wrote to the PP and said, ‘Can you please reverse or set aside the appointment of the CCSO as it is illegal’.

“How can a minister establish one position for his former employee instead of reviewing the entire organogram,” said the aggrieved employee who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of victimisation.

Mkhwebane’s office acknowledged the complaint.

“Your complaint will be assessed so as to take a decision whether the PP should investigate and whether we are the best institution to handle your complaint. As soon as this process is complete, we will advise you accordingly,” it said in a letter seen by Sunday Independent.

Another senior employee said: “Ncwabe took advantage of disorder at NSFAS, she drew this position and later, gave herself the same position permanently. She was supposed to leave with administrator, Dr Randall Carolissen at the end of their term in August. However, she took advantage of maladministration at the scheme by giving herself a permanent post,” an employee added.

Ncwabe referred enquiries to the NSFAS. The scheme came under scrutiny last week when Sunday Independent reported that Carolissen allegedly hired his associates without following due process while firing and targeting those who are allegedly refusing to implement questionable instructions. He also allegedly launched a reign of terror by firing, serving written warnings or suspending 39 employees on trumped-up charges to pave the way for officials close to him and Nzimande.

Fresh allegations of wrong-doing surfaced this week against Carolissen. This time, he was accused of rushing the processes to appoint Sam Zungu as the new chief executive officer) of the R35 billion student loan scheme before his term expired in August.

Sources this week claimed that Carolissen was pushing for the appointment of Zungu, who is alleged to be a relative of Richard Zungu, a member of Nzimande’s security team.

Sources at the NSFAS claimed that Zungu was being positioned to take over from Steven Zwane, who resigned as the scheme’s CEO in 2018 after his suspension over allegations of maladministration.

“All these things are done silently and quickly so that the new CEO can be appointed, hence, Sibongile Ncwabe is there at HR to oversee the appointment of Sam Zungu, that’s the person they are preparing for the CEO position,” the source said.

“It should be noted that Zungu was already serving as TVET adviser at NSFAS before the concurrence was requested from the minister. It means that his appointment was illegal, as it was never approved by the minister.”

According to the minutes of the meeting held in December 2019, “the Minister gave his concurrence on the appointment of Mr Sam Zungu as TVET advisor at NSFAS. He indicated that losing him in the system was a mistake”, the minutes read in part.

Carolissen could not be reached for comment.

Zungu declined to comment and referred all enquiries to the Department of Higher Education, Science and Technology.

Nzimande’s spokesperson Ishmael Mnisi said: “The minister has asked me to state upfront one of his concerns about your persistent enquiries to him on NSFAS matters. For two weeks in a row now, your newspaper group is pursuing us for answers to questions that come from unnamed and faceless sources.”

On allegations that Carolisen was positioning Zungu to take over as NSFAS CEO, and claims that he was related to one of Nzimande’s protectors, Mnisi said: “Minister Nzimande knows Mr Sam Zungu as one of the outstanding educators and administrators in the education sector, especially the TVET college sector. Mr Zungu for years led the administration of the Umfolozi TVET College with distinction. During Mr Zungu’s tenure as the principal of the Umfolozi college, the college experienced its massive expansion with eight campuses.”

He added that Nzimande hopes that the media were learning appropriate lessons from what seems to be a desperate strategy by elements of state capture to try and discredit those who have exposed corruption in the state.

Sunday Independent

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