The police will have “no mercy” for those masquerading as principals or directors of illegal colleges, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa warned today.
“We shall implement vigour, toughness and smartness in thwarting these bogus colleges. These scoundrels will get the harshest punishments,” he said in a statement.
His remarks follow a surge of applications at universities and other tertiary institutions country wide due to a higher matric pass rate.
“We are in that season where some criminals want to prey on unsuspecting students by promising them a brighter future, when in fact they are destroying their lives.”
The police ministry was planning to “get tough” and double its efforts to uncover illegal colleges this year.
They would carry out sporadic college visits around the country to verify if they were registered legally.
The minister urged parents and students to be vigilant during the enrolment period and report suspicious or fraudulent financial activities to the higher education department.
Police began investigating colleges in May last year and concentrated their efforts around Gauteng, Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal.
Several unregistered private Further Education and Training (FET) colleges were shut down. In the most recent operation, police visited 80 private FET colleges in KwaZulu-Natal.
“Out of [the total] only 12 were found to be correctly registered with the department,” said Mthethwa.
Police seized various fraudulent certificates, computers, fax machines and exam results.
“After the students ’passed’ their exams they were issued with false certificates which are not recognised by the department,” explained Mthethwa.
Six colleges were closed down and their directors or owners arrested.
These were Speciss College, Elite College, NIIT Quality Computer Education, Tshwane Institute of Technology, Arison College and Umbilo Skills Training Centre.
To date, 48 people linked to this sort of crime had been arrested country wide.
They were charged for contraventions of the Further Education and Training Colleges Act and faced a minimum of 10 years in prison or a fine of R250 000.
“What was even more significant is that the majority of those arrested were denied bail,” said Mthethwa.
“We are confident that even this year, as we work closer with our Justice and Constitutional Development and National Prosecuting Authority counterparts, those we arrest will not get bail [and] instead receive the harshest sentences.”
Some of the illegally-registered colleges were named and shamed by the police ministry last year.
They included the Immaculate College of Commerce and Engineering, Westridge College, Cedar Academy Technical College, Central College of Business and Computer Studies, Victory Training College, Springfield FET College, Shepperd Academy, Alcinof Resources Management Private FET College, Academy of Business and Computer Studies, Korema College and Churchill Resources College.