Calls for Minister Nzimande to step down amid NSFAS crisis

Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande, who has dissolved the NSFAS board. Picture: Oupa Mokoena Independent Newspapers

Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande, who has dissolved the NSFAS board. Picture: Oupa Mokoena Independent Newspapers

Published Apr 18, 2024


CALLS for the removal of Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande have resurfaced following the announcement of the dissolution of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) board and the cries of students waiting for their allowances.

On Sunday, Nzimande said he had decided to dissolve the NSFAS board because of its failure to address the funding challenges of students.

The board disbanded today with immediate effect, to make way for the funding scheme to be placed under administration.

This especially after the minister threw the board under the bus, alleging that it had failed to implement recommendations made by Werksmans Attorneys, after an investigation into the appointment of four service providers.

He explained that key among his reasons was the failure to terminate the contracts of the direct payment service providers, which according to the report had been appointed irregularly.

Nzimande said he had already raised the removal of the service providers in December, something which he said was yet to happen.

All in all, the minister said the board’s lack of action had resulted in students being faced with unending issues, especially with regard to the payment of their allowances.

Rise Mzansi Youth and Student Chapters convenor Lawrence Manaka said the party was resolute in calling for Nzimande’s resignation.

“It is time to usher in a new era of ethical leadership, one marked by compassion, efficiency, and a genuine commitment to the welfare of our nation's youth. Rise Mzansi’s biggest concern is ensuring that changes to NSFAS don’t make things harder for students. This is particularly crucial because students are battling with delays in receiving their allowances.

“Students, the very heart of this nation’s future, have endured far too long under the weight of incompetence and corruption within NSFAS. While the dissolution may signal an effort to rectify the systemic inefficiencies plaguing NSFAS, it is a mere surface scratch on the deep-rooted issues that have continued under the tenure of Nzimande.”

Manaka said under Nzimande’s leadership, NSFAS had become a vehicle for peddling corruption, resulting in students bearing the brunt of Nzimande’s mismanagement, facing realities of hunger, homelessness, and despair for years while pursuing their academic aspirations.

“The 2024 academic season is gearing towards exam time while the shortcomings of NSFAS and the Department of Higher Education are laid bare and unresolved. Meal and accommodation allowances remain undisbursed, leaving students to grapple with hunger and homelessness, while unscrupulous landlords threaten eviction.

“Rise Mzansi Youth and Student Chapters is imploring Minister Blade Nzimande to heed the voices of the oppressed and resign.”

The student body has not been the only organisation to call for Nzimande to step down in recent months.

The National Union of Public Service and Allied Workers (NUPSAW) said although they welcomed the news of the dissolution of the board, they were worried about the alleged kickbacks amounting to millions of rand that involve Nzimande and former NSFAS board chair Ernest Khosa.

The union described as “shameful” the eerie silence of President Cyril Ramaphosa, who had failed to act against Nzimande despite the serious allegations surrounding him.

“This union would like to reiterate its previous statement that calls for the resignation of the minister. It is our view that he is part of the rot that has engulfed the scheme, and therefore, should step down from his position and (allow) the scheme to run effectively.”