University of KwaZulu-Natal, Howard College. Picture Jacques Naude
Durban - The fate of five University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) executives who were suspended for accusing vice-chancellor Dr Albert van Jaarsveld of racism is still to be decided.

They were suspended early this year and were later cleared of misconduct despite a report instituted by the university, and headed by advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza, which recommended that the executives be fired.

Professors Renuka Vithal, John Mubangizi, Cheryl Potgieter, Deogratius Jaganyi and the former director of corporate communications, Lesiba Seshoka, are now weighing their options after the offer by the university to pay them off.

Four of the executives were deputy vice-chancellors.

In 2015, they together with two others, who had since left the university, signed a letter accusing Van Jaarsveld of preferring a white leadership structure, and flouting university policies.

Last month the Sunday Tribune, the Daily News’s sister paper, reported that the university had cleared the executives of any wrongdoing and they were offered settlement packages which included being paid out for a negotiated period based on the remaining terms of their contracts.

Their total payments are believed to exceed R10million, in addition to the more than R7m they received while suspended.

The executives are reluctant to talk about the matter because there are still talks around the settlement and possible legal action pending against the university.

One executive said Mubangizi’s contract expired in April this year, but, because of his performance, it was annuated for five years.

“Prof Vithal’s contract expires in September 2018 and she was going to retire. As for Prof Potgieter, her executive contract expires in December and she would go back to her teaching position. Jaganyi was to serve as an executive until 2020 and was superannuated to his teaching position. I doubt that any of these members would want to go back to the university after this ordeal,” the executive said.

“We are contemplating legal recourse against the university and also taking Ntsebeza’s report for review. For now we are focused on the settlement payouts,” the executive said.

Another executive said: “I’m not prepared to comment, but I’m happy with the way things have gone so far.”

Attempts to get comment from the executives’ attorney, Phumelele Shabalala, were unsuccessful by yesterday.

The Higher Education Transformation Network (HETN) said it would be a loss for the UKZN community if the executives were to leave.

Lucky Thekisho, HETN chairperson, said the executives should not take the settlement. “We need people like them who are bold enough to challenge those who don’t want to change the status quo. We also agree that they have been defamed, so they must take legal action against the university,” Thekisho said.

Daily News