Two more arrested for matric exam scam

POLICE arrested another two Mpumalanga education officials in their Middelburg offices on Wednesday morning on forgery charges linked to the province’s 1998 matric exam scandal.

National detective services spokesman Director Nasser Mohamed said afterwards both unnamed suspects were arrested in the department’s exam printing section at 9:45am following an intensive one-year forensic investigation. The suspects, both 31-years-old, will appear in the Middelburg Regional Court on Friday on charges similar to the 300 forgery and issuing forged charges against their 33-year-old colleague Charlotte Ngwenya.

Ngwenya was arrested in her office in the same building as the two new suspects three weeks ago in what police described as a major breakthrough. The junior administrative typist in the exams department was released on R1 500 bail when her case was remanded to March 10 for further investigation.

Mohamed confirmed on Wednesday that more arrests would follow and said the police case into how Mpumalanga officials fraudulently boosted the province’s average matric pass rate by 20% - from 52% to 72% - in 1998 was almost complete.

The scam saw over 5 000 failures being given fake matric certificates, while another 2 000 were irregularly given university exemptions. Education department head Faith Sithole was sacked for misconduct related to the scandal, while exam director Gogo Ndlovana and education specialist Kate Mokone have been suspended pending an internal disciplinary hearing.

National crime intelligence spokesman, Senior Superintendent Faizel Abdul-Kader, has previously said police were probing nine officials for involvement in the scam but Mohamed was unable to say how many suspects would be arrested.

Police have also not yet advanced a motive for the massive fraud but departmental investigations indicate officials may have boosted the exam pass average in an attempt to win political and professional glory.

Education spokesman Peter Maminza confirmed on Wednesday that neither Ngwenya nor the two new suspects would be suspended or charged internally until the government had studied the criminal charges against them. “We are currently assessing the situation with a view to appropriate internal disciplinary measures,” he said.

—The Teacher/Mail & Guardian, March 2, 2000.