The United Democratic Movement (UDM) repeatedly wrote to President Cyril Ramaphosa exposing, what appeared to be, several instances of direct interference of the political head of the Department of Higher Education and Training in the management of that department.

Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology, Dr Blade Nzimande allegedly consistently interfered in departmental processes and administration, as well as the management of various Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs). He has also been accused of actively side-lining and undermining the senior departmental accounting officers. The Auditor General had also directed queries at the department where fingers are clearly pointed at the minister, including many directives possibly laced with corruption.

We tonight heard that Dr Nzimande has merely “noted” the suspension of his department’s director general, Mr Gwebinkundla Qonde, in relation to a pending forensic investigation into the National Skills Fund.

Can Minister Nzimande please tell the nation exactly how Mr Qonde suspension came about given the aforementioned context? Why is Mr Qonde suspended now?

To the UDM, it appears as if Mr Qonde has conveniently been hung out to dry, whilst Minister Nzimande is left scot-free and will not even be investigated nor be made to bear the consequences of his alleged political interference and actions.

Mr Qonde has been made a convenient scapegoat and will have his professional career sacrificed on the altar of tripartite politics.

We have noted the Dr Nzimande had dodged some meetings with the portfolio committee on higher education in the recent past, which seems to be in line with his view that he is a law unto himself.

The UDM fully agrees that matters are not well within the DHET, but call on President Ramaphosa to instead do the right thing and rather protect the department’s officials. Minister Nzimande should be suspended with immediate effect and an investigation be lodged into the allegations of his dramatic failures as detailed in our various correspondences.

Issued by Mr Bantu Holomisa, MP
President of the United Democratic Movement