EXPOSED: How Transport Minister Nzimande’s academic connections benefited from political patronage

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Ayanda Mdluli

JOHANNESBURG- Transport minister Blade Nzimande and his circle of friends at the South African Communist Party (SACP) who are accused of looting the National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIHSS) will soon have to face the music and answer against allegations of corruption, racketeering and money laundering when at the State Capture Commission of Inquiry.

Africa News 24-7 is in possession of a series of documents and submissions which highlight an intricate web of financial irregularities where the NIHSS was used as a vehicle by the SACP to loot taxpayers’ monies in order to finance dubious projects under various NPO’s that were registered under the party.

The documents leaked to Africa News 24-7 highlight how some members of academic formations as well employees at the Ministry of Higher Education and Training and at the NIHSS watched in horror as the institution was allegedly used as a personal piggy bank for board members who were handpicked by Nzimande.

After laying criminal charges with the police on Thursday, the Academic Professional Staff Association (APSA) said it was upping the ante and has proceeded to make more damning submissions against the minister of transport Blade Nzimande with the Public Protector and at State Capture Commission of Inquiry.

Corroborating the leaked documents, Boitumelo Senokoane, the general secretary of APSA said charges opened against Nzimande range from corruption, racketeering to money laundering when he was the Minister of Higher Education and Training.

According to Senokonae and documentation obtained by Africa News 24-7, Nzimande is alleged to have used tax payer’s money for his personal benefit as well as to benefit the South African Communist Party as well as some of his associates and allies.

“Over and above the submissions at the Public Protectors Office, APSA will, on the 27th of August submit evidence of corruption to the State Capture Commission followed by a March on the 1st of September by our members to the Minister of Higher Education and Training and Minister of Police to call for an investigation into the allegations,” said Senokonae.

See APSA submission to the Public Protector

The union, which consists of academics and professionals from various institutions of higher learning across SA, alleges that Nzimande’s SACP received irregular payments from the National Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences (NIHSS).

According to Senokoane, Nzimande and some of his affiliates are alleged to have made a payment of R300 000 to the Mzala Nxumalo Centre for the Study of South African Society. The Mzala Nxumalo Centre is a non-profit organisation that is administered by the SACP.

According to annexures seen by Africa News 24-7 which form part of APSA’s submissions to the State Capture Commission, the NIHSS donated R300 000 to the Mzala Nxumalo Centre.

NIHSS is a public entity as it receives funding from taxpayers’ money, particularly the national skills funds that are audited by the office of the Auditor General of South Africa, Nzimande acted as a facilitator between the NIHSS and Mzala Nxumalo Centre.

Also, most of the members who served on the NIHSS board are said to have direct linkages to Nzimande which is described by insiders as “a clear indicator of patronage”. In addition, board members have also been accused of being beneficiaries of funding from the NIHSS which is also described as “a conflict of interest” by sources who spoke to Africa News 24-7.

Africa News 24-7 is also in possession of a letter written by staff at the NIHSS alleging that there is widespread corruption within the organisation practiced by some members of its executive committee.

See the letter written by NIHSS staff

This letter was included in the submission at the State Capture Commission of Inquiry which also alleges that there were financial irregularities in the NIHSS Annual Report of the financial year 2015/2019 as well as 2016/2017.

The letter accuses the organisation’s CEO, Prof Sarah Mosoetsa of mismanaging funds within the institution. It goes on to claim that the policies and procedures of the founding documents of the NIHSS have rarely been followed.

“These documents outline the day to day function of the institute, however, the CEO, has deliberately ignored the founding documents that promote good governance and clean administration and has followed her own rules with running the organisation and awarding funding to people who have been instrumental to her position. Furthermore, in gaining her position, Professor Mosoetsa comes with a baggage of commitments to the SACP and professors who are based in white advantaged universities (these being the University of Cape Town and the University of the Witwatersrand),” read the letter.

According to the staff at the NIHSS, from June 2015, Mosoetsa had been attending a number of meetings as a board member for Mzala Nxumalo Centre prior to its official launch as an NPO. This led to tensions with the then CFO, Kibiti Lephotho who was questioning the relationship between the NIHSS and Mzala Nxumalo Centre.

Staff in the organisation revealed: “He questioned why Mosoetsa’s flight to attend a Mzala Nxumalo board meeting should be paid by the NIHSS as NIHSS had its own board members that were being paid for by the NIHSS. This was the start of the tension between the CEO and the then CFO as the CFO was trying to follow the PFMA the CEO rebuked this. The following were questioned by the CFO. Subsequent to the tension, the matter was escalated by the then CFO Lephoto to the chair of the Board, Professor Ari Sitas and the Human Resources committee. His plea was ignored and Lephoto was suspended in August 2015 and dismissed in January 2016. Mr Lephoto took the matter to the CCMA and awarded the case. The matter was further taken to the Labour Court, which was won,” said the staff members.

Responding to the allegations recently, the South African Communist Party (SACP) said it was shocked and dismayed “at the reckless and libellous statement issued by Senokoane against Nzimande.

“This is nothing but a lousy attack on the person of Comrade Blade, as well as the SACP. While we will not deal with all the wild and unsubstantiated allegations contained in that statement, we wish to state that unlike so-called Professor Senokoane, the people whose reputations he seeks to disparage in his statement, are all highly respected professionals, who have achieved a lot in their academic careers in their own right, and don’t need Cde Blade to do them any favours to advance their careers. Their credentials and achievements are well known in academic circles. While we do not speak for the National Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences (NHISS), we know for a fact that this is an institution with a very important mandate in the system of Higher Education,” said the organisation.

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