‘You are incompetent’ - MPs accuse Nzimande of not helping students

He came in for a lashing in the National Assembly hours after a man was shot dead during a student protest in Johannesburg on Wednesday.

Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation Blade Nzimande addresses members of the media in Pretoria on 8 March 2021 on funding discussions for prospective students for the 2021 academic year. Picture: GCIS

CAPE TOWN/JOHANNESBURG - Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande has come under fire in Parliament as MPs accused him of failing to help university students.

He came in for a lashing in the National Assembly hours after a man was shot dead during a student protest in Johannesburg on Wednesday.

Wits University students were demonstrating over tuition fees and the financial exclusion of some of their peers.

A passerby died while police were shooting at the student protestors.

Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) MP Mthokozisi Nxumalo told Nzimande protesting Wits University students were demanding what was rightfully theirs.

He reminded Nzimande that former President Jacob Zuma promised free tertiary education following violent protests several years back over fee increases.

Nxumalo labelled the minister incompetent: “One might even say you are incompetent to run the department because every year, none of the students are getting benefits from your office.”

Nzimande wants a list of students who are struggling to get financial assistance. He's promised to follow up on the matter.

But he's denied Wits students were left in the lurch: “95% of all the students who are going to be taken by Wits University are already registered and I am in touch with all universities.”

PROTESTING STUDENTS NOT NSFAS STUDENTS

The Higher Education Department said arrangements were made in the past for students funded by NSFAS to be allowed to register even if they have outstanding fees.

The department said it believed the protesting students were those who weren’t being subsided by government’s financial aid scheme.

Ndzimande is expected to hold a media briefing on Thursday.

Higher education spokesperson Ishmael Mnisi has admitted that NSFAS students should not be left out in the cold because they’re owing universities money.

“So, all the students who are beneficiaries of NSFAS must be able to register provisionally until NSFAS gives them the letters that confirm that they will be paid for.”

When asked about students whose funding has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and other reasons, this is what Mnisi had to say: “If there is any student whose parents has lost any job, who have no income, we have made provisions for such students that they can apply for NSFAS as long as they provide proof that their parents are no longer working.”

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