DA decries delay in pronouncing on fate of Unisa

South Africa Cape Town- 20-April-2023 - Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus joined at the launch by National Minister of Higher Education Science and Innovation, Mr Blade Nzimande. Photographer Ayanda Ndamane African News Agency (ANA)

South Africa Cape Town- 20-April-2023 - Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus joined at the launch by National Minister of Higher Education Science and Innovation, Mr Blade Nzimande. Photographer Ayanda Ndamane African News Agency (ANA)

Published Jul 17, 2023


The DA has decried Minister of Higher Education, Blade Nzimande’s delay in pronouncing on the future of Unisa.

According to DA spokesperson on education, Chantel King, Nzimande was supposed to have made his announcement on July 3.

King said following the Independent Assessor’s report which made damning findings against the university due to mal-administration and governance challenges, Unisa should be placed under administration.

Last month, axed Unisa registrar, Professor Steward Mothata, in his court papers revealed that Unisa failed to mark 385 664 out of 919 986 submitted assignments.

He also alleged that almost 150 000 of 386 037 first year students in 2022 failed half of their modules and more than 37 813 NSFAS bursary recipients failed to pass a single module.

“The Star” has previously reported that Mothata, who had filed an application to the Labour Court challenging his dismissal, accused Unisa vice-chancellor Professor Puleng LenkaBula of unfairly terminating his five-year contract this week.

Mothata joined more than five senior members of staff who have either resigned or had their contracts terminated in a similar fashion since last year.

In light of these allegations, King says the DA is of the view that Unisa should be placed under administration.

“The minister has no option but to suspend the council and urgently pave the way for the appointment of an administrator.

“No proper decisions can be taken by the Unisa council in its current state after the resignations of council members.

“Minister Nzimande has had ample time to apply his mind. The independent assessor’s (IA) report and Prof Mothata’s allegations have revealed that Unisa’s council is incapable of steering the institution in the right direction, King said.

She said Nzimande should have made his determination on the future of the institution at the beginning of this month after having asked for time to apply his mind to the contents of the report.

“We expected the minister to have made his announcement to place Unisa under administration by Monday, July 3, 2023, as his requested two weeks to study the IA report will then have run its course. It's time he makes his intentions known,“ King said.

The scope of Professor Themba Mosia’s report made damning findings, including the function and efficacy of Unisa’s governance and management structure; the operations of the office of the Registrar; the state policies and procedures of Unisa pertaining to financial management; supply chain management and procedures; allegations of financial irregularities; the state of the human resources policies and practices of the university, particularly in relation to enhancing organisational efficiency and employment relations among many others.

LenkaBula has been accused of being incompetent, inexperienced, and running the institution into the ground. LenkaBula was appointed to the position in November 2020 with her formal contract starting on January 1, 2021 following a special Unisa council sitting.

The report also delved into the significant number of staff suspensions, disciplinary cases and dismissals at the university since 2018; and also made findings against Unisa VC Puleng LekaBula on allegations of misconduct and mismanagement.

The IA report laid bare the level of intimidation, lack of emotional intelligence, the inadequate ICT systems for the size of the institution, a senate failing to develop curricula, human resource challenges, and lack of proper financial controls.

In May, Nzimande said he was still applying his mind to the report on Unisa.

Nzimande commissioned an investigation into the affairs of the university following allegations of maladministration and tender irregularities against its vice-chancellor Puleng LenkaBula.

A report has now recommended that the institution’s council, as well as management, be relieved of their duties.

It also recommends that the university be placed under an administrator, who will oversee all the affairs of southern Africa’s largest university.

The report on Unisa found that there was overwhelming evidence that the functioning and efficacy of both the university’s council and management fall below the expected standard.

It advised Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande to put measures in place to restore good governance and management at the institution.

Attempts to get comment from Nzimande’s spokesperson, Ishmael Mnisi, were unsuccessful at the time of going to print. However, last month Mnisi said the minister had noted the report and was currently applying his mind to its contents.

“The minister will now submit the report to the National Assembly Speaker, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, for tabling before the National Assembly. Equally, the minister is currently studying the report and will contemplate a way forward regarding the implementation of the recommendations,” Mnisi said.