In a letter addressed to TUT vice-chancellor Professor Lourens van Staden, which The Star has seen, the communications minister wrote that her decision to pursue the qualification should have been celebrated. Instead, it had turned out to be a source of “condemnation, derision and impugning of my integrity”.
Muthambi’s letter follows media reports that she had “bulldozed” her way into the institution by continuing to attend classes despite having been advised that she was not a registered student and had failed to meet the requirements.
The minister, who holds a law degree and “several postgraduate certificates”, indicated that she had submitted documents for recognition of prior learning (RPL) since she doesn’t have a journalism degree.
TUT had advised her that without work experience in the media or journalism industry, “the RPL process was not a viable option”.
However, Muthambi said she had been in the “media space” for the past seven years and worked with journalists and communicators in her capacity as minister.
“Let me briefly spell out why I chose to study at TUT for an MTech in journalism. I hold a four-year degree in law and several postgraduate certificates.
"I have been a member of Parliament since 2009.
"I had the privilege of serving as the whip of the portfolio committee in communications in 2011 until 2014. I was subsequently appointed minister of communications. To complement this experiential knowledge, I thought it would be in my interest to study for an MTech in journalism.
“When I applied, I was given the impression that both my qualifications and experience would suffice for me to receive a favourable consideration.
"As a result, I was given a student number. I was informed that the assessment of my RPL portfolio may take up to six months.
"I was advised by the department to attend classes in the meantime while my application was being considered,” she wrote.
She also said her application seemed to have triggered a “litany of irregularities and violations of her rights".
“The relationship between the university and student was confidential and sacrosanct. TUT has violated my rights by disclosing its interactions with me to the public. TUT colluded in giving the impression that I used my position as minister of communications to earn a place at the university.
"My application, personal email and personal postal addresses all point to the contrary,” Muthambi wrote. She said she had used her personal home and email addresses in her application, but to “my great surprise, the letter informing me of the outcome of my application was sent to my work address.
"(Also) perplexing was that it was signed by the vice-chancellor and principal."
The minister said she would appreciate it if the institution wrote a public apology and corrected the impression that she had “bulldozed” her way into the university’s lecture rooms.
“Given the reputational damage this has caused, I will appreciate it very much if TUT could write a public apology regarding how this matter has been handled.
“Further, the letter should correct the impression that I applied twice and was twice rejected,” she said in her letter.
On Thursday, TUT spokesperson Willa de Ruyter confirmed that the university had received Muthambi’s letter on Wednesday.
“We have responded to her and are currently engaging the minister and her office,” she said.