South Africa

‘Nsfas corruption allegations a matter of concern’ – Ramaphosa

Blade Nzimande Nsfas corruption Cyril Ramaphosa

President Cyril Ramaphosa says the corruption allegations at the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (Nsfas) have to be probed by the authorities.

This follows a report by the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) which alleged service providers contracted to Nsfas paid millions of rands in kickbacks to Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande, the agency’s board chairperson Ernest Khosa and the South African Communist Party (SACP).

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According to Outa, which also released audio recordings of two meetings between Khosa and one of the service providers, the alleged kickbacks were paid in exchange for tenders.

Nzimande has since denied the allegations, labelling them as “lies” and stated that his “conscience is clear“.

On the other hand, Khosa has taken a month-long leave of absence “in order to enable the board to deal with all the allegations against him”, according to Nsfas.

Number of challenges

Speaking to the media on the sidelines of an ANC Youth League (ANCYL) event in Mbombela, Mpumalanga, ahead of the January 8 Statement this weekend, Ramaphosa said the alleged irregularities at Nsfas should be investigated.

“Nsfas has encountered a number of challenges that are being addressed, and the various allegations obviously are a matter of concern and are also being looked at.

“So everything that has been put out and alleged has to be looked at,” the president told reporters on Thursday.

“There shall be processes, moving forward in every aspect of government, we are going to heighten accountability. The challenges at Nsfas are being looked at that I can assure you,” he continued.

Ramaphosa unlikely to act

Opposition parties, including the Democratic Alliance (DA) and ActionSA, have called on Ramaphosa to sack Nzimande from his cabinet.

But political analyst Sandile Swana believes the president was unlikely to act in an attempt to solidify unity within the tripartite alliance, which includes SACP, leading up to this year’s general elections.

READ MORE: Nzimande pulls knives out as Outa stands by report claims

“From a political standpoint, it seems improbable for Ramaphosa to take measures against Nzimande, who serves as a crucial political support and guardian for a president grappling with insecurity.

“Instead, he might advocate the completion of ongoing investigations, call upon Parliament to fulfill its oversight responsibilities, and seek input from the Hawks in addressing the situation,” Swana told The Citizen in wake of the allegations.

The DA laid criminal charges against the minister with the South African Police Service (Saps) in Cape Town this week.

Additional reporting by Brian Sokutu and Devina Haripersad