KZN Health MEC, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo expressed his disappointment shortly after news broke of three people who had been arrested for selling student places at the Nelson Mandela School of Medicine.
Forty-four-year-old Varsha Bhatt and 46-year-old Hiteshkumar Bhatt who own popular vegetarian restaurant, Little Gujarat were arrested on Friday along with
55-year-old Preshni Hiramun. According to a weekend newspaper, the Hawks swooped in on the trio following damning evidence in a sting operation conducted during UKZN’s admission period. They also raided the accused’s posh properties in La Lucia and uMhlanga, recovering laptops, hard drives, flash drives and state of the art vehicles.
The three accused allegedly ran a calculated scheme, where they would interact with interested parents, negotiate bribes and liaise with university staff who helped get the parents’ children enrolled. This was allegedly done even though the students involved did not meet the minimum requirements for the courses.
MEC Dhlomo said that even though this matter is now subject to an investigation by the authorities, he is extremely concerned that some individuals who have fraudulently got into the health system through the syndicate.
“The field of health sciences cannot be likened to any other, because it is about life and death. As such, there is absolutely no room for people to commit fraud in this or any other manner. Indeed, such actions fly in the face of all our efforts to transform the health sector and ensure that deserving students from all regions get an equal opportunity to study health sciences, not just those whose parents can afford a bribe. The three suspects appeared at the Pinetown Magistrate Court on Monday are said to have charged R250 000 for admission to the health sciences faculty. This included pharmacy, optometry and audiology. They allegedly charged R500 000 for a place in medicine. It is further claimed the trio were involved in the sale of examination question and answer papers for an additional R30 000.”
MEC Dhlomo added, “We would like to commend the Hawks, SAPS and all other parties involved in this operation, which has led to these arrests. The Department has an extremely valuable and strategic partnership with UKZN, which has borne a lot of fruit in terms of improving health outcomes in the province.” “UKZN and its School of Medicine is a paragon on excellence, having produced great leaders in the sphere of medicine, such as our former Premiers; Dr Zweli Mkhize and his predecessor, the late Dr Frank Mdlalose; the current Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, the Deputy Health Minister, Dr Joe Phaahla and a host of others,” said Dhlomo.
UKZN Vice Chancellor, Professor Albert van Jaarsveld has since pronounced that the University will probe this matter further in order to expose and uproot all those involved in this scam. Speaking to Hawks spokesperson, Simphiwe Mhlongo he said, “Three people briefly appeared in court on Monday for charges of fraud and contravention under the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act. They were each granted bail of R40 000 with strict bail conditions.”