While the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) board chairperson, Ernest Khosa, and Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister Dr Blade Nzimande may have denied any involvement in bribery claims as alleged by the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa), ActionSA, the DA and FF Plus have continued to call for the pair to be sacked.
This comes after Outa reported that Nzimande and Khosa are the alleged recipients of kickbacks related to the fraudulent Direct Payment of Allowances of the NSFAS scheme.
On Thursday, Outa alleged, following its investigation, backed by leaked recordings, that the minister and board chairperson were involved in the fraudulent scheme orchestrated by corrupt tenderpreneurs to loot NSFAS through irregular contracts.
Outa alleges that, through the protection facilitated by the pair, contractors paid them kickbacks to secure lucrative contracts from NSFAS.
ActionSA leader Herman Mashaba said on Sunday that this revelation was not surprising.
“This revelation comes as no surprise, confirming our earlier concerns about the questionable nature of the minister and NSFAS board’s staunch defence of the corrupt Direct Payment of Allowances scheme for months.
“Despite clear indicators suggesting it was nothing more than an elaborate fraud, both the minister and board chairperson continued defending the scheme until the Werkmans Attorneys’ report rendered that defence untenable,” Mashaba said.
DA leader John Steenhuisen said he would lead a live broadcast addressing the latest scandal on Monday.
“In the wake of damning allegations of kickback payments to Minister of Higher Education and Training Blade Nzimande and the South African Communist Party (SACP) by service providers contracted by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), the Democratic Alliance (DA) will deliver a live broadcast to the nation announcing urgent action to hold Minister Nzimande accountable for this blatant corruption at the expense of South African students,” Steenhuisen said on Sunday.
On Saturday, the FF Plus requested an urgent meeting of the parliamentary portfolio committee on higher education, science and innovation following the latest revelations at the financial aid scheme.
FF Plus chief spokesperson Dr Wynand Boshoff said the financial aid scheme had been in a state of emergency ever since it was saddled with delivering on the ANC’s promise of free higher education in 2018.
“There is also a constant cloud of corruption hanging over the scheme and its budget of more than R40 billion. The current board was appointed in 2021 after NSFAS had been under administration for two years.
“Levelling allegations of taking bribes against the minister and chairperson is very serious. Nzimande has already denied it,” said Boshoff.
NSFAS has denied wrongdoing, saying calls for the minister and the board chairperson to resign were unfounded.
It said it “noted with outrage” the statement by Outa calling for the resignation of Nzimande and Khosa.
NSFAS said its chairperson, like the minister, dismissed the allegations made against him by Outa following a leaked audio recording circulated on social media platforms.
It said Khosa “strongly dismisses with contempt this voice recording and the insinuation that he has received money, meant for him, Minister Nzimande, the South Africa Communist Party (SACP) and other third parties”.
The SABC reported at the weekend that the minister, through departmental spokesperson Ishmael Mnisi, had also denied the allegations levelled against him.
“There is absolutely nothing wrong that the leadership has done. They have not received any money from anyone as it is being alleged ... There is no money that the chairperson has received for his personal gain nor the minister nor the South African Communist Party,” Mnisi said.