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Vaal University of Technology executive faces conflict of interest allegation over son’s bursary

Vaal University of Technology executive faces conflict of interest allegation over son’s bursary
Vaal University of Technology. (Photo: Gallo Images / Sharon Seretlo)

A Vaal University of Technology executive faces a conflict of interest allegation over a bursary her son received from De Beers while also receiving funding from the university. The university says the executive didn’t violate policy, but there’s pressure on the new vice-chancellor, Khehla Ndlovu, to act.

Conflict of interest and double-dipping allegations have emerged following revelations that the son of a Vaal University of Technology (VUT) senior executive benefited from a private bursary while receiving funding for staff dependants.

Kediemetse Mokotsi, VUT’s acting executive director for advancement, was a “go-to person” between VUT and De Beers for a bursary funding programme. Her son Bongani Mokotsi benefited from the bursary while some of his tuition fees were financed by the university.

The payments were made between 2016 and 2019. 

vaal university of technology conflict of interest bursary

Vaal University of Technology (VUT) acting executive director for advancement Kediemetse Mokotsi. (Photo: Vaal University of Technology / Wikipedia)

While VUT told Daily Maverick there was nothing wrong with the arrangement, questions remain over whether Mokotsi had a conflict of interest when her son benefited from financial assistance from both VUT and De Beers.   

‘Purely conflicted interests’

Former Student Representative Council (SRC) leader Lemogang Medupe, who presided between 2017 to 2018, said it was “absurd for one to believe there is everything right with the involvement of Mokotsi on any process that seeks to directly or indirectly benefit her son”.

He said her actions amounted to “gross abuse of power and purely conflicted interests. There is no super student in the university — all students must undergo a fair process. Already her son enjoys employee dependants’ benefits. Now, to extend it further through [an] unfair process, it’s dubious. Kediemetse must be suspended and there should be a forensic investigation on the bursary scheme for the period she has been in charge.” 

Medupe, who now works in data capture, believes that other students who did not have any access to bursary funding could have benefited instead of Bongani Mokotsi.

Bongani Mokotsi studied for a National Diploma in Information Technology from 2016 until 2019. He then continued with his Bachelor of Technology until 2020.

Between 2016 and 2019, VUT paid him just over R42,000, while it didn’t pay his study allowance in 2018 when he failed multiple exams. De Beers paid him every year between 2016 and 2019, a total of more than R115,000.

Daily Maverick understands that the saga is seen by some internal stakeholders as an acid test for the university’s new vice-chancellor, Khehla Ndlovu.

Ndlovu’s appointment was announced on 1 December 2023. He took over from the late Dan Kgwadi, who died on 30 April 2023.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Blade Nzimande asked to intervene over suspension of Vaal University of Technology registrar

The VUT community hopes that Ndlovu will turn the troubled institution around following scathing findings made by independent assessors Professors Barney Pityana and Rocky Ralebipi-Simela relating to poor governance and maladministration under the leadership of former vice-chancellor Professor Ndodomzi Zide.

Mokotsi and VUT respond

Kediemetse Mokotsi was approached for comment. She responded through Riaan du Plessis Attorneys and referred specific questions to VUT.

“It is furthermore our instructions to demand, as we hereby do, that you respect the rights of our client, and the rights of Mr BN [Bongani Ntokozo] Mokotsi, which rights include, but are limited to, the right of dignity, privacy and reputation. Should you infringe upon any of the aforesaid rights of our client, or the rights of Mr Mokotsi, then our client will approach an appropriate forum for appropriate relief,” the attorney’s letter reads.

VUT’s head of corporate communications, Dumile Mlambo, said the university signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with De Beers in 2012, which led to the establishment of the Khula Weekend School (KWS) on campus. Bongani Mokotsi participated in the programme.

According to Kediemetse Mokotsi’s VUT profile, her commitment to uplifting communities contributed to “the signing of an MoU between VUT and De Beers Group in 2012, establishing the Khula Weekend School to offer extra classes on Saturdays for Gr10-12 learners in Mathematics, Physical Science, English, Economics, and Business Economics”.

Mlambo said the primary objective of the KWS was to assist learners in Grades 10 to 12 in the fields of science, mathematics, commercial subjects and English.   

“De Beers further provided financial assistance for registration purpose[s] for each learner that passed matric to further their studies at universities of their choice until they finished their studies,” Mlambo said.

Approval for funding, he said, was administered by De Beers in accordance with the list of eligible learners that came through the KWS.

“The VUT study assistance policy for employees and dependants provides discounts, not full bursary, and therefore, does not stop parents from getting additional assistance outside VUT,” he said.

The policy on study assistance for dependants of employees states that “dependants may be granted a bursary to cover tuition fees not exceeding the annual tuition fees of the most expensive programme at VUT”. 

De Beers’ position

De Beers’ spokesperson Jackie Mapiloko confirmed that VUT was among several tertiary institutions across SA that De Beers Group partnered with as part of the KWS programme.

“Formed in 1997, the programme was aimed at providing educational support to learners in our labour-sending areas to improve their chances of obtaining a tertiary entrance and qualification,” Mapiloko said.

She said learners who successfully passed the programme automatically qualified for financial assistance of about R20,000 from De Beers as part of the agreement with the tertiary institutions.

The funds, Mapiloko said, went towards tertiary registration and a portion of the learner’s fees. 

“When liaising with the various tertiary institutions for financial assistance approval, De Beers was not involved in the administration of vetting the learners who would eventually receive funding,” she said.

The only verification that the company needed, Mapiloko said, was proof of tertiary acceptance and that the qualifying learners were part of the programme.

“Given this process, no learner who came from KWS, and was subsequently accepted at a tertiary institution, would be denied funding. Therefore, Ms Kediemetse Mokotsi’s son would have qualified if he was part of the KWS programme. There was no clause that university employees’ children could not attend KWS, nor qualify for financial assistance.”

Bongani Mokotsi did not respond to calls and text messages at the time of writing. DM


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