Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande has refuted allegations that he received kickbacks from service providers that were awarded multimillion-rand tenders by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).
The tenders were awarded to the companies in order for them to administer direct payments to students.
Nzimande said he has never received money from any of the service providers or any other entities falling under the Department of Higher Education and Training.
“Firstly, I wish to once again assure the South African public that, as minister of higher education, science and innovation I have never used any money from any of my department’s entities for the purpose of funding the SACP, as maliciously suggested in the Outa’s [Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse] report.
“Nor have I received any personal kickbacks from any of the service providers to NSFAS or any of the other entities falling under my departments.
“I therefore wish to dismiss this baseless insinuation by Outa, some organisations including some sections of the media, that I as minister was involved in some form of corruption at NSFAS.
“These are all lies that emanate from a malicious fightback campaign. My conscience is clear, and I have nothing to hide or fear.”
Leaked audio recordings
Nzimande was speaking at a media briefing at the GCIS offices in Pretoria in response to allegations of corruption within NSFAS levelled against him by the civil society organisation.
Last week, Outa released a series of leaked audio recordings alleging details of a criminal cartel operating inside the Department of Higher Education and Training and NSFAS.
The recordings allege that service providers that were awarded multimillion-rand tenders to administer direct payments to students allegedly paid kickbacks to NSFAS board chairperson Ernest Khosa, Nzimande and the SACP.
Outa has claimed that this was done in return for tenders and protection of service providers.
In a statement released last week, NSFAS spokesperson Ishmael Mnisi denied the allegations that Khosa received kickbacks.
“The chairperson of the NSFAS board, Ernest Khosa, strongly dismisses with contempt this voice recording and insinuation that he has received money meant for him, minister Nzimande, the SA Communist Party and other parties,” said Mnisi.
Nzimande said he plans to take legal action.
“As stated in my statement on 5 January, I reserve my rights to take the necessary legal action and I have voluntarily decided that I am going to subject myself to the relevant legal processes and ethics bodies of the ANC and SACP.
“I wish to once again state that I have nothing to hide or fear,” said Nzimande.
Nefarious fightback campaign
He said the allegations against him and Khosa “are part of a nefarious fightback campaign that is linked to success and measure I have taken to fight corruption and ensure clean governance at NSFAS.
“This campaign includes threats to the life and person of the NSFAS chairperson.
“It is our view therefore that the leaked recordings are part of a nefarious fightback campaign that is meant to undermine and frustrate the decision of the NSFAS board to start with the legal proceedings to terminate the contracts of these four direct payment solution service providers, as recommended by the Werksmans report.”
Meanwhile, DA leader John Steenhuisen said the party plans to lay criminal charges against Nzimande for corruptions allegations levelled against him.
Steenhuisen said the party also plans to brief its legal team to declare the NSFAS board delinquent.