Ramaphosa protects Nzimande; DA takes action to protect students – John Steenhuisen

DA leader says all the ANC cares about is themselves, and protecting their ability to loot no matter the cost

While Ramaphosa protects Nzimande, the DA takes legal action to protect students

8 January 2024

Note to Editors: The following speech was delivered by the DA Federal Leader, John Steenhuisen, during a Live Broadcast in Cape Town earlier today.

My fellow South Africans,

Our country has entered the New Year of 2024 with the warning lights flashing bright red.

Following a short downturn in economic activity over the festive period, load shedding has come roaring back to hurt us.

With the year just a week old, we have already seen a series of mass killings, farm attacks and GBV cases that continue to take the lives of innocent women and children.

Over ten million South Africans have no jobs to return to.

More than 30 million people are still living in poverty.

One in five children go to bed hungry because people can no longer afford to feed their families.

Behind each one of these crises, behind all of this daily suffering, there is one common factor.

Life in South Africa has gotten dramatically worse and more difficult over the past six years due to one reason.

Because a coward is occupying the Union Buildings.

It is time to tell it like it is.

President Cyril Ramaphosa is a coward.

Everything he has done since coming to power has been motivated by a cowardly desire to stay in power at all costs, to protect the corrupt, and to keep his shattered political party united.

His uncaring government does not bat an eyelid about the suffering of the people.

While the people suffer under load shedding, they use taxpayer money to live like rockstars in mansions with generators.

While the people suffer at the hands of criminals, they spend billions on VIP protection and luxury vehicles.

While the people cannot find work, they reserve jobs for their cronies through the corrupt system of cadre deployment.

This government does not care about you. They never cared about you.

All the ANC cares about is themselves, and protecting their ability to loot no matter the cost to the people of South Africa.

Today, you will see pictures of ANC leaders eating cake and popping champagne.

With every bite they take, with every sip they savour, the ANC celebrates the suffering of the people.

The tentacles of corruption that feed the ANC have now identified a new target: South African students.

While the youth of this country struggle against the odds to build a better future, the ANC is stealing their dreams.

Last week, a series of leaked recordings released by the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse revealed the details of a criminal cartel operating inside the Department of Higher Education and the National Student Financial Aid Scheme, known as NSFAS.

The recordings reveal that service providers that were awarded multi-million Rand tenders to administer direct payments to students allegedly paid kickbacks to the chairman of NSFAS, Ernest Khosa, to the Minister of Higher Education, Blade Nzimande, and to his South African Communist Party.

According to OUTA, “This was done in return for tenders and protection for service providers.”

These revelations demonstrate that nothing is sacred to the ANC government.

Instead of supporting students who are working hard to rise above hardship in order to build a better future for themselves and our country, the ANC only sees another opportunity to loot.

And make no mistake about it: the ANC’s NSFAS corruption has not been a victimless crime.

The awarding last year by NSFAS of direct payment tenders to companies with no proven track record has resulted in students being charged exorbitant fees for every transaction.

In many cases, students also received their allowances late or not at all, leaving them unable to even buy food.

Thanks to the recently released recordings, we now know why these lucrative tenders were awarded to companies no one had ever heard of: in exchange for kickback payments to Nzimande, Khosa and the SACP.

Every time a student uses their NSFAS card, they are effectively forced to help fund Nzimande’s corrupt scheme.

But the scandal does not end there.

There are also serious question swirling around another set of tenders awarded by NSFAS, to manage student accommodation.

In addition to cutting the accommodation allowance by R15 000 per year last year, the scheme now also requires educational institutions and private accommodation providers to obtain accreditation as a cost of up to R200 per bed.

Once accredited, NSFAS then also deducts 5% from the rental amount for what it refers to as a “licence fee.”

Like the exorbitant bank charges introduced last year, this is clearly another lucrative way for cadres and their preferred service providers to milk students and accommodation providers.

Last year already saw scenes of students forced to sleep in libraries, hallways and bathrooms.

But things are about to get a whole lot worse.

By the end of last year, only 6.5% of the beds required for the 2024 academic year had been accredited under the new system.

The systemic corruption evident at NSFAS and the Department of Higher Education is likely to trigger a serious crisis when students return to campuses later this month, only to find that they cannot access accommodation and are being charged to fund corruption every time they try to buy food.

ANC corruption and mismanaging has created a funding shortfall of over R1.1 billion, which means that funding will be withdrawn from over 87 000 students, in addition to the 20 000 students who were already deprived last year.

And yet, despite this existential crisis that threatens to derail our education sector, President Cyril Ramaphosa remains absent as usual.

Like he does every time that evidence emerges showing that corruption and capture has reached new heights under his administration, Ramaphosa takes the coward’s way out.

Instead of firing Nzimande and Khosa, he has remained silent, while the ANC has meekly suggested that Nzimande may appear before its so-called integrity committee.

The Constitution spells out that only the President has the responsibility to act against corrupt Cabinet ministers.

When a Minister commits corruption or undermines the Cabinet, it is the job of a real leader to deal with that person decisively.

Ramaphosa cannot outsource that responsibility to some toothless committee populated by ANC cadres, many of whom are just as tainted as the person they are supposed to investigate.

The President’s innate cowardice is about to do great damage to the higher education sector, just like his failure to lead has worsened load shedding, unemployment and crime.

Since Ramaphosa cannot do so, the DA will step in to lead:

The DA will immediately submit a request under the Promotion of Access to Information Act to obtain a copy of the Werksmans report into the awarding of the direct payment tenders.

We will write to Ramaphosa and the Special Investigating Unit to demand that the scope of the SIU’s investigation be broadened to include the alleged kickbacks to Nzimande and the SACP.

The DA, including through our student organisation, will initiate mass mobilisation campaigns at campuses across the country to force Ramaphosa to fire Nzimande.

Finally, we are preparing criminal charges against Nzimande and briefing our legal team to declare the NSFAS board delinquent over the corrupt and irrational direct payment and accommodation tenders. This legal action is in keeping with the findings of the State Capture Commission, which recommended that it should become standard practice to declare board members involved in capture and corruption as delinquent.

The DA is taking these steps because, unlike the ANC, we care.

We care about disadvantaged students who are fighting to rise above challenges to obtain education.

We care about creating millions more jobs, which can only happen through investment in education.

And we care about ending ANC corruption, which has stolen so much from our country.

Even as the DA defends students from the corruption of the Ramaphosa administration, we must recognise that none of these corruption scandals are isolated.

Corruption has become systemic and endemic over the past few years because of the cowardice of the President.

Ramaphosa himself admitted this even before he became President, when he said that – and I quote – he “would rather be seen as a weak President than dividing the ANC.”

So brazen is the cowardice of Ramaphosa’s ANC that yesterday, ANC Secretary-General Fikile Mbalula even admitted in public that the ANC lied to Parliament, to the courts, and to the people of South Africa to protect Zuma.

But this appeasement strategy has spectacularly failed, and Ramaphosa is now reaping the whirlwind.

No individual benefitted more from Ramaphosa’s innate cowardice than former President Jacob Zuma.

Ramaphosa is so scared to death of Zuma that he even let over 10 000 out of prison as an excuse to release the former President from jail.

Under Ramaphosa, not a single person – not one – has been imprisoned for state capture.

By running scared from the likes of Zuma, Nzimande and the endless list of cadres accused of corruption, Ramaphosa has sowed the seeds of his own demise.

It is time for South Africa to break out of this vicious cycle, where corruption goes unpunished and our country is held hostage by the ANC’s escalating internal war.

The only way to do that, is by voting the ANC out of power, because the ANC is the root cause of corruption.

If you have not done so already, I encourage every South African – including the tens of thousands of students who are suffering at the hands of Blade Nzimande’s corruption and Cyril Ramaphosa’s cowardice – to visit today to ensure that you are registered to vote.

Unlike our current President, the people of South Africa are courageous beyond all measure.

In just a few short months from now, we must all harness that courage to vote for the DA to rescue South Africa.

Thank you.