🔒 How degrees were “sold” at “crime scene” university

The University of Fort Hare faces a staggering loss due to alleged degree “sales” to financially strained students, potentially amounting to millions.

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By Chris Steyn

The University of Fort Hare has potentially lost millions of rands because of degree “sales” to students who could not afford their outstanding fees. ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

BizNews is in possession of an affidavit in which the degree and certificate sales are described.

This is the university described by the Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande as a ”crime scene” because of massive corruption – and even assassination.

Read more: Top corruption-busting lawyers in the fight of their lives….

In an affidavit made by the university’s Vice Chancellor and Principal Sakhela Maxwell Buhlungu, he describes how a former employee in the Registrar’s Office colluded with a student “to identify students indebted to the University and who were, as a result of their indebtedness, unable to obtain copies of their degrees/certificates and academic transcripts”.

He states that the pair allegedly “offered these students a means of obtaining their degrees/certificates and/or academic transcripts for a considerably lower amount than what was owing on their University student accounts”.

He adds that this was “based on a percentage of the student’s debt owed to the University (approximately ten percent).”

The Vice-Chancellor describes how the former employee used her position to “access and release” students’ degrees and/or academic record “without requiring the students to settle the debt” owing on their student accounts and, in certain circumstances, without having to pay for replacement certificates.

He further states that she “facilitated the manipulation of fees clearance certificates to reflect a Xero balance”.

The Vice-Chancellor describes in detail how the employee and her accomplice facilitated the “forgery and/or manipulation” of a fees clearance certificate (BizNews omits her exact modus operandi so as not to inspire others to copy her methods).

Students paid money into her accomplice’s personal bank account for these “favours”, and he would in turn pay her “cut” into her personal bank account.

In one email exchange between the two, the employee informed the “middleman” student that a particular student still owed almost R184 000 to which he responded: “the dog lied and said it was R28 000”.

The affidavit contains a list of names of students who obtained their degrees in this fraudulent manner.

And the Vice-Chancellor concludes by saying that the “true loss” to the university for all these “favours” has yet to be fully quantified.

In a separate affidavit, it is revealed how these students managed to have such a high debt, yet were able to register year after year well above the agreed thresholds set by institution (usually in the region of R30 000 to R50 000).

This affidavit describes how a former Acting Head of Department: Financial Aid and Bursaries (and priorly a Senior Financial Officer in the Financial Aid office) allegedly “unblocked” the accounts of students in exchange for payment.

In one email to him, his alleged accomplice – a student at the university – sent him the details of another student and wrote: “she wants any degree”.

This employee was summarily dismissed following a disciplinary hearing, but won the case at the The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA). The matter is currently on review in the Labour Court.

Considered holistically between these two schemes, students may only be paying a nominal amount to obtain their degrees from the university, leaving the institution with student debt which won’t be settled because the original degrees have already been issued to these students.

The “sale” of degrees and registrations was just two of the many cases of endemic corruption uncovered at the university by labour lawyer Bradley Conradie and forensic lawyer Sarah Burger since 2018.

In a bizarre twist, the two now find themselves in the dock with other corruption accused.

They believe their arrests and prosecution are in retaliation for them cracking open the “Corruption Mafia” at Fort Hare.

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