NSFAS Chair Sizwe Nxasana Steps Down Amid Payment Crisis

Former NSFAS Chairman, Sizwe Nxasana. PICTURE: M&G

JOHANNESBURG: Sizwe Nxasana, the well-regarded chairperson of the National Students’ Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), has resigned.

Nxasana informed the Minister of Higher Education and Training Naledi Pandor of his decision on Monday.

“It is time to move on and make way for new leadership and to see how government will take this forward,” Nxasana said.

NSFAS came under fire recently after Pandor instructed the institution to halt funding for 2019 students because a backlog in disbursing aid for 2017 and 2018 had not been cleared. NSFAS has an annual budget of R30 billion.

In a statement, Nxasana cites the “extreme strain” on the NSFAS payments system after then-president Jacob Zuma’s announcement of the extention of free higher education in December as a reason for the institution’s strife.

Zuma made the announcement without prior warning or consultation with actors in the higher education sector. He also seemed to ignore the findings of a commission of inquiry into higher education initiated after the #FeesMustFall protests.

Nxasana, a former CEO of FirstRand, denied recent reports which said NSFAS was in crisis and said the organization was stable and functioning.

“But yes, there are challenges facing NSFAS. The environment changed after the announcement by the then-president (Jacob Zuma) last year about the extention of free higher education and we had to change our systems and processes to accommodate the new situation. Government will now have to decide how to manage it going forward,” he says.

Earlier this week, the ANCYL has strongly called out the minister and the scheme for failing to pay students resulting in protest actions in various institutions. 

In a statement issued by the African National Congress (ANC) Youth League (YL) on Tuesday, the league said it “is enraged by the Minister of Higher Education and Training (DHET), Naledi Pandor’s call to halt the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) application processes.”

Meanwhile, Pandor has sadly accepted the resignation of Nxasana. “The Minister of Higher Education and Training, Naledi Pandor has sadly accepted Mr Nxasana’s resignation following a meeting with him on Wednesday. Minister said, she was most grateful for the excellent leadership Mr Nxasana provided to Nsfas and sincerely thanks Him for his contribution,” she said in a statement. 

“The minister intends calling a special board meeting as soon as it possible, to discuss the way forward,” she added.