Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande has not shed light on the non-disclosure agreement between UCT and its former vice-chancellor Prof Mamokgethi Phakeng, saying he was still awaiting the final report of the investigation into the university’s affairs.
Nzimande has also indicated his intention to place Unisa under administration, after receiving a report from an independent assessor.
This emerged when he was responding to parliamentary questions from EFF MPs about the two universities.
EFF MP Mothusi Kenneth Montwedi asked the minister about his stance regarding the non-disclosure agreement entered into between UCT and Phakeng and an unnamed former deputy vice-chancellor.
Montwedi also wanted to know steps Nzimande would take to ensure that all relevant information was made public, including the information known by the council members representing his department.
It was reported earlier this year that Phakeng received a R12 million golden handshake to leave the university on early retirement.
The university had refused to disclose the terms of the golden handshake and the higher education portfolio was none the wiser when the council informed it that a critical part was that Phakeng was concerned that the council would not make statements that could cause reputational damage.
In his response to Montwedi, Nzimade said: “Minister is awaiting the final report of the panel that is investigating various matters at the university.”
“He can also verify the financial component of the non-disclosure agreement by studying the audited annual financial statements contained in the annual report once the report is submitted to the department.
“All relevant information will be available in the annual report of the university, all annual reports are accessible to the public,” he said.
Asked by EFF MP Ntokozo Hlonyane whether he intended to place Unisa under administration, Nzimande said he was contemplating doing so.
“It should be noted that minister can only make his final decision once he has followed due process as per Section 49(B)(1A) of the Higher Education Act which requires that the minister must, before appointing an administrator, give written notice to the council of the higher education institution concerned of his or her intention to make such an appointment; provide the council concerned with the reasons for the appointment.”
In July, Nzimande said he would intervene at Unisa once he considered the response of the university management to the report of independent assessor, Professor Themba Mosia.
But, the university has since taken the report on judicial review.
Nzimande said he had since issued a notice to the council for the appointment of an administrator.
“The contemplated decision was on the basis that the Independent Assessor Report reveals financial and other maladministration of a serious nature and serious undermining of the effective functioning of Unisa.
“The report also reveals that the appointment of an administrator is in the best interest of Unisa and of higher education in an open and democratic society,” he said.
Nzimande added that the findings and recommendations of the independent assessor were largely consistent with those reached by the report of the ministerial task team on the strategic review of Unisa.
“The minister’s observation, after having carefully considered the council response to the Independent Assessor Report, was that it does not sufficiently demonstrate that the council is disposed and committed to successfully address the serious issues raised in the report.”
He said once a university was placed under administration, the administrator would take over the role, powers, functions and duties of the council as well as execute the management of the institution, among other things.
“Therefore, operational matters pertaining to student enrolment, graduates, management and daily operations of the university placed under administration remain the function of management under the directive of the administrator,” Nzimande said.