BENEFICIARIES of President Robert Mugabe’s presidential scholarship at the University of Fort Hare have been left stranded after the government failed to pay their fees and living allowances.
The government reportedly owes the university more than R40 million in outstanding fees. Four hundred and forty students have been left “high and dry”.
Ironically, this comes at a time Mugabe is speaking highly of the scholarship, saying it had helped a number of under-privileged students.
Some of the students have reportedly resorted to seeking employment as bouncers and waitresses in nearby pubs and restaurants in the Eastern Cape to earn a living.
Beneficiaries of bursaries said they had not received their allowance and this was making life difficult for them.
“The amounts range between R30 000 and R50 000 a year, but this year not a cent has been paid,” a third-year law student told South Africa’s Dispatch.
University spokesperson Zintle Filtane confirmed the non-payment of fees, including 2013 fees.
She said students were admitted into the institution this year without paying a minimum initial payment of R2 800 required prior to registration, in contravention of the institution’s rules.
“This year Zimbabwe’s presidential bursary holders did not even meet this basic requirement,” she is quoted as saying.
“(Senior) students were admitted to the university at the beginning of the year and are still studying here.
“The scholarship has undertaken to meet all its obligations towards the university and is in regular communication with management.”
She explained that the presidential scholarship had not registered any first-year students in 2013.
“The living allowance was last provided to students through the university in 2012,” the university spokesperson said.
Filtane defended the presidential scholarship, saying the non-payment of fees will not affect the university’s relationship with Mugabe.
“President Mugabe is an alumnus of the University of Fort Hare and holds the university in high regard,” she said.
Some of the students including the current MDC’s South Africa Eastern Cape secretary-general Elisha Mutize were pulled out of the programme for supporting opposition parties.
Mutize claimed that in cases where they received allowances, students with Zanu PF links got more money than those who were linked to the MDC formations.
However, speaking at a rally in Bulawayo’s White City Stadium yesterday, Mugabe bragged about the presidential scholarship, which he said objectively selected students to attain higher education in South Africa.