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Unisa workers unhappy with vice-chancellor Puleng LenkaBula continue picket

Unisa workers protest against what they described as the mismanagement of the institution by Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Puleng LenkaBula. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)

Unisa workers protest against what they described as the mismanagement of the institution by Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Puleng LenkaBula. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Apr 28, 2022

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Pretoria - Unisa workers have continued to picket outside the institution’s main campus in Pretoria expressing their unhappiness with what they described as “unsatisfactory management style” of the Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Puleng LenkaBula.

They have been on strike for over a week, and vowed not to stop until their demands were heard.

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National Health, Education and Allied Workers Unions’ Ntsako Nombelani said the issues the university was facing were broad and did not only affect the workers only, but students too.

Nombelani claimed five office bearers had been suspended by the LenkaBula. “When you want to suspend an office bearer or a trade union official in terms of the legislation, you need to notify the union and consult before you can do so.

“In this regard, they were just suspended and the letter that was sent to them. They were asked to state reasons why their contracts should not be terminated.

“One can tell that there is predetermined outcome to dismiss the shop stewards.”

Nombelani said the letter stated the office bearers had been found guilty of insolence because they insulted the vice-chancellor.

“The vice-chancellor is not immune to insult; we wake up every day witnessing people insulting the president of the country.

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“What is special about her that she cannot be treated the same when she is not delivering? he said.

Nombelani said they believed the office bearers were suspended because they tried to raise issues of corruption and maladministration by LenkaBula.

“The vice-chancellor has been involved in the irregular procurement of laptops worth R50 million without following the processes.

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“Where have you seen a vice-chancellor being involved in procurement processes whereas there is a dedicated office?” said Nombelani.

He also said the vice-chancellor was also involved in irregular expenditure on the renovations and furniture to her house.

“She has demanded a bed of R400 000 and R900 000 fridge which had to be imported to South Africa.

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“She refused a car that was driven by the former vice-chancellor which had less than 30 000km, saying she will not able to drive in it, and instead demanded a car that costs R2 million while her limit was R1.2 million.”

There is a long list of allegations against LenkaBula and Nombelani said the irregular expenditure negatively affected students.

“Disadvantaged students study at Unisa because the university is affordable, yet the vice-chancellor is at the forefront of wasting resources instead of saving.”

Nombelani said they wanted LenkaBula to be placed on special leave and investigations be conducted.

They also want the withdrawal of the suspension of the five office bearers.

Unisa spokesperson Tommy Huma said the allegations were unfounded and spurious, and not based on facts and reality, but innuendo and slander.

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

He said the union had a legal recourse to challenge the legal validity of the precautionary suspensions in a court of law or the CCMA if it so wished.

Regarding the alleged misuse of university vehicle, Huma said the vice-chancellor was entitled to an official university vehicle as part of her conditions of employment as determined by council.

“The procurement of the official university vehicle is not the responsibility of the principal and vice-chancellor. The Facilities Management Portfolio is responsible for purchasing the vehicle, while the principal and vice-chancellor only has access to it during his/her term of office.

“Anybody with evidence that shows that the official vehicle utilised by the current principal and vice-chancellor was purchased without following due process must report and produce such evidence to the relevant authorities in the university.”

Huma said regarding the issue of official residence, the university is on record stating that the vice-chancellor 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 the 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 her as superfluous. These fabrications are defamatory too.”

He also denied the allegation that the vice-chancellor used university resources to pay for her PA’s trip to Dubai. “This allegation is simply not true.”

He added Unisa would continue to take measures to safeguard its image and academic programme.

Pretoria News

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