By Siviwe Feketha

UDM leader Bantu Holomisa has reiterated his party’s call for Higher Education and Training (DHET) Minister Blade Nzimande to be forced to account over allegations of political interference and questionable appointments levelled against him.

Holomisa said President Cyril Ramaphosa had to shoulder the responsibility for Nzimande’s actions if he did not hold him accountable.

In an open letter directed to Ramaphosa, Holomisa said its various correspondences over the allegations had been ignored by the Presidency, adding that the auditor-general’s (AG) final management report on DHET gave credence to the accusations against Nzimande, who is also SACP general secretary.

“In our letter of 10 September 2020, we had explained the allegation that some of the appointments were directed by Minister Nzimande in favour of some South African Communist Party (SACP) favourites. We had also reported to you Minister Nzimande’s alleged direct interference in the appointment of the SETAs’ board members and chairpersons on 24 August 2020,” Holomisa said.

The AG report had flagged Nzimande’s approval of the appointment of five employees with no proof of following due process.

The report, released last year, said “there was no evidence that verifications were performed to confirm that the employees appointed qualified in all respects for the position, and there is also no evidence that a selection committee was appointed to make recommendations on suitable candidates as required by section 57 (3) of the Public Service Regulations”, the report said.

A further seven people had been appointed by the department with no proof of following due process, with the AG calling for their salaries to be declared irregular expenditure.

The UDM has since last year been pushing to have action taken against Nzimande over the irregular appointments within the department and the Sector Education and Training Authorities.

Holomisa said Ramaphosa’s insistence that the UDM must approach law enforcement agencies, the public protector and the Public Service Commission to report Nzimande was no longer compelling.

“Mr President, you have made a commitment to South Africans to eradicate corruption in the government and we support you in this endeavour. Given your undertaking, the allegations surrounding Minister Nzimande that laws, rules and regulations are being flouted with impunity cannot be ignored,” he said.

Both Presidential spokesperson Tyrone Seale and Nzimande’s spokesperson Ishmael Mnisi had not responded to questions by the time of publication.

Holomisa also accused Nzimande of having blocked his party when it tried to get information relating to the jobs saga from the DHET through the use of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA).

He said Nzimande had directed officials not to give him the information.

“Considering with whom we are dealing, it should not have been a surprise to be unceremoniously “…advised that by the instruction from the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, we are unable to furnish you with the petitioned information” and we were given no reason at all for this refusal as is required by the Act,” he said.

Nzimande has often rejected the allegations against him, including claims that he had interfered in the running of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), and said they were being peddled by those with ulterior motives. – IoL

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