Termination of NSFAS board is long overdue, say students

Student organisations have welcomed the move by Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande to dissolve the National Students Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) board and place it under administration.

However, the student organisations did hasten to add that Nzimande should do more to capacitate NSFAS’ ability to pay student allowances on time.

The ANC Youth League (ANCYL) and EFF Students Command (EFFSC) said NSFAS is currently incapable of administering student allowances.

ANCYL national spokesperson, Zama Khanyase, said the organisation welcomes Nzimande’s move to dissolve the NSFAS board, noting that this was long overdue.

“We welcome it, but it is long overdue. Right now, NSFAS is not doing what it is supposed to be doing, which is giving students their allowances on time,” Khanyase said.

“NSFAS is on the verge of collapse. There have been instances where landlords have evicted students out of their accommodations because NSFAS has not paid their accommodation allowances.

“There are also students who have not been receiving their meal allowances consistently. NSFAS is failing to fulfil its mandate due to these problems.”

EFFSC president Sihle Lonzi said Nzimande should terminate the contracts of NSFAS’ direct payment service providers, stating that they are the genesis of NSFAS woes.

The decision is long overdue

“We note the minister’s decision. We welcome it. It is long overdue,” Lonzi said.

“However, we are not fully satisfied because the minister is silent on the issue of direct student payments.

“Student beneficiaries have not been receiving their student allowances. He [Nzimande] cannot dissolve the board, put it under administration, and say nothing about the corrupt service providers.

“There is a failure to pay student allowances and university fees because of these direct payments service providers who were appointed irregularly, according to the findings of the Werksman report.

“The contracts of these direct payment service providers should be terminated. NSFAS has a capacity crisis.

“If the minister does not deal with the issue of these corrupt service providers, then placing NSFAS under administration is ineffective and just a PR [public relations] campaign.”

During a media briefing on Sunday, Nzimande said he axed the NSFAS board due to a series of failures that impacted negatively on the organisation and students’ wellbeing. 

These include the inability to fully implement the recommendations of the Werksmans report.

Key among these was the termination of the contracts of the direct payment service providers, who had been appointed irregularly.

The management also consistently failed to oversee the timely payment of student allowances.

Nomvalo takes over as administrator

Nzimande dissolved the NSFAS board and placed it under administration last week.

He then appointed the former head of the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants, Sithembiso Freeman Nomvalo, as the administrator for NSFAS.

Nomvalo’s functions, among others, include taking over the governance, management, and administration of NSFAS for 12 months.

He will finalise all the necessary funding decisions and outstanding payments, including those related to student accommodation.

Nomvalo will also oversee the opening of the 2025 NSFAS online application process.

Nzimande said Nomvalo will report to him and is expected to submit a written report every three months on the progress regarding his assigned roles and issues he must deal with. 

Khanyase said the ANCYL will only be satisfied and happy with Nomvalo’s appointment once they start to see results, while Lonzi warned Nomvalo to do his job without allowing any political interference.

The crises at NSFAS are man-made

“If he acts on a clear conscience, without any influence from former members of the board or even the minister, and does not allow bullying, we will be hopeful,” Lonzi said.

“The crisis at NSFAS is man-made. There is money at NSFAS, but the problem is that the money is mismanaged and stolen.

“There would be a serious catastrophe in this country if NSFAS collapsed. There would be no learning that would take place in all public universities and TVET [technical and vocational education and training] colleges because you cannot expect students to go to class, write assignments, and take exams when they are on empty stomachs.

“You cannot expect students to go to class when they are homeless after being evicted by landlords due to NSFAS’ failure to pay their accommodation allowances.”

CEO of Universities South Africa, Dr Phethiwe Matutu, said the organisation notes the minister’s decision to dissolve the board and place NSFAS under administration. 

Matutu added that the organisation welcomes a decision to give Nomvalo the role to finalise all outstanding payments, including those related to student accommodation.

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