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By Brian Sokutu

Senior Print Journalist

Nsfas needs a complete overhaul

Our government has turned to assuming the work of a firefighter – pretending to be dousing fires of dysfunction and crisis.

A government tinkering with what works and rendering it unworkable is what we have become accustomed to.

This has been the South African government’s modus operandi, which has turned to assuming the work of a firefighter – pretending to be dousing fires of dysfunction and crisis.

ALSO READ: ‘There’s no reason why I should resign’ – Nzimande slams parties for ‘playing politics’

Gone are school inspectors, teacher and nurse training colleges, railway artisan training, military conscription and full-time employed government engineers.

For government – whether at local, provincial or national level – to unblock a street drain, fix underground pipes, close potholes or tar a road, a tender is required.

Then an executive and a senior official collude to agree on who gets the contract – regardless of experience or track record.

As millions of taxpayers’ money is splurged on the contract, what follows is a substandard product or service, with government officials taking no responsibility – the politically connected spending the loot on expensive cars and houses.

If the findings of the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture are anything to go by, we should be seeing several high-profile cases before courts and those convicted of fraud, corruption and state capture languishing in jail.

But not in South Africa, where the president is more concerned about political support from comrades than doing what is right – showing leadership.

The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (Nsfas) scandal, which has seen some students being evicted by landlords due to unpaid rent, is among many cases painting a dark cloud and an unfortunate legacy of what should be regarded as a people’s democratic state.

ALSO READ: Sasco calls for decentralising of Nsfas offices (VIDEO)

Surely not what Vuyisile Mini, Chris Hani, Robert Sobukwe, Solomon Mahlangu and Steve Biko laid down their lives for – to defeat apartheid and replace it with constitutional democracy.

Faced with dysfunction, strong allegations of corruption and maladministration at Nsfas – implicating himself in wrongdoing – SA Communist Party boss Dr Blade Nzimande, also serving as higher education minister, has washed his hands of the problem.

As a political head overseeing the appointment of the disgraced Nsfas board, Nzimande – instead of taking full responsibility – has found an easy way out.

If he was a minister in another country, he would have packed his bags and left – saving him the disgrace of being fired. But we are not surprised that he is still in office.

In dissolving the Nsfas board, Nzimande cited its failure to address student challenges.

“Key among these was the termination of contracts of direct payment service providers – appointed irregularly. I raised this in December to remove these service providers, which has not happened,” said Nzimande.

Has he been fast asleep in office? We would be expecting miracles if we thought the appointment of Sthembiso Nomvalo as Nsfas administrator would easily turn things around.

ALSO READ: AbaThembu king comes to rescue: Dalindyebo feeds hungry students amid Nsfas chaos

What is clear is that the graft at Nsfas is endemic, with lower-level foot soldiers who facilitated the deals still in office.

For Nsfas to work efficiently, it needs a complete overhaul and a board composed of student, human rights activists and academic representatives.

With service providers at the centre of the Nsfas debacle, it has all the features of another dark and painful story of our country – Life Esidimeni.

That saga saw 141 patients with mental health problems dying in undignified conditions, with over 1 400 survivors exposed to torture, trauma and violations of human rights. Kwanele (enough).