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Unisa workers threaten full-blown strike as they continue protest against vice-chancellor Puleng LenkaBula

Vice-chancellor and principal of Unisa, Professor Puleng LenkaBula. Picture: Unisa

Vice-chancellor and principal of Unisa, Professor Puleng LenkaBula. Picture: Unisa

Published Apr 29, 2022

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Pretoria - Workers at Unisa continued to protest yesterday, unhappy with what they described as unsatisfactory management by principal and vice-chancellor Professor Puleng LenkaBula.

The university has meanwhile rubbished the allegations against her, saying they were untrue.

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The workers, affiliated to the National Health, Education and Allied Workers Unions (Nehawu), have been on strike for a week.

They made several allegations against LenkaBula, including irregular expenditure and appointments, as well as maladministration.

Another reason for the strike, which has disrupted operations, including teaching and learning, and autumn graduations, is the suspension of five Nehawu office bearers.

Nehawu’s Ntsako Nombelani said they were planning to go on a full-blown strike soon, as the allegations that they were raising were factual and not speculation.

Nombelani questioned why only their shop stewards had been suspended and none from the Academic and Professional Staff Association, despite having embarked on an illegal strike earlier this year.

“Nehawu members got suspended because of raising issues of governance,” Nombelani said.

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“The workers are refusing to work because some of them were suspended, and irregularly so. We are not on strike; the gates of Unisa are open. If we were striking, we were going to do so inside Unisa premises.”

The workers gathered outside the institution’s main campus yesterday and spent most of their time singing Struggle songs. Yesterday marked two weeks since the five members were suspended and, according to Nehawu, it was not clear when their suspension would end.

Nombelani also raised the issue of salary increments and said a certain portion of the workers at the university received salary increase while others did not.

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“If they want to give us a salary increase, and there are unions that exist, it must be a product of negotiations.

“We are where we are because the vice-chancellor decided to give salary increases to a certain portion of workers and excluded others.”

Nombelani said students had also not been paid their financial aid allowances, and study materials were yet to be delivered.

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“You can visit the online Unisa student portal, and you will find that it is down on a daily basis. Students cannot submit their assignments.”

Attempts to get comment from Unisa were unsuccessful yesterday, but spokesperson Victor Dlamini previously said all allegations were “unfounded and spurious”. They were not based on facts and reality, but innuendo and slander.

“On the alleged unlawfulness of the precautionary suspension of office bearers, the university is absolutely satisfied that it followed all the necessary legal and policy prescripts leading to the precautionary suspension,” he said.

He said the union had a legal recourse to challenge the legal validity of the precautionary suspensions in court or at the CCMA.

Pretoria News

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