Nzimande mum on draft order halting him from placing Unisa under administration

Minister of Higher Education Science and Innovation, Dr Blade Nzimande. Photographer Ayanda Ndamane African News Agency (ANA)

Minister of Higher Education Science and Innovation, Dr Blade Nzimande. Photographer Ayanda Ndamane African News Agency (ANA)

Published Aug 30, 2023


Johannesburg - The Minister of Higher Education, Science, and Innovation, Dr Blade Nzimande, has remained mum over last week's Pretoria High Court draft order by Unisa lawyers seeking to prevent the institution from being placed under administration.

According to media reports, the High Court has stalled Nzimande’s move to place Unisa under administration and replace its council pending the outcome of an earlier review application penned by the institution.

This comes after a report by the Independent Assessor, Professor Themba Mosia, who recommended that the institution's supply chain and maladministration challenges had badly impacted the embattled university amid a series of incidents and reports of victimisation and bullying that have characterised the climate at Unisa.

Nzimande alleged that Unisa was faced with severe financial and other maladministration challenges following a R176 million wage bill.

It is reported that the court order has been successful in instructing Nzimande not to act on the recommendations by the assessor until the two separate applications challenging the report are finalised.

Last month, university Chancellor Thabo Mbeki indicated that the university would be taking the report under review as they were not happy with Mosia's report and its recommendations.

Mosia had recommended in his March 31 report that the institution be placed under administration.

The chair of Unisa’s council, James Maboa, subsequently brought an urgent application earlier this month seeking an order to interdict Nzimande from appointing an administrator.

In a separate application, vice-chancellor Prof Puleng LenkaBula launched an application for an order to review and set aside Mosia’s report.

In a third application brought on June 20, former Unisa registrar Prof Steward Mothata asked the court to declare that the university’s council was no longer ‘’properly constituted’’ and sought an order directing Nzimande to appoint an administrator for Unisa.

Last Thursday, Judge Leicester Adams adjourned all three applications to a hearing on September 7, 2023.

Early this month, Nzimande gave the Unisa council seven days to make its representation to him before he placed the embattled institution under administration.

He further allocated a further extension before he was due to appoint an administrator, with the ruling now having succeeded in putting this move on hold.

The university refused to address this matter, and attempts to get comment from the minister's office were not responded to at the time of going to print.

The decision to place Unisa under administration comes after numerous calls from political parties, civil society movements, and unions for the institution to be placed under administration because of the corruption, maladministration, and alleged abuse of power flagged by the independent assessor's report.

Mosia recommended that an administrator be appointed, the council be disbanded, and LenkaBula be relieved of her duties.

Attempts to get comments from the university were unsuccessful at the time of publication, but earlier this month, Unisa chancellor and former president Thabo Mbeki indicated that the institution had written to the minister to inform him of its decision to take the report on review.

‘’We are taking it (the report) on review because we do not agree with what it says. It does not talk about the university but talks about something else. Because it was in the public domain, we thought it would be better to take it under review. We have written to the minister. This is the view of the council and the VC that this is necessary,’’ Mbeki said early this month.

The Star