With calls for his axing mounting, Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology Blade Nzimande, who is currently embroiled in corruption allegations, has requested the ANC to probe claims that he received kickbacks from the department’s service providers.
A report by the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) has implicated Nzimande in alleged acts of corruption involving the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).
Nzimande, however, briefing the media yesterday, made it clear that he had no intention of resigning over the allegations, saying the ‘malicious’ claims were not backed by any evidence.
“If you accuse me, you should come with evidence. I will subject myself to the ANC integrity commission, I have nothing to hide.”
According to Outa, Nzimande was implicated in corruption through two recordings that were shared with the organisation by a whistleblower.
The recordings allegedly capture a conversation between NSFAS board chairperson Ernest Khosa and other individuals believed to be NSFAS service providers responsible for disbursing cash to financially needy tertiary institution students.
An ANC national executive committee member, Nzimande, is currently the national chairperson of the SA Communist Party (SACP). Outa, which has since called for Nzimande’s resignation, is of the view that the service providers are also funding the SACP.
Nzimande, however, said he has ‘never’ used any of his government positions to channel financial favours towards the SACP.
“I refute the allegations against me and Mr Khosa. These are all lies that emanate from a fightback campaign.”
DA to lay criminal charges
DA federal leader John Steenhuisen yesterday accused President Cyril Ramaphosa of shielding Nzimande in the face of the corruption allegations against the minister.
“Like he does every time that evidence emerges showing that corruption and capture has reached new heights under his administration, Ramaphosa takes the coward’s way out.
“Instead of firing Nzimande and Khosa, he has remained silent, while the ANC has meekly suggested that Nzimande may appear before its so-called integrity committee.
“The Constitution spells out that only the president has the responsibility to act against corrupt Cabinet ministers. When a minister commits corruption or undermines the cabinet, it is the job of a real leader to deal with that person decisively,” he said.
Steenhuisen added that the party will be taking action against Nzimande and Khosa in its own capacity, including bringing criminal charges.
“We will write to Ramaphosa and the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) to demand that the scope of the SIU’s investigation be broadened to include the alleged kickbacks to Nzimande and the SACP,” he said.
However, Nzimande, who maintained that NSFAS was taking care of needy students in spite of the challenges faced by the institution, urged the students to ignore the DA and Outa allegations.
Outa and the DA, Nzimande said, were unaffected by the plight of ‘poor students’.
Nzimande, who hails from Pietermaritzburg’s township of Dambuza, accused Outa of colluding with disgruntled service providers.
“They are now colluding with the same individuals who have been accused of corruption,” he said.
Outa hits back
Outa CEO Wayne Duvenage said the organisation would soon be writing to Ramaphosa on the NSFAS matter.
“Those documents are being prepared this week, so we will be writing to the president as well as the Public Protector. And let’s hope that the accountability is meted out.”
Duvenage denied that its claims against Nzimande were baseless.
“There’s a lot of detail in there but the long and short of it is that there is a patronage network that is fraught with corruption, and we believe that people should be held accountable, and this goes right to the top, to the minister,” he said.
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