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Tensions simmer in UKZN’s corridors of power

Politics

Durban - The University of KwaZulu-Natal has been accused of “brutality and censorship”. Dodgy emails within leadership reveal that the institution intends keeping a tight lip on serious matters including racism.

In November last year, a website called Centre of Civil Society, in association with the university published an article in relation to racism and other damaging allegations with regards to the institution’s management.

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In the article the author wrote that the “University of KwaZulu-Natal Vice Chancellor, Dr Albert van Jaarsveld, has willingly walked into a ‘den of snakes’” referring to a Sunday Times article which claimed that there is a “toxic race row” at the institution.

The article was ordered to be removed on the website by a university spokesperson.

Recently, a string of emails between leadership at the institution emerged. It reveals that censorship was orchestrated to silence voices against alleged mismanagement.

Associate Professor Betty Mubangizi from the School of Management IT and Governance said, “I'm aware that Centres have been allowed to run their websites but this, I think, is unacceptable - seeing that the author (to my understanding) was prohibited from using certain media platforms.” She added that she is “uncomfortable that he would now resort to using a site linked to UKZN.”

Executive Director of Corporate Relations Division, Lesiba Seshoka, is alleged to have emailed Logini Govender from UKZN’s IT department saying “Can you check this, remove it and let me know who posted it here. I will need the evidence as to who posted this please.”

Govender then allegedly emailed CCS’s webmaster John Devenish saying “As the administrator of the CCS site please provide the explanation requested urgently.”

Devenish responded by saying “CCS is more than willing to publish a response to the accusations made in this article which agreed are of a very serious nature and should be open to public debate.”

He added, “However, we don’t believe censorship is the answer nor can we be held responsible for the conflict between Van Jaarsveld and the Deputy Vice-Chancellors.”

The conflict between the VC and his deputies is believed to have started when the VC was appointed and was taking action against his deputy VCs lack of performance.

Two of the university’s deputy vice chancellors, Cheryl Potgieter and Deo Jaganyi, are being investigated for multiple complaints and the pair have accused the VC of being racist.

However, the article said “a group of senior professors, all black, have come forward in support of Van Jaarsveld and dispute the allegations that his behaviour is racist.”

In the article it notes that the pair “doesn't like the fact that Van Jaarsveld is holding them accountable to their job descriptions and not overlooking the manner in which they have abused their positions, which they run as power trips.”

Ironically, Potgieter and Jaganyi have been “accused of bullying staff, demeaning the administration staff in particular, behaving atrociously on all fronts, and that they cannot stand that they are being called into question for their acts of abuse,” the author noted.

It is believed that Potgieter has had more than four black Personal Assistants, all of whom have admitted to having “horrid experiences of working with her”.

Efforts to contact both Potgieter and Seshoka were unsuccessful.

According to the article “the professors in support of van Jaarsveld have made it clear that staff did not have a problem with Van Jaarsveld.

The outcome of an investigation into the allegations of what the two deputy VCs have been accused of are expected to be released soon.

IOL MOJO

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