Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation Blade Nzimande. Picture: GCIS
Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation Blade Nzimande. Picture: GCIS

Mangosuthu University of Technology hold urgent talks amid ’instability’

By Vernon Mchunu Time of article published Feb 17, 2021

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Durban - THE embattled Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT) will hold an emergency council meeting tomorrow amid allegations of deteriorating governance and management which have been made by the parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Technology.

Committee chairperson Philly Mapulane has called for Minister Blade Nzimande to intervene in, and consider taking over, the administration of the university.

“The committee was unanimous that the minister must consider invoking section 49B (1) of the Higher Education Act of 1997, as amended, to place the university under administration,” Mapulane said, adding that the parliamentary structure had also resolved that the university should report to it on a quarterly basis so that it would be able to “monitor progress towards bringing stability to the institution”.

Lawmakers berated the chairperson of the university council, Morailane Morailane, for the bad attitude he allegedly displayed during a meeting last week, and had reminded him that he was accountable to Parliament, said Mapulane.

He said the committee was concerned about the state of governance and management at MUT, and had consequently invited the university, led by the council and by vice-chancellor and principal Dr Duma Malaza, who is currently on suspension, to scrutinise governance and management challenges at the institution.

“However, the committee was shocked to receive a letter from the council objecting to their participation in a meeting where Dr Malaza was present. The committee was gravely concerned that Mr Morailane wanted to dictate the agenda of the meeting, and who should be invited to it,” he said.

Morailane eventually attended the parliamentary briefing, along with Malaza. The two are understood to be at loggerheads amid allegations of corruption relating to the issuing of tenders in recent years.

“The committee has previously invited MUT twice and on both occasions the university council requested a postponement pending the finalisation and tabling of a forensic investigation report into counter-allegations made by both (Morailane) and Dr Malaza,” said Mapulane.

Simmering tensions boiled over when the university instituted a forensic probe into the allegations.

Subsequent to the launch of the probe by SNG-Thornton, which was commissioned in April last year by the council, Morailane took voluntary leave, apparently to avoid perceived interference.

Late last year, MUT issued a statement through acting council chairperson Dr Zethu Qunta, saying Morailane had been reinstated after no wrongdoing against him was found by the investigation.

By the time of publication yesterday, Malaza was still on suspension, which took effect shortly around the period in which the probe was launched.

The Mercury has been reliably informed that he had filed a report to council, complaining about, among other things, unauthorised interference in the award of a security tender.

Professor Marcus Ramogale has continued as the acting vice-chancellor and principal.

National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union’s provincial secretary, Ayanda Zulu, joined the fray in slating the university council, saying it was interfering with the administration at MUT.

“We join the portfolio committee in raising concerns against the university council and in calling for MUT to be placed under administration. Why has the (council) failed to release the report of the forensic investigation which was the basis for (Malaza’s) suspension?” asked Zulu, who also criticised Nzimande for “taking serious issues affecting MUT for granted”.

“(The minister) has failed to implement the recommendations of an Independent Assessor (the 2018 Pityana Report by Professor Barney Pityana and Judith Favish), which said that the university must be placed under administration,” said Zulu.

An equally concerned United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa, who recently wrote a public letter of grievances to President Cyril Ramaphosa, has also slammed Nzimande for “allowing the university to go into ruin”.

“The minister’s lack of attention is driving this beleaguered institution further into the ground,” said Holomisa.

“The Pityana Report had made various strategic findings and recommendations to right the MUT ship … including that serious consideration must be given to the disbandment of the MUT council.

“The fact that this did not happen is now having an adverse effect at MUT as there are serious allegations that the council is compromised, and that some of its members are doing their utmost to further their personal enrichment schemes,” said Holomisa.

In response to a request for comment, Bheki Hlophe, the media relations officer for MUT, only stated: “Kindly be advised that an Emergency Meeting of Council is scheduled for Thursday, 18 February 2021, after which a statement will be issued.”

Ishmael Mnisi, spokesperson for Nzimande, said he would look into the matter. He did not respond by the time of publication.

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The Mercury

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