On Thursday evening, Unisa management approached Gauteng division of the high court for an interdict to stop the Minister of Higher Education, Blade Nzimande, from placing it under the administration pursuant to the notice he issued to that effect.
The court correctly found that the minister’s actions amount to breach of the court which effectively sanctioned the minister not to act until such time that the appointment of Prof. Themba Mosia, as an independent administrator, and the findings of his assessment report have been determined in the two judicial review applications of the University Council and the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Puleng LenkaBula, respectively.
The appointment of Mosia remains irregular at many levels, and his findings highly flawed. They cannot be the last word on the state of the university. His conflict of interests and the dishonest manner in which he abused his status clearly to advance an agenda of the faction aligned with the alleged corrupt interests in the university compromised what otherwise would have been a very constructive process to take the university forward.
If the minister is sincerely interested in dealing with the real problems at Unisa he needs to assist the process of convening the university stakeholders - workers, academics, and students -among others, to reflect on the state of the university, including some of the problems the report correctly points to, and how the turnaround strategy can be developed and implemented.
The fact that the university was awarded the top performing company in the University Sector by the publication Top 500 again indicates the direction of the university. Although these awards do not embrace every facet of the university and in many ways conceals other serious problems, including major issues around university administrative and ICT systems, student support, and governance issues, they are reliable in so far as they look into financial performance.
The finances are no secondary matter. Universities are in crises not due to lack of commitment to the academic and research project on the part of its key stakeholders, academics, workers and students. The crisis emanates from their subversion by profiteering interests and their enablers who turn universities into sites of capital accumulation through tenders, outsourcing and commercialisation of university at all levels. Financial managements are, therefore, significant indicators of the management’s commitments to enable these interests or to reign on them in defence of the teaching and learning mission.
On the other hand, it is vital again to reiterate that it is problematic that the minister endorses Mosia’s findings in favour of tendering models of procurement of basic equipment like laptops. The decision of the Unisa management to terminate this tender and to procure laptops in the open market has saved Unisa over R400 million.
On the hand, Bojanala District Municipality has spend R2m on two laptops. This should put matters into perspective. Workers and student movements should step forward. This court decision calls for the movements of workers, academics and students to step forward with a clear programme to defend Unisa from this brazen attempt to hijack the university. They should fight to eliminate every form of outsourcing, including canteens and others which remained after the heroic #OutsourcingMustFall movement that led to insourcing of security, cleaning and other services at the university.
They should step forward to fight mediocrity and mismanagement of the university, and for a genuine transformation of the university into a public institution capable of offering quality, accessible public higher education for all, for socially engaged scholarship and research that meaningfully contribute to the upliftment of working-class communities and humanity in general.
*Mametlwe Sebei is a lecturer in the Department of Jurisprudence
**The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of Independent Media or IOL