DURBAN – Former academics, administrative staff, community members and others, working under the umbrella of Save UNIZULU, said on Tuesday that the University of Zululand was a “captured” institution.

The rural-based university, with its main campus about 20 minutes from Richards Bay, in KwaDlangezwa, is no stranger to violent student protests and scandals that include the alleged selling of degrees and financial maladministration.

It was placed under administration in 2011 for two years, during which the independent assessor found evidence of weaknesses in governance and management and “gross irregularities in finances and procurement”, among others.

In a press release issued on Tuesday after a media briefing in Braamfontein, Save UNIZULU said it applauded three former ministers of higher education for acknowledging maladministration and mismanagement at the institution, but wanted to know why no one was being held to account.

Last year, parliament recommended that the university council “should consider the suitability and feasibility” of its vice-chancellor, professor Xoliswa Mtose. Council was also told to regularly provide updates on its turnaround strategy.

Mtose, in turn, was told to initiate a forensic investigation into allegations of financial impropriety, which are alleged to involve some council members.

But Save UNIZULU also accused parliament of failing to act. 

“[When] Prof Mtose and council refused to appear before [parliament] four times, it seems nothing was done, yet we have seen other committees of parliament use the power vested in them to provide proper oversight by issuing summons as was done with the former president’s son,” said the statement.

“When staff members and students provided documents, evidence detailing the corruption at UNIZULU, parliament assured them that they were protected, only to find when they returned to work, they were dismissed by Professor Mtose, the VC.”

Save UNIZULU also made a call for investigations into several allegations surrounding the institution, many of which have appeared in the media. These included overpriced luxury accommodation for executives, the sale of degrees, tender rigging, “demonising” those who speak out about corruption, and more.

It also wants several reports into fraud and financial maladministration to be made public. The activists allege that the reports are being kept from public scrutiny because they implicate senior government officials.

The Portfolio Committee on Higher Education and Training said in March this year that it had committed itself to enhance its oversight responsibility at the university “until the institution functioned normally”.

“We cannot have a situation where UniZulu is spiralling downwards. When we come back for the next term we will decide how we move forward with regard to the institution,” committee chairperson, Connie September, said.

The deputy chief justice, Raymond Zondo, was recently named as the new chancellor of the institution, a largely ceremonial role. Save UNIZULU commended the appointment, saying Zondo’s appointment was a start to restoring credibility to the institution.

 African News Agency/ANA