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MUT owes eThekwini Municipality over R7m for water, financial viability and ability to pay debts questioned

Troubled Mangosuthu University of Technology runs a bill of over R7 million, raising questions about its financial viability and its ability to pay debts.

The Mangosuthu University of Technology ‘owes eThekwini Municipality millions’ for water. File Picture.

Published Mar 14, 2022

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DURBAN - THE troubled Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT) faces the huge task of settling a multimillion-rand water bill owed to eThekwini Municipality.

A bill for March, which has been shown to The Mercury, indicates that the university was supposed to pay more than half-a-million rand for the month.

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According to the municipal bill, the institution owes the municipality a total of R7 879 977 and there were fears that MUT could have its water supply suspended if the account was not settled. It was unclear when the university last paid for its water account, but there are suspicions that it has been quite a while for the bill to have reached this frightening total.

EThekwini Municipality would not indicate how much the institution owed the city and whether there was a consideration to suspend the water supply. Spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela said the city was making strides to recover money owed to the municipality.

“Please note that we do not discuss, nor can we divulge, any information regarding a customer’s account to a third party. Please note that we are making tremendous strides in recovering money owed to the city by the private sector, government departments, institutions of higher learning and ordinary residents,” Mayisela said.

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National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) in KwaZulu-Natal said they were not surprised at the massive bill because it illustrated instability at the top level of the institution.

Nehawu provincial secretary Ayanda Zulu warned that the problems would continue at the institution, and pointed a finger at the MUT council for this.

“One of the problems you have there is that most people at senior management level are acting in their positions and some of them are still finding their feet and that is why there are ongoing problems. If people are acting, they are unable to make decisions or set longterm goals. This bill is but part of the many problems at MUT,” said Zulu.

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He said they had raised concerns about instability at the senior level of the institution, but their calls for people to be permanently appointed had fallen on deaf ears, and the union blamed this on the MUT council.

“At the heart of all these problems is the council which wants to run the institution and does not know its limits. No one can operate at MUT while the current council remains there,” said Zulu.

He charged that the council’s constant interference had been one of the reasons that led to Dr Enoch Malaza leaving the institution as vice-chancellor.

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Malaza had successfully challenged MUT’s decision to force him to retire before the end of his five-year contract last year at the Labour Court, but later reached an agreement with the institution’s council which saw him vacating his position early this year.

Zulu said Nehawu would soon embark on a strike over salary increases, adding that they had exhausted all other avenues for their demands to be met.

MUT would not go into detail over its bill to the municipality.

“The relationship between the university and the eThekwini Municipality is professional and private. It cannot be discussed with a third party,” said MUT spokesperson Mbali Mkhize.

MUT has had problems over governance issues, prompting an intervention from Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande, who appointed an independent assessor to conduct an investigation into the affairs of the institution last year.

Professor Anthony Staak was tasked with looking at a range of issues affecting the well-being of the institution including:

  • Allegations of interference by the council in operational matters at MUT
  • Allegations of misconduct and mismanagement against Dr Malaza
  • Circumstances and reasons leading to the suspension of Dr Malaza and other senior managers in April 2020
  • The circumstances that led to cash-flow problems at MUT.

While the report was concluded within the required 45-day period and handed over to the minister, its contents have not been made public. Several attempts have been made for the minister to release the report, including calls for an urgent meeting of the Higher Education Portfolio Committee.

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