Med school admissions scandal – first disciplinary steps

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Internal disciplinary proceedings have started against a group of Durban students believed to have bribed their way into studying medicine at the Sefakgo Makgatho Health Sciences University (SMU, formerly Medunsa) in Pretoria North.

According to a Sunday Tribune report, the students include four men from a prominent Durban North school who are alleged to have been admitted to the institute for a R500,000 bribe through a Durban syndicate.

The report says a well-placed source within the institution confirmed that the case has also been handed over to police for criminal action to be taken against the students.

SMU’s investigation came after the arrests of three people in Durban alleged to have been selling places at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and within the faculty of health sciences. Further investigations into the syndicate revealed that they had links to SMU.

The arrested suspects included restaurateurs Varsha and Hiteshkumar Bhatt, who own the Little Gujarat restaurant, as well uMhlanga businesswoman Preshni Hiramun.

The report says the students are believed to have been admitted into SMU without meeting the requirements, one of them not having a single A symbol in matric. SMU spokesperson Eric Pule said the requirement for Indian students to study medicine at the university was a minimum of four A symbols in maths, physical science, life sciences and English as well as an admission point score of up to 49.

SMU’s vice-chancellor Professor Chris De Beer said the investigations were at an advanced stage. “The SMU is committed to a policy and value framework of zero tolerance of fraud and corruption and will, depending on the outcome of the investigation, take appropriate action against individuals contravening the codes of conduct of the SMU and will co-operate fully with the state agencies involved in the investigation of alleged syndicate activities,” said De Beer.

Meanwhile, the report says, it is unclear when UKZN will institute disciplinary action against staff, parents and students involved in the syndicate. Despite having a fully functional communications unit and a legal department at UKZN, the institution has directed all queries to law firm Shepstone & Wylie, the report says.

A Shepstone & Wylie representative said in a letter: “As far as initiation of internal disciplinary proceedings by UKZN is concerned, we record that on instruction from the National Prosecuting Authority our client is yet to institute such proceedings in order to avoid the possibility of a successful criminal prosecution being compromised.

“The prosecuting authority has undertaken to inform our client as to when it would be appropriate to commence with such internal disciplinary measures and our client awaits this directive.”

UKZN student representative council spokesperson Ncebo Mazibuko said in the report it was frustrated with the way the university was handling the investigation. The university made promises to hand over a forensic audit into fraud and corruption at the medical school three weeks ago, but the SRC has still not received it.

Sunday Tribune report

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