In the mist of alleged fraud, student activists fight for food

Picture: in the middle Zwelakhe Mahlamvu, Chairperson of the EFFSC. (Photo: Twitter).

After the airing of checkpoint, an investigative show on ENCA exposing the difficult situations students live under in South African universities the government has remained numb in responding to student funding. The Department of Higher Education and training has in the past acknowledged that the “level of state funding for financial aid for students who are academically eligible for admission to universities and meet the criteria of the largely state-funded National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) is inadequate to support all deserving students at appropriate levels…” however the minister has also acknowledged that fee-free university education for the underprivileged in the country is achievable.

An initiative led by Zwelakhe Mahlamvu, chairperson of the Economic Freedom Fighters Student Command (EFFSC) at the University of Johannesburg Kingsway campus aims to challenge the management of the university to give students food.  Mr Mahlamvu together with his movement have taken an initiative to circulate a petition to submit to the management of the university in order to advance issues of food challenges faced by students.  He submits that it is only a handful of students who receive a food allowance and that other students go to classes hungry on a daily basis. Mr Mahlamvu acknowledges other programs on campus such as Gift of the givers that aim to make sure that students do not go hungry however emphasises that more needs to be done by the management of the university. He also argues that student at the University of Johannesburg are the most disadvantaged because they are excluded from the food allowance they acquire from NSFAS from the first year and only have access to the allowance in their last year which is what the petition aims to carry to the management of the university. Mr Mahlamvu suggests that instead of the university wasting millions of rands on “bouncers” it should invest in an aggressive food programme for the benefit of the disadvantaged students.

In the mist of the suffering of students, the Sunday Independent has revealed that Professor Roy Marcus and Jaco van Schoor, who previously held management positions at the University of Johannesburg were suspended after a whistle-blower accused them of pocketing at least R25 million. The two have allegedly used the university’s companies, PTiP Innovations being one of these companies, to personally benefit from a project of installing geysers in the university. The university has launched an internal and external forensic investigation as a result of these allegations. Auditing firm, Sizwe Ntsaluba Gobodo, is said to lead the investigation. The university has confirmed that UJ chairperson of council Professor Roy Marcus and deputy vice-chancellor of finance Jaco van Schoor were suspended with pay.