Right2Justice and the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union have welcomed Minister of Higher Education Blade Nzimande’s decision to place Unisa under administration.
JOHANNESBURG – Right2Justice and the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) have welcomed Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation Blade Nzimande’s decision to place Unisa under administration.
On Monday, Nzimande confirmed that he notified Unisa council chairperson James Maboa on August 4 of his intention to appoint an administrator.
The decision by the minister comes after months of speculation on the future of the university battling issues of maladministration, bullying and supply chain challenges. These were flagged by independent assessor, Professor Themba Mosia, and the Ministerial Task Team (MTT), chaired by Dr Vincent Maphai, in a damning report.
In June, the DA called for the institution to be placed under administration following allegations of mismanagement against the vice-chancellor, Professor Puleng LenkaBula, the paralysis of the university council, and human resource challenges, among other issues affecting the institution.
The deputy chairperson for Right2Justice, Lonwabo Mtyando, said they welcomed the minister’s decision.
“Even though we have yet to comment officially as we are still waiting for the minister to respond to us, Right2Justice welcomes this decision. This will allow Unisa to focus on its duties to teach and encourage learning. We hope things will now go back to normal,” Mtyando said.
Nehawu also welcomed the decision. A suspended Unisa council member, who declined to be named, said the minister had done the right thing.
“The minister did the right thing. We also need to recover all the meeting allowances that were paid when they knew very well that the council was not properly constituted. I informed them in May, and I was illegally suspended and dismissed for simply doing my job.
“They failed to hold the VC accountable for a long time. It’s because of her that Unisa is in this mess. I informed the council about her conduct so many times, and they did nothing. These members of council should actually be declared delinquents, including LenkaBula,” the member said.
The minister’s spokesperson, Ishmael Mnisi, said Nzimande had given the council and the VC seven days to respond to his decision.
Minisi added that, in terms of Section 49E of the Higher Education Act, the Council of Unisa would be dissolved upon the appointment of an administrator sometime next week.
“Minister Nzimande is satisfied that the independent assessor’s report reveals financial and other maladministration of a serious nature that affects the effective functioning of Unisa.
“The report reveals that the appointment of an administrator is in the best interest of Unisa and of higher education in an open and democratic society,” Mnisi said.
Attempts to get comments from the university were unsuccessful at the time of publication, but last week, chancellor and former president Thabo Mbeki indicated that the institution had written to the minister to inform him of its decision to take the report on review.
“We are taking it (the report) on review because we do not agree with what it says. The report does not talk about the university, but talks about something else. Because it was in the public domain, we thought it would be better to take it under review. We have written to the minister. This is the view of the council and the VC that this is necessary,” Mbeki said last week.
Minisi said the challenges at the university were serious and warranted the action of the minister.
“The MTT conducted an independent review of Unisa’s ‘mission drift’, which had massive implications for the financial sustainability and future of Unisa.
“The MTT also made a rigorous assessment of how the Fourth Industrial Revolution and its associative disruptions and shifts will affect many aspects of the academic mission, academic programmes, markets and operating model of Unisa,” Mnisi said.