Counter accusations of corruption in the higher education department have pit minister Blade Nzimande against his suspended Director-General Gwebinkundla Qonde.
The director-general was suspended over poor audit outcomes, but Qonde has turned around and implicated Nzimande in graft related to the purchase of half a million laptops.
Qonde claims he was forced to bypass normal tender processes, in the procurement of 500 000 laptops for students who belong to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).
He says the higher education minister was behind the decision not to advertise the tender and instead continue with an existing supplier of laptops to NSFAS.
Now the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) has entered the fray and is calling for Nzimande to be fired.
On Monday the EFF said Nzimande must be removed as higher education minister “over the damning claims against him of tender corruption relating to the procurement of laptops for needy students and mismanagement of the finances of the department”.
Qonde was suspended just over a week ago in the wake of a disclaimer audit opinion by the Auditor-General of South Africa.
Although the higher education department said Qonde’s suspension was in terms of the Public Service Act and the SMS handbook, no details were provided.
Insiders claimed Qonde’s suspension was linked to a nearly R900 million skills fund that could not be properly accounted for.
Commenting on the matter, the EFF described Nzimande as a “callous and corrupt factionalist”
In a statement, the Red Berets said they have “long called for the removal” of Nzimande as higher education minister.
“Not only for his perennial failure in managing the higher education sector, while making no verifiable contribution to its progress, but also his rampant cronyism and lack of accountability,” said the EFF.
“In the wake of a deadly pandemic, he joins the long list of ministers who have tried to use the emergency procurement process to further theft.
The EFF said it calls for “the immediate removal” of Nzimande.