Morailane to remain at MUT helm despite growing calls for him to step aside

By Vernon Mchunu Time of article published Feb 22, 2021

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DURBAN - DESPITE calls for him to step down, the council chairperson of the embattled Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT) will remain at the helm.

The council announced its decision yesterday.

The move – which flies in the face of the position recently taken by the parliamentary portfolio committee on higher education, science and innovation – was taken during an emergency meeting of the council last week.

The meeting was hastily convened to address “grave concerns” about governance irregularities and maladministration at MUT, which were aired by members of the portfolio committee the week before.

Lawmakers read the riot act to chairperson Morailane Morailane, saying “the attitude of defiance” he displayed towards Parliament made them suspect the allegations of corruption made against him were true.

A delegation of the committee is expected to converge on the institution soon, after they decided to conduct an inspection in loco in an attempt to restore good governance.

Committee chairperson Philly Mapulane and other members said it was the first time in their years in Parliament that they had seen an attitude of disrespect such as Morailane displayed. They called on Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande to intervene and disband the council.

Morailane had attempted to refuse participation in the hearing, citing the presence of suspended vice-chancellor and principal Dr Duma Malaza, who had also been invited to make a presentation on the ills of the university.

After a dressing down by members, Morailane reluctantly obeyed.

The major worker representative union at MUT, the student body and the United Democratic Movement are among those that have recently expressed serious concern about poor governance at the university.

Yesterday, the council said the committee’s call for Morailane to step down and for Nzimande to take over the administration of MUT was ill-advised.

It decided it would share the findings of a preliminary forensic investigation, which it claims has exonerated Morailane of corruption.

The allegations were levelled against him by Malaza, who was suspended on May 1 last year after making them during a council meeting a day before.

Two other senior managers, Dr Phana Jerome Mabaso, the head of audits, and Muzi Khumalo, a senior operations manager, were also suspended by the council a day after Malaza was sent home – all over allegations of tender corruption and bribery.

“Council observed that the fact that the portfolio committee did not have in its possession the SNG-Thornton Forensic Report (sic) had led to it making calls that are not fact-based and not supported by evidence,” the council stated yesterday.

“It is hoped that through this, the public and MUT stakeholders will be in a better space to understand what is happening at MUT and to dispel statements that the university is in crisis deserving such actions as called for by some stakeholders (intervention by Nzimande),” said the council.

While the forensic findings, leaked to The Mercury, clear Morailane, they implicate the suspended three in wrongdoing. In relation to the impending release of the SNG-Thornton forensic probe, attorney Adrian Moodley, representing the suspended trio, has warned the council against releasing “a one-sided, untested, incomplete and defamatory” report.

Moodley has threatened to protect the character of his clients through a high court. In a letter to council, he said: “The existence of the report and its findings does not mean our clients are guilty. Needless to say, these findings have not been tested. Thus, releasing this report would inexcusably prejudice our clients.” He said the council needed to observe disciplinary procedures and processes.

“It is also important to note that our clients have not been furnished with an unredacted report. This request still stands and it would be unprecedented for the council to release the report, its findings, or any part thereof to the media/public yet it has not satisfied our clients’ request.”

In a presentation to Parliament, Malaza accused some council members of lacking integrity, recommending the council be disbanded and an administrator appointed.

Student Representative Council president Mthokozisi Gumede has told Parliament “the ongoing infighting among the university leadership” was destroying MUT’s capability to produce “employable graduates”.

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The Mercury

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