Dear President Ramaphosa
DEPARTMENT OF HIGHER EDUCATION AND TRAINING: FURTHER ALLEGATIONS OF MINISTER NZIMANDE’S POLITICAL INTERFERENCE: APPOINTMENT OF PARTY CRONIES
1. I refer to my letters of 24 and 31 August 2020 regarding allegations of interference of the political head of the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology, Dr Blade Nzimande, in departmental processes and administration, as well as the undermining of the senior departmental accounting officers.
2. Minister Nzimande’s alleged direct interference in procurement processes, such as what apparently happened with the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) laptop tender, clearly has disastrous consequences. This much vaunted project has flopped; everyone sits with egg on their faces and our students are left right where they started, without learning devices. NSFAS’s feeble attempt to mitigate the damage, effectively blaming a total of 150 bidders for “getting it wrong”, is almost laughable.
3. It has now come to my attention that Minister Nzimande was allegedly directly involved in twelve DHET appointments in the 2019/20 financial year that were not made in line with Public Service Regulations (PSR) and/or the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) 1 of 1999.
4. The salaries of these twelve allegedly irregularly appointed individuals cost the taxpayer around R9,7 million a year, but once you consider the allegation that the majority of them are South African Communist Party comrades of the Minister, their appointments take another flavour and one can see why the regulations were seemingly so grossly flouted.
5. It is alleged that, in March 2020, five employees additional to the DHET establishment were appointed, but that there were no logic or justification for the creation of these posts in terms of Section 57(2) of the PSR. Apparently, the posts were not even advertised. I also understand that there was no appointment committee and no competency assessments were conducted as required by Section 67(1). Lastly, there were allegedly no vetting or checking of qualifications in terms of Section 57(3). These appointments are:
6. Another alleged appointment where the Minister had a hand in, is that of a 12-month contract of a Deputy Director-General Planning, Policy and Training, whilst this post already existed in the department establishment and it was vacant. The story with this appointment is the same as with the previous five; none of the PSR prescriptions were adhered to.
7. Two staff members were allegedly headhunted, whilst this is only allowed in terms of the DHET Recruitment and Selection Policy under certain circumstances as described in Section 2.1.6. For some reasons, apparently known only to the Minister, they were both headhunted after only one failed advertisement and the process was not conducted by a recruitment agency. Also, apparently, no verification of their qualifications has been done; they are:
8. The last four instances where the Minister apparently had a hand in are listed below, and as I understand it, there is no evidence on file, that indicates that their qualifications/studies and employment verifications were performed prior to their appointment as is required by Section 67(9a) of the PSR.
9. Much as the blustering rationalisations and irritable explanations come from the Minister, no amount of spin-doctoring can camouflage the dysfunction within the DHET, the Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) and NSFAS.
10. Given the information that you have, I am interested to know what actions you have taken, or plan to take, to address these serious allegations against Minister Nzimande? Have you, at all, considered the United Democratic Movement’s call to suspend him? If not, why not?
11. Lastly, in the interest of setting the record straight, I also refer you to Minister Nzimande’s use of a ministerial briefing to strike at me and his use of a manipulative lie when he said I have an interest in doing business with his department. I wonder how he justifies conscientiously executing his oath of office if a lie is so easily told using a government platform.
I wish to place on record that I am not the businessman he disparaged me to be, and that I have no interests, nor have I ever had, in any companies that do business with government and/or any of its entities.
I have, in an effort to clear this up with the Honourable Minister, gone to the extent of offering to engage him on this topic on any live radio or television platform of his choice, but the response from his corner has, thus far, been mute.
Mr Bantu Holomisa, MP
President of the United Democratic Movement