Mugabe Scholarship programme in crisis
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The Financial Gazette has established that the cash crisis has resulted in threats being issued by the South African universities to students who are beneficiaries of the scholarship programme to either pay the outstanding tuition fees themselves or not return next semester to the universities.
Some of the institutions are mulling cutting off ties with the Presidential scholarship programme over the non-payment of fees.
An average 250 students per institution are enrolled at 15 universities in South Africa. These include the University of Johannesburg, University of Kwazulu-Natal (UKZN), University of Pretoria and Monash University, among others.
Several students at Monash University said they relied on their allowances not only to buy food and stationery, but also to pay for electricity use in their respective residences. The students claimed they had not received anything this year and had not had electricity for the greater part of the semester.
But Christopher Mushowe, the Manicaland governor and director of the Presidential scholarship programme downplayed the financial crisis gripping the intitiative and said they were "just behind in payments".
"We have not yet received enough money from Treasury, but they have assured us that they are doing their best to avail funds to us", he said.
Students who spoke to this newspaper say their monthly allowances of R1 000 had been irregular with students having to supplement their living costs through doing "odd jobs" in South Africa.
On seeking an explanation from representatives of the scholarship programme in South Africa the students have been told that Finance Minister Tendai Biti, who is the secretary general of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) was refusing to release money to fund the scholarship programme.
"Students from the UKZN have since been told not to come back next semester if the government has not paid the money. Buses have been hired by the institution to ferry the students back to Zimbabwe because the students have indicated that they don't have money for bus fare", said a beneficiary of the scholarship programme who spoke on condition of anonymity.
"Traditionally, students are given allowances at the end of the semester to transport them back home, but the UKZN is one of the institutions where students have not received any allowances for their upkeep since the beginning of their semester. The institution has since terminated its relations with the scholarship co-ordinators", he claimed.
Despite this, Mushowe said this week that relations with the South African universities were cordial.
"No, it's not the case, our relations with South African universities continue to be cordial and we have asked them to assist with things like transport for our students where, in some cases, students may come forward and say that they do not have any funds to travel back home. I personally wrote to South African universities a few weeks ago and it is positive to see that they are helping our students".
Quizzed on whether blame should be placed on Biti for not availing funds for the Presidential Scholarship Programme, Mushowe said: "It's not fair to blame either the MDC or any individual and say they are blocking the release of funds.
"Treasury is a part of government and it is the responsibility of government to support its people and we don't believe that Treasury is a partisan institution just because it is headed by an MDC minister".
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