SAFTU is appalled ‘by the continued bungling’ of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS)!

NUMSA members demonstrate during a strike at SA Steel Mills

The South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) released a statement on Monday saying it is ‘appalled by the continued bungling’ of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) and is concerned by the ‘inconveniences that arise from such bungling’.

SAFTU stated: ‘The persistent problems regarding the NSFAS administration and the bungling of student grants are unacceptable because they continue to impact students’ lives negatively.
‘Earlier this year on the 12th of April, the Minister of Higher Education, Blade Nzimande, dissolved the NSFAS board and placed the institution under administration.
‘Despite these actions, many students are still suffering under this new board.
‘This indicates that the problems are deep-seated and expose the general incompetence that permeates the management of NSFAS.
‘This general incompetence in management is revealed in the comments reportedly made by the NSFAS spokesperson, who said “payments have been processed, but the actual time for the landlords to receive the money was different for all of them.”
‘That payments are going to clear-and-reflect late in the bank accounts of landlords, means that they were uploaded late by NSFAS.
‘This shows gross incompetence in failing to schedule payments on time.
Students and their families are exhausted by the repeated excuses because they face the same problems every year.
‘At Ehlanzeni TVET College, Thimba Campus in Mpumalanga, students have been evicted from their residences due to NSFAS’s failure to pay rent for the past five months.
‘This issue is not isolated, students from institutions such as Tshwane University of Technology (TUT), Central University of Technology (CUT), the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), and several others are also affected.
‘The new NSFAS direct payment system which was intended to make the process of student grants disbursement easier is clearly ineffective because students are still facing late payments and the inconveniences that come with that including being evicted, unable to buy groceries, etc.
‘During this critical exam period, students are expected to focus on their studies and prepare for examinations.
‘However, many are forced to wake up in cold weather and attend classes on empty stomachs, severely impairing their ability to concentrate in class.
‘The dire situation of having no place to sleep also increases the chances of academic failure, as students struggle to balance their basic needs with academic responsibilities.
‘Urgent action is needed to prevent further suffering and to ensure that students can focus on their education without the constant threat of eviction and financial instability.
‘The source of the disbursement bungling must be ascertained, and those responsible must be replaced.
‘NSFAS is too important to be bungled. It is responsible for more than 760 000 livelihoods of students.
‘SAFTU calls for immediate and an effective solution to ensure that students receive the financial support they need without delays or disruptions.
‘We expect no excuses… NSFAS promised the payments would be done by Tuesday 25th June.’
Meanwhile, National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) has condemned the management of SA Steel Mills for allegedly exploiting undocumented foreign nationals by using them as scab labour, to undermine the strike.
NUMSA wrote in a statement released to the South African media: ‘For those who don’t know, workers at SA Steel Mills have been on strike since the 22nd of May.
‘The strike initially started on 16th of April but was temporarily stopped on the 19th of April.
‘It resumed again on the 22nd of May after NUMSA won the right to strike at the Labour Court.
‘Our members have informed us that SA Steel Mills has hired undocumented foreign nationals and they are made to eat and sleep at the workplace.
‘It is alleged that makeshift accommodation has been arranged so they never leave the company.
‘If this is true, then the management of SA Steel Mills is violating labour laws, once again. SA Steel Mills has violated several aspects of basic labour law legislation in the following ways:
‘1. They have ignored a court order that declared the strike of 16th of April a lawful and protected strike.
‘2. They have ignored a court order specifically barring them from disciplining, and then dismissing workers who participated in the strike of the 16th of April, because it was a lawful and protected strike.
‘SA Steel Mills has since dismissed 162 workers who participated in that strike.
‘3. They have a terrible reputation for flouting basic health and safety laws and the result is that many workers have lost fingers, and even their lives because SA Steel Mills does not take health and safety seriously.
‘4.They have deliberately misled the media and members of the SAPS, by blatantly lying and claiming that the strike was interdicted, when it was not.
‘This resulted in two NUMSA members being wrongfully arrested. Fortunately the union was able to bail them out the next day.
‘5. Three private security guards who shot at NUMSA members who were peacefully picketing at the gates of the company, have been arrested and charged with attempted murder.
‘SA Steel Mills continuously makes false claims that NUMSA members are violent, and yet it has not provided a shred of evidence to prove this.
‘NUMSA has a track record of evidence with the police and with the courts proving that SA Steel Mills is brutal towards workers.
‘NUMSA has informed the Department of Employment and Labour to urgently send inspectors to SA Steel Mills in order to check if it is violating immigration laws.
‘NUMSA has always defended the rights of foreign nationals because we know how they can be exploited by employers.
‘In the case of SA Steel Mills these workers’ lives are in danger because SA Steel Mills is notorious for violating health and safety laws.
‘And it is likely that they are also being grossly underpaid, because SA Steel Mills has a reputation for that as well.
‘We do not condone or support the rule of law being undermined and this is why we demand that DoEL must act on this issue.
‘We are told that SA Steel Mills exploits workers at Veer Steel Mills which is another steel company based in Alberton, which is connected to it as well.
‘Meanwhile the strike continues until all demands have been met.’

  • The General Industries Workers Union of South Africa (GINWUSA) has welcomed a wage increase for members and workers in the fast-moving consumer goods sector.

Workers affiliated with the union will see their wages increase from just over R8,900 to nearly R9,500 from 1st July 2024.
The increase marks the 2nd annual increase of the three-year agreement between the GINWUSA and employers who form part of the Fast-Moving Consumer Goods Employers Association.
Giwusa president Mametlwe Sebei said: ‘This success came as a result of collective efforts from CEPPWAWU (Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood and Allied Workers’ Union], GIWUSA and SACWU (South African Chemical Workers Union).
‘This agreement is only binding to employers who form part of the Fast-Moving Consumer Goods Employers Association. This comes at the back of a substantive agreement dating back to 21st August 2023.’

  • The South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) says Transnet (the collective name for nationalised trains and buses in South Africa) is struggling to maintain its business because there are corrupt officials within its management structures.

This came after Transnet instituted disciplinary charges against the National Ports Authority’s chief executive, Pepi Silinga, amidst allegations of corruption involving more than R300 million.
Meanwhile, SATAWU spokesperson Amanda Tshemese said the union has enough evidence against Silinga.
She said: ‘We welcome the decision taken by the management of Transnet.
‘We have been meeting with the board and we gave them all the evidence.
‘Pepi Silinga’s case has set an example to everyone who continues to steal from the public that their days are numbered.’