Three sets of parents and their children alleged to have bribed their way into the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s faculty of health sciences were detained this week in a pre-dawn raid by the Hawks.
Police swooped on the homes in uMhlanga, Chatsworth and Ficksburg in the Free State simultaneously early on Tuesday morning. Laptops, cellphones and documents were confiscated. The suspects whose children were in the first year of pharmacy were detained for questioning and statements were taken from them.
They were expected to face charges of fraud and corruption soon. The uMhlanga home belonged to prominent business owners in Durban. The couple involved were alleged to have paid R20 000 to transfer their son from the commerce faculty into the health sciences faculty.
In the Chatsworth and Free State cases, the parents allegedly paid a deposit of R50 000 each to secure a place for their children to study pharmacy this year. The three students formed part of the police’s sting operation set up during this year’s admission period when police worked with the university to fraudulently admit students.
The crackdown comes six months after three suspects were arrested for allegedly selling places at the institution. The suspects include Durban’s popular. Little Gujarat restaurant owners Varsha and Hiteshkumar Bhatt and uMhlanga businesswoman Preshni Hiramun. They will reappear in court in March. In their last court appearance, state prosecutor Attie Truter said the matter would be transferred to the Durban High Court and that the trio could face additional charges of racketeering. They were charged with corruption.
Hawks spokesperson Captain Simphiwe Mhlongo said Tuesday’s operation was a success and that more arrests were imminent following the operation and warned that police would continue to crack down on those parents and students allegedly involved in the corruption.
The newly appointed Minister of Higher Education and Training, Hlengiwe Mkhize, said the buying of places, especially into medical school, showed the desperation of parents and students to get into the profession.
“It’s scandalous, criminal and undermines the integrity of our higher education institutions. I am fully behind the investigation. A letter has already been sent out to registrars of universities to revisit our registration processes to ensure next year is a smooth admission period,” said Mkhize.
When asked if there were plans to revisit the medical school quota policy in the new year, she said that “we were limited in the number of students we can accommodate as a country”.
“We also need to do a little more in terms of career guidance to help students who cannot get into medical school, to look into other professions. We do not have the capacity to expand our universities at present and that’s why we provide international exchange programmes for medical students,” said Mkhize.
UKZN spokesperson Normah Zondo said staff linked to the syndicate were still suspended and that internal investigations were still in progress. With the 2018 admission period approaching, Zondo said: “UKZN has taken all reasonable steps to implement appropriate controls and standing procedures to ensure the 2018 admission processes is legitimate.”
She said the university was not Unwith the progress made in the criminal investigation thus far.
By: NABEELAH SHAIKH/iOL