University of Fort Hare administrator hits back at committee chair
Cape Town - The University of Fort Hare administrator, Professor Loyiso Nongxa, has hit back at parliament's higher education portfolio committee chairperson Philly Mapulane, saying he was disappointed he responded to his letter via the media.
Nongxa said he had written to the chairperson over the weekend detailing why he would not be joining a UFH delegation which was to appear before the committee.
"In that letter I also said the issues that were being raised were management issues and my role is that of council. Those issues lie outside the terms of reference of my appointment," he said.
Nongxa was responding to Mapulane after he issued a statement accusing him of failing to attend a meeting of the higher education portfolio committee on Tuesday following the sudden shut down of the university by its management.
In his statement, Mapulane conceded Nongxa wrote to him providing what the committee considered to be "lousy and frivolous" reasons on why he was unable to attend the meeting.
"Professor Nongxa seems to be completely out of touch with the reality that the university is faced with a serious crisis and the fact that it is his responsibility to lead the university in its efforts to resolve the crisis," he said.
He added: "The administrator seems to be sitting comfortably in his cushy role and boasting to Parliament about his previous roles, but doing nothing whilst the institution is up in flames.
"The administrator must decide whether he wishes to help the nation, by rising to the occasion and lead the university to move out of the current quagmire, or ship out of the public role assigned to him by the minister of being the council of the university."
Mapulane also accused Nongxa of being "a man tasked with a task of rescuing the institution ‘fiddling whilst Rome is burning’ is a great disappointment.”
In his response, Nongxa said in his letter he had pointed Mapulane to legislation that governed his appointment in terms of the Higher Education Act and the government gazette that led to his appointment.
He also said he should not have been in the delegation dealing with management issues.
"I am really disappointed in an elected official when I quote from the country's laws he says that is frivolous," Nongxa said.
He also said it was not for Mapulane to decide who should be in the UFH delegation as it depended on the issues the university was asked to report on.
"I don't believe he can insist that I set aside the things I was to do yesterday (Tuesday) and go and attend this meeting," Nongxa said.
"If he has power to determine who should be in the delegation and to determine my priorities as an administrator, I needed an official response to that.
"Instead of doing that he discusses my letter in the media. I don't think we are to solve the problems of universities," he said.
Nongxa also said he was also disappointed Mapulane said he was "out of reality" whereas he was reporting to Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande on a quarterly basis.
"Those reports are there. I don't know whether they read them or not," Nongxa said.
He also said UFH had already reported to the portfolio committee twice in November and early this month.
"On Friday, UFH sent their presentation to the secretary giving an update on the situation at Fort Hare," Nongxa said.
"That is my reality. That is our reality. If he has a different reality, he has not shared that with us, but our reality is in the report that we have been asked to submit to the committee," he said.
"On my own as the administrator I submitted three reports to the minister. That is my reality. If that is not reality and he knows of a different reality, he has not shared with me as the administrator."
Nongxa also said he was constrained by his mandate and did not know why UFH was treated differently to other institutions for him as a one-man council expected to respond on management issues.
"Professionally, I would expect him to respond to the letter I sent to him. I'm surprised that he decides to discuss it in the media or even release a media statement
"I am really disappointed that an elected official expects us to disregard the legislation of our country," Nongxa added.