Embattled National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) board chairperson, Ernest Khosa, has taken a leave of absence following allegations of corruption levelled against him by the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa).
In a statement on Wednesday, Khosa said his leave of absence from work was to allow an investigation into the matter, which has also implicated Minister of Higher Education Dr Blade Nzimande, to unfold without interference.
On Thursday, an Outa report fingered Khosa and Nzimande as being key figures following the release of leaked voice recordings of two separate meetings held between Khosa, the husband of Coinvest director, Thula Ntumba, and another person who is unknown.
This week, Nzimande and Khosa denied the allegations, with Nzimande going as far as holding a press briefing on Monday and saying he would not resign.
Outa said the leaked recordings revealed how service providers were “allegedly paid millions of rand in kickbacks to Nzimande and Khosa, as well as at least R1 million to the SACP done in return for tenders and protection for service providers”.
Khosa said his decision to take leave had come after a board meeting to discuss the NSFAS’s state of readiness for the start of the 2024 academic year.
The board said Khosa had requested it to allow him the opportunity to take a break while the probe into the affairs of the institution took effect.
“The board chairperson took the board into confidence regarding the impact of these allegations against NSFAS, NSFAS beneficiaries, his person and family. These include threats to his life and that of his family. The NSFAS chairperson assured the board that he has not received any financial gratification meant for his personal use, that of the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation and the South African Communist Party,” the board said.
The NSFAS said it had informed the minister of Khosa’s decision to excuse himself from his duties in order for the minister to appoint an interim chairperson of the board.
“The board welcomed the notice and the grounds expressed by the board chairperson to take a leave of absence.The board instantly informed Minister Nzimande on the notice by the board chairperson. Minister Nzimande has the fiduciary responsibility to appoint an acting board chairperson,” it said.
The NSFAS said the probe would be concluded 30 days after it appoints an independent legal firm to carry it out.
“The board of NSFAS resolved to immediately appoint an independent legal firm to look into veracity of the allegations against the board chairperson. The legal firm is expected to report back to the board within 30 days upon their appointment by NSFAS,” it said.
On Tuesday, the DA and ActionSA said they had lodged complaints with the SAPS police against Khosa and the minister.