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Unisa protest calling for suspension of Puleng LenkaBula to continue until truth revealed - Nehawu

Workers affiliated to Nehawu at Unisa picket outside the main campus in Pretoria. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency (ANA)

Workers affiliated to Nehawu at Unisa picket outside the main campus in Pretoria. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency (ANA)

Published May 6, 2022

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Pretoria - The stalemate between protesting workers affiliated to the National Education Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) and Unisa will continue until the truth has been revealed.

This is according to the union, which has continued with its protest action, calling for the suspension of Unisa vice-chancellor and principal Professor Puleng LenkaBula as well as the reinstatement of its suspended office-bearers.

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Nehawu national co-ordinator Ntsako Nombelani said workers would continue protesting at the university’s main campus.

He said the decision to embark on protest action had its roots in the many issues plaguing the institution, which were not slanderous or unfounded.

Nombelani said all the allegations levelled against the vice-chancellor and Unisa council were informed by three reports compiled by law firms which detailed the gross mismanagement, irregular appointments and abuse of resources taking place unabated at the university.

He said the reports, which detailed the irregularity of procurement of laptops, the exorbitant cost of renovations at the official vice-chancellor’s residence, and another report on the collective salary increase agreement had already been supplied to the Department of Higher Education and Training two weeks beforehand.

The union said it was simply awaiting a meeting with the department on the way forward, given the reports, after which it would organise a meeting to inform the public of the findings of the reports and mismanagement taking place at the university under LenkaBula’s leadership.

“The protests will continue until the vice-chancellor is suspended and once the suspended members are reinstated.

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“It’s not just the workers’ plight. Students haven’t received their allowances from NSFAS or received their data and study material with exams around the corner, yet the head of the institution chose to go overseas.”

Last Tuesday, the university said it was disturbed by the unfounded and spurious allegations levelled against the council of the university and the vice-chancellor, as it alleged they were not based on facts and reality but on innuendo and slander.

In a statement, the university said it was absolutely satisfied that it had followed all the necessary legal and policy prescripts leading to the precautionary suspension of the Nehawu branch office-bearers in question.

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The university indicated that the trade union had the option of legal recourse to challenge the legal validity of the precautionary suspensions in a court of law or the CCMA if it so wished.

“However, as far as it was concerned, it believed that it had gone out of its way to engage Nehawu’s Unisa branch in a bid to resolve the problems amicably.

On the alleged misuse of Unisa resources and vehicles, the university said its principal and vice-chancellor was entitled to an official university vehicle as part of the conditions of employment, as determined by the council.

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It further detailed that the procurement of the official university vehicle was not the responsibility of the vice-chancellor, but that of the facilities management portfolio, which was responsible for purchasing the vehicle.

LenkaBula was further vindicated by the institution regarding the allegations of over-expenditure on renovations at the official residence. The university reiterated its stance that she did not take part in procurement processes for the refurbishment of the official residence, including the purchase of any movable assets.

“Any suggestion to the contrary is pure innuendo intended to tarnish her name and the image of Unisa. As a matter of fact, the university conducted an audit investigation into this matter and has since placed a senior official who led this project on precautionary leave, pending a disciplinary hearing.

“The audit investigation also cleared the principal and vice-chancellor of any wrongdoing.

“The allegations of expensive and imported movable assets such as the bedroom suite and fridge are simply fabrications intended to portray the principal and vice-chancellor as superfluous and these fabrications are defamatory too,” read the statement.

The university said it would continue to take measures to safeguard its image and academic programme while striving to ensure that workers’ rights and issues were always handled properly in a robust and honest way.

However, it stressed that lawlessness and violence did not constitute the legitimate agenda of worker issues, with Unisa determined not to allow a culture of lawlessness to fester.

Pretoria News

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