Not even six months into his position, the CEO of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), Nkosinathi Khena, has been suspended and the public agency will not state reasons for the move.
“I confirm that the chief executive officer of NSFAS, Mr Nkosinathi Khena, has been suspended on charges of serious misconduct. A disciplinary hearing will be held in due course,” chairperson of NSFAS board, Zamayedwa Sogayise, told the Mail & Guardian on Thursday.
But Sogayise would not say what Khena is alleged to have done. “NSFAS will not be commenting further on this matter until the disciplinary process has been finalised,” he said.
Khena’s suspension was announced to NSFAS staff in its headquarters in Cape Town on Tuesday.
When contacted for confirmation of Khena’s suspension, NSFAS spokesperson, Xolani Gobelo, said Khena was on leave and not suspended.
At the beginning of May, Sogayise announced the appointment of Khena and chief financial officer, Msulwa Daca, as one of the board’s achievements.
NSFAS presented its strategic plans to Parliament just a month ago, with Sogayise and Khena leading the presentation.
The agency has allocated R7.4-billion for distribution as student loans and bursaries in universities and further education and training (FET) colleges during 2012. But allocation problems persist throughout the country. Students in a number of FETs are currently waging strikes over NSFAS funds, which are controlled by college management.
Khena, who could not be reached for comment, was appointed into the position in December, more than six months after his predecessor, Ashley Seymour, was mysteriously sacked.
Seymour challenged his axing in the labour court and sued for R10-million from NSFAS for damages. The M&G reported that his litigation looked set to interrogate an allegedly communist-inspired “political agenda” behind Blade Nzimande’s moves to beef up the controversial entity.
His affidavit identified Sogayise and board member Collette Caine – board members appointed by Nzimande and both senior members of the South African Communist Party – as prime movers for his dismissal, the M&G reported.
Seymour’s removal drew wide criticism, as he was credited with turning around the agency’s administration.
The Democratic Alliance said the higher education and training department needed to “explain why the man who appears to have been responsible for the entity’s improvement – and therefore its ability to deliver its important service to students – has been removed from his post”.
NSFAS has had three CEOs and two acting CEOs in the past 10 years before Khena. The higher education and training department could not be drawn to confirm Khena’s suspension, nor comment on it.
Vuyelwa Qinga, the department’s spokesperson, asked the M&G to “liaise directly with the NSFAS on this matter”. She added: “The organisation is governed through a board that’s responsible for the affairs of NSFAS.”