As the legal tussle between the University of South Africa and the Minister of Higher Education, Dr Blade Nzimande, lingers on, the fate of the Unisa hangs in the balance after a court interdicted the minister from placing it under administration.
A damning 300-page report completed in March this year, recommended that the university be placed under administration, and the current vice chancellor, Professor Puleng LenkaBula, be relieved of her duties.
However, following a series of legal challenges by the Unisa council and its VC, this has been put on hold, rendering the minister stunted.
Early this month, following an announcement by the minister of his intention to place the institution under administration, the university, through the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, was able to lodge a successful application stopping the minister from appointing an administrator to take over the running of the embattled institution.
Judge Harshila Kooverjie indicated in his judgment that Nzimande’s notice of intention, dated October 4, violated the court’s order and ordered the minister to withdraw his intention and cease any steps to publish and implement the notice. The court also instructed the minister to cover the applicant’s legal costs on an attorney and client scale.
Unisa welcomed the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, ruling, saying the Independent Assessor report compiled by professor Themba Mosia was fundamentally flawed in its assessment and call for Unisa to be placed under administration.
“Unisa has always maintained that the report of the Independent Assessor is fundamentally flawed, and its recommendations totally misplaced.
“For that reason, the university has taken the report on legal review to be set aside. Until the side of the university is properly heard in a legal review, in a court of law, the university believes that it is premature for the minister to implement the recommendations of the Independent Assessor. Unisa also believes that the institution of an Administration is not necessary and may only serve to harm the university,” Unisa said.
Unisa had earlier argued that the minister’s actions were premature and sought an interdict to prevent the institution from being placed under administration. In a previous court order dated August 24, Nzimande was prohibited from implementing recommendations of the Mosia report until related matters were resolved.
Many critics of the university have since slammed the institution for restraining the minister in exercising his duties.
In an unsigned letter, students and staffers in their petition to the Pretoria High Court President, Dunstan Mlambo and his deputy over the lack of urgency it treats the Unisa vs the Minister of Higher Education matter.
“As staff members, we have suffered, and the minister intervened through the ministerial task team and the Independent Assessor. Therefore, the delay in hearing the case by the court deprives us as affected parties to know our fate in so far as the minister’s decision is concerned from the reports by the independent bodies, the Ministerial Task Team (MTT) and Independent Assessor (IA),” the concerned parties say.
However, those sympathetic to Unisa have slammed the minister as well as Mosia with Mametlwe Sebei in an opinion piece published on IOL, saying the court had correctly found that the minister’s actions amount to breach of the court.
“The court effectively sanctioned the minister not to act until such time that the appointment of Prof Themba Mosia as an independent administrator, and the findings of his assessment report have been determined in the two judicial review applications of the University Council and the Vice-Chancellor, Prof Puleng LenkaBula, respectively.
“The appointment of Mosia remains irregular at many levels, and his findings highly flawed. They cannot be the last word on the state of the university,“ Sebei said.