EC health MEC's university course paid for by local municipality

The Buffalo City municipality confirmed providing assistance for Sindiswa Gomba's studies, and was adamant that there was nothing untoward about it

18 October 2020 - 14:07
By mawande amashabalala AND Mawande AmaShabalala
Eastern Cape health MEC Sindiswa Gomba. File photo
Image: Supplied Eastern Cape health MEC Sindiswa Gomba. File photo

The Buffalo City Metro Municipality (BCMM) paid for Eastern Cape health MEC Sindiswa Gomba’s tuition fees at the University of Fort Hare for an honours degree that the university admitted she irregularly registered for.

The municipality said it had committed to provide financial assistance for Gomba’s studies. At the time she was a councillor and was identified among those who needed to be upskilled to speed up service delivery.

The Sunday Times last week reported how Gomba was registered for a postgraduate degree in public administration without having a junior degree nor submitting a portfolio of work to be granted access through the recognition of prior learning process.

But just last month, BCMM was slapped with a R35,000 invoice for Gomba’s “student outstanding fees 2020”.

The municipality has come out to explain why it carried financial responsibility for Gomba’s registration at UFH.

According to BCMM spokesperson Samkelo Ngwenya, Gomba applied for funding when she was a councillor and the municipality has paid her bill because “she met the requirements and conditions of our policies”.

“The municipality has in place a policy that provides guidance on the provisioning of human resource development initiatives within Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality in a manner which will ensure that the communities receive an efficient service delivered by skilled and competent officials, councillors,” said Ngwenya.

“This is done in compliance with applicable legislations, national strategies and regulations pertaining to the implementation of skills development initiatives. A conditional donation for study assistance is financial assistance for employees and councillors towards studies.”

UFH did not answer questions regarding why they accepted money from the municipality despite the admission that Gomba’s registration was “irregular”.

Instead, the university management on Friday, through vice-chancellor Prof Sakhela Buhlungu, issued an internal communication to staff and students announcing the suspension of Prof Edwin Ijeoma of the institution’s department of public administration.

Ijeoma is suspected to have been central in Gomba’s irregular registration, but sources at the university claim it was not only the MEC who registered without after due process.

Gomba said she was being targeted and was not the only politician who had registered without after RPL processes.

“Those before me have doctorates, you miss this because you are vying for my blood,” said Gomba.

She refused to name the individuals she was referring to, adding that attention must be turned to the “UFH system on the programme”.

UFH said Ijeoma was under investigation for serious misconduct.

“While the investigations are taking place, the university is disinclined to disclose in detail the nature of the allegations against Prof Ijeoma, in order to avoid prejudicing his rights. It should be noted that at this stage we are investigating allegations. We will endeavour to keep the university community informed,” Buhlungu wrote to students and staff.

“A further announcement on contingency work arrangements given Prof Ijeoma’s absence will follow next week.”

Sources at the university said irregularly registered students in the public administration department of UFH was nothing new.

“This thing is heavy, it is a syndicate,” said one source.

Ijeoma could not be reached for comment at the time of writing.