THE Special Investigating Unit (SIU) is considering its legal options after the High Court ruled in favour of the Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane to interdict its investigation into the qualifications scandal at the University of Fort Hare.
This was after Mabuyane launched a court case to interdict the SIU from enforcing Proclamation R84 of 2022, authorising it to investigate allegations of maladministration related to his enrolment at the university.
He was accused of being registered for a Master’s Degree without completing his Honours.
He launched a two-pronged application in the Eastern Cape High Court.
The first part was an urgent interdict against the SIU investigation until the court had heard the second part.
He approached the court to have the entire SIU probe, with regard to his enrolment, to be declared unlawful and set aside.
Mabuyane argued that the investigation was unconstitutional because it went beyond the scope of the proclamation signed by President Cyril Ramaphosa.
He also argued that the SIU was not empowered to investigate educational matters, saying the Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande had the authority to investigate academic matters.
Delivering her judgment, Judge Thandi Norman said the SIU was interdicted, pending the hearing of the second part of Mabuyane’s application.
She said the SIU had misinterpreted its authority and, although it mentioned Master’s Degrees and Doctorates in its motivation to Ramaphosa, it never motivated inclusion in the proclamation.
However, spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago said the SIU would explore all legal options available to it. Kganyago said the SIU had studied the judgment and was happy that it did not interdict or suspend the investigation in its entirety. He said they were also optimistic that they would present their case when Part B of this matter is heard.
Kganyago said the SIU was further encouraged by paragraph 66 of the judgment, which states that: “Where there is evidence that implicates unlawful conduct in so far as the Master's Degree is concerned, there is nothing stopping the SIU from preparing a motivation as it did with the earlier proclamation and request the President to proclaim that the registration for Master’s Degree, too, should be investigated.”
Kganyago also added that the SIU had noted paragraph 83, which states that: “Although the applicant (Mabuyane) contends that the SIU was malicious, there is no evidence of such malice.”
In his application, Mabuyane also argued that the proclamation never envisaged that he would turn out to be a subject of the investigation. He said this appeared that there was a malicious plan to cause him grave embarrassment.
He told the high court that the investigation was abuse and must be put to an end.
Mabyane said while the proceedings were before the court, the SIU sought a search and seizure warrant against him directed at his private residence.
“The search and seizure warrant against in respect of proceedings which are being challenged in court, amount to constructive contempt of court. It shows bad faith by the SIU because his house is entirely irrelevant to the issues being investigated against him,” read the court papers.
However, in its answering affidavit, the SIU said it had found evidence which prima facie showed that some students were irregularly registered into the Master’s Degree programme without satisfying the prerequisites of having an Honours Degree. The SIU added that it also appeared that Mabuyane was irregularly registered and admitted for a Master’s Degree without satisfying the prerequisite of having an Honour’s Degree. It further, according to the SIU, appeared that Mabuyane was already enrolled for a PhD Degree at the time he registered for the Master’s Degree.
The SIU contended that there was no case made out for the interdict and review. It asked for the dismissal of the application with costs.
The University of Fort Hare also submitted that it has discovered that there was prima facie evidence against Mabuyane’s complicity in having his research proposal for his Master’s Degree prepared for him by post-doctoral students under Professor Edwin Ijeoma.
Questions were also sent to the university’s vice-chancellor Professor Sakhela Buhlungu, who did not respond.