South Africa

Nzimande defends NSFAS administrator, hits back at EFF’s ’Hands of God’ swipe

HIGHER Education Minister Blade Nzimande, has come to the defence of National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) administrator Randall Carolissen, who has recently come under fire for handling the affairs of the bursary scheme.

Carolissen, who was appointed in 2018 when the bursary disbursing body experienced challenges, has been under pressure after NSFAS withdrew 5000 bursaries from students who misrepresented their financial circumstances.

National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) had also called on Nzimande to fire Carolissen for allegedly running the institution to the ground.

He has also come under criticism for the delays in procuring laptops, to enable participation in online studies during the Covid-19.

Addressing the higher education portfolio committee on Friday, Nzimande said he had heard a lot of complaints about Carolissen, and some came from MPs.

"I don't say people have no right to complain about things they see not going okay, but not so long ago we were so positive about the administrator and his good work, including this portfolio committee. He has actually changed so many things under very difficult circumstances," Nzimande said.

The minister said free higher education had done well under Carolissen, since it was announced in December 2017 to start in January 2018.

"I am not saying that there are no problems. We must not present a sense of hullabaloo. We have done well because it was like an impossible task given to the Department of Higher Education and Training and many of us have said, of course, Dr Carolissen has done well," he said.

"We must not just because there are new things that we are not happy about and then rubbish all the good work he has done," Nzimande said.

"On my side, I want to put it on record that I think he has done a sea change in terms of what NSFAS was and some of the challenges of the organisation," he said.

He took a swipe at what he said were suggestions that he was the " hands of God", a term that was earlier used by EFF MP, Susan Thembekwayo.

"I want to dismiss with the contempt it deserves the idea of insinuation that the minister interferes in tender processes of laptops. I want to make it clear that the laptops process was driven by NSFAS, which Dr Carolissen is the one responsible for ."

Nzimande also said he was not happy with the delay in procurement of the laptops.

"I tried single-sourcing and failed. I am open about that. I was concerned that these laptops must come sooner rather than later."

He also said although learning and teaching at tertiary institutions was not dependent on the laptops, they had embarked on multimodal teaching and learning.

Committee chairperson Philly Mapulane, said "hand of God" did not refer to interference to procurement.

"It is something we came to know when we had interaction with Nehawu. It is something referring to a situation where applications of students for NSFAS get lost in the system, and there is no explanation how they get lost.

"They ended up formulating the term 'hands of God'. We are still dealing with it," Mapulane said.

Political Bureau

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