Minister of Higher Education and Training, Dr Blade Nzimande recently slammed those involved in the UKZN medical placement scheme.

Nzimande said in a statement that he welcomes the investigations that will rid the education system from the scourge. He said serious action will be taken against perpetrators with no mercy. “The few bad apples who are engaging in this criminal activity of selling and buying study places must stand warned that serious action will be taken against them without mercy,” said Minister Nzimande.

He warned the public of fake qualifications, saying they would be prosecuted and publicly named and shamed when caught, as just like the selling and buying of study places, fraudulent qualifications posed a grave danger to the credibility of the country’s education system. “Indeed, if one lies about one’s qualifications or produces a false certificate, that is fraud even in terms of existing law, and those caught engaging in such criminal activities will face the full might of the law,” Minister Nzimande stated.

Nzimande has assured the public that the government is giving due consideration to expanding medical education in South Africa from the current nine public universities. “There is a high demand for spaces in medical schools for the Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBChB). DHET is working with the national Department of Health through the Joint Health Sciences Education Committee (JHSEC) to plan for the expansion of medical education, including the establishment of new faculties to offer the MBChB,” said Nzimande.

“Currently, three new medical schools are being considered. The idea of setting up private medical schools as a solution to the need to expand the provision of the MBChB degree is but one option open for consideration. However, this needs to be considered in the context of the broader needs of society, the role of the private sector in education and balancing all of these with what would be commercial interests in private higher education institutions. The long-term solution to the problem is to increase the capacity of South African institutions to produce doctors. The system needs to expand to enable the intake to double its current size, which will require investment in both infrastructure and Human Resources. Most significantly, it also requires the expansion of the clinical training platforms to cope with the increased volumes,” he added.

Nzimande said that ultimately the final decision on the establishment of new medical schools, private or public, lies with the Minister of Health and not DHET. Nzimande’s statement follows the arrest of Varsha Bhatt (44), Hiteshkumar Bhatt (46) and Preshni Hiramun (55) who are currently out on bail after Hawks swooped in on the trio for selling medical places at the Nelson Mandela School of Medicine.

The La Lucia and uMhlanga residents were granted R40 000 bail each at the Pinetown Magistrates Court recently.