Four days into 2024, OUTA released leaked voice recordings containing serious allegations of corruption at NSFAS. This prompted the implicated board chairperson to step aside, and an investigation was announced. However urgent matters persist, bringing to light a web of corruption. 

OUTA started the year by calling for the resignations of Minister of Higher Education and Training, Blade Nzimande, and Ernest Khosa, chairperson of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) board. This followed our 4 January release of leaked voice recordings, part of our ongoing investigation into corruption in higher education. 

In these recordings, the voices of three individuals, identified as Ernest Khosa, Thula Ntunba, and others, reveal alleged kickbacks to Nzimande and Khosa, as well as at least R1 million to the South African Communist Party (SACP). These payments were purportedly in exchange for tenders and protection for service providers. Read more about what we uncovered here.

The recordings also exposed Khosa’s plan to interfere in investigations following OUTA’s exposé of corruption by NSFAS CEO Andile Nongogo, whose nefarious activities we traced back to his tenure as CEO at the Services SETA (SSETA). This validates our prior findings on patronage networks in higher education and as a result, OUTA not only called for the resignations, but also for a much more comprehensive probe into corruption in this sector. 

Of course, both Khosa and Nzimande denied any wrongdoing, with the Minister threatening with legal action, but on 11 January, the NSFAS board announced Khosa’s leave of absence, appointing Prof. Lourens van Staden, as interim chairperson. 

While OUTA welcomes Van Staden’s appointment, it is crucial to note the challenges ahead. Four key issues need prompt resolution to avoid a repeat of the 2015 Fees Must Fall fiasco: processing over 1,5 million NSFAS funding applications, prompt payment of outstanding 2023 allowances to 11 000 students who are still waiting, the settling of outstanding tuition fees to universities and TVET colleges (which prevents students from registering for the new academic year or accessing their final results in order to graduate) and addressing the looming student accommodation crisis on campuses countrywide. OUTA has called for the immediate suspension of the accommodation pilot project in order to ensure a smooth and peaceful start to the new academic year. Read more here.

OUTA will keep holding NSFAS accountable – the youth of our country deserve a better future. Has your family been impacted by the corruption at NSFAS? What other actions could effectively address the corruption and mismanagement in higher education?

More on OUTA's work on NSFAS is here.