Liquidators to sell troubled CIDA campus to Curro

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THE financially troubled CIDA City Campus has been hit by a new crisis following a decision by the liquidators to sell the institution to private-schooling company Curro Holdings.

This means the demise of SA’s first university that does not require students to pay fees.

Curro is only buying the land and buildings to establish a primary school and a high school, which leaves about 430 students and 68 employees abandoned.

Curro’s winning offer topped a bid by Africa Integras, an American property developer that specialises in university education. Africa Integras had planned to raise capital to refurbish and provide loans to Cida students so that it could continue to operate.

The liquidators have been accused of not consulting the creditors, students and staff on this decision.

“Our agreement is that we are buying the property. We are not buying the business of the institution,” Curro finance director Bernardt van der Linde said yesterday. “We don’t have an obligation to the existing students.”

The deal has pitted CIDA’s joint liquidators (Tshwane Trust and Abacus Trust) against staff, students and influential stakeholders.

Former human rights lawyer, Lord Joel Joffe, who represented Nelson Mandela, has described the transaction as “a betrayal of CIDA’s vital mission” to provide education the poor.

Lord Joffe had been working with staff and students to bring in Africa Integras. The firm had planned to raise capital to provide loans to students and arrange for them to get part-time employment.

“CIDA currently exists exclusively to target those disadvantaged youth for whom there are few other options of higher education. If it is allowed to close, the message will be to perpetuate the persistent hardship for disadvantaged youth to access quality higher education,” Lord Joffe said.

CIDA Empowerment Trust chairwoman Lerato Mashologu said the trust backed Africa Intergras’s plan as this would ensure the continuation of the institution’s mission.

CIDA was founded by social entrepreneur Taddy Blecher as a not-for-profit organisation and started offering a three-year Bachelor of Business Administration degree in 2000. It drew students from rural areas and gave them scholarships that paid for tuition, books, accommodation and meals.

About 1,800 students have graduated from it, and 1,630 have permanent jobs.

The institution ran into financial troubles when donor funding started drying up following the departure of Mr Blecher. It was placed on business rescue in December 2012, but has struggled to raise the money it owes the City of Joburg, the South African Revenue Service and other service providers.

Mr van der Linde said Curro was paying “slightly more” than the R30m CIDA owes to its creditors, including staff-owed salaries.

Hannes Muller, of the Tshwane Trust, confirmed the pending sale but could not immediately comment. Source: BD Live

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