Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) status report

Higher Education, Science and Innovation

19 April 2018
Chairperson: Ms C September (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Chairperson expressed disappointment over the absence of the Council in the oversight meeting and hoped that they would respond to the issues raised in that meeting. The chairperson of the Council tendered an apology for their absence. In her explanation, their absence was mainly because of the composition of the Council. More than half of the Council members are external members who work on a voluntary basis. As such it is difficult to gather them all together for a meeting.

This reason did not go down well with some Committee Members who were curious to know how the Council could convene a meeting four times in a year and yet not be able to come for the Committee’s meeting. The Committee however, asked the Council to submit a written response(s) to all the allegations and concerns raised in the meeting for which it was absent.

The false narrative about four acting Vice-Chancellors was addressed along with issues of leadership instability. Currently the positions of Vice-Chancellor and Deputy Vice-Chancellor are being advertised. Council said action was being taken to investigate corruption allegations in residences and the Department of Higher Education and Training is helping to establish recommendations about insourcing challenges.

The Committee further suggested having an elected body of student representatives as one way to deal with student residences and the destruction of property in student protests. Council was urged to speed up the process of appointing a Vice-Chancellor and to find ways in facilitating a positive relationship with the stakeholders.  Members asked if CPUT has ever considered establishing leadership development programmes as part of a student support package so as to teach its young people; said there was is a need to create some kind of rape prevention framework; and also a transport issue where students are struggling to get to campus.

Meeting report

Chairperson’s Opening Remarks
The Chairperson reminded the Committee of the oversight visit to the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) and asked that the Council respond to the issues that were raised. She expressed her unhappiness to the Council for being absent at that meeting but was looking forward to hearing their presentation.

Mr C Kekana (ANC) said that this should also be an opportunity for the Council to outline any issues that they are facing, as the Portfolio Committee is the only one that can help.   

Presentation from Council
Ms Nogolide Nojozi, Chairperson of Council: Cape Peninsula University of Technology, apologised for the absence of some Council members at the oversight visit. It is very difficult to bring Council members together to attend Committee meetings, particularly external members. 30% of members of Council are from CPUT while the majority are external working in other sectors. Members offer a voluntary service to the university. They are not paid a salary but receive a stipend to cover incidental expenses. CPUT has Council Committees that play an important role in executing the Council’s duties. Each committee has formal terms of reference which it is governed by. It has experts who provide professional advice to the Council. The Council is allowed to meet four times a year however, during the Fees Must Fall period, Council met a total of 8 times in 2015 and 10 times in 2016.

It was reported that the institution appointed four acting Vice-Chancellors (VC) however that information was false. Only two were appointed by the Council pending the former VC’s special leave. After being found guilty of misconduct, the former VC resigned at the end of September 2017. The university is in the process of appointing a new Vice-Chancellor and this will be completed before August 2018.

In terms of the filling of vacancies, Council is responsible for the appointment of all senior management. Currently council has advertised the positions of Vice-Chancellor, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Dean of Students.

Council has been trying to deal with student residence issues and investigate the corruption allegations at the residencies. Insourcing workers at CPUT also poses a challenge as some of the workers employed were not South African citizens. There were also issues of packaging workers into the mainstream which requires a lot of time and resources. Council, with the help of the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) has come up with recommendations to deal with these findings.

Ms Nojozi urged the Members of the Portfolio Committee to see how hard the Council is trying, regarding the work that it has done.

Dr Chris Nhlapo, Acting Vice-Chancellor: CPUT, expanded on the issues of corruption in the residences which he deems an exaggeration. He asked the Committee to assist in ensuring that only positive news is shared about CPUT.

Mr Thato Molaolwa, Deputy Chairperson: CPUT, emphasised two critical points, one being bringing a Vice Chancellor under disciplinary action and holding him accountable. The second was the intervening of Council under residence issues which led to the establishment of a maintenance plan.

Mr Bheki Hadebe, Convocation Representative: CPUT, said the institution organised two student assemblies to listen to student demands during Fees Must Fall. Council is willing to have these forums even though its members are taken hostage, which goes to show the extent of their engagement.

An external Council Member of CPUT said Council members start getting nervous when students start singing songs of protest and how this happens in most of their meetings

Ms J Kilian (ANC) said it is clear that student protest action has brought great concern. It is very disheartening to see vandalised buildings and burned down property at the institution, and the Committee wants to help to ensure that those responsible are held to account. She wanted to know whether there is evidence to show who the culprits are. She asked if CPUT has ever considered establishing leadership development programmes as part of a student support package so as to teach its young people.

The problem in student residences cannot be ignored. There is a need to implement a maintenance plan that improves current residencies while new ones are being built. She recommended that the Council accepts the R60 million that was offered by the Department to help with project management skills. There is also a need to have an elected body of student representatives as a way to restore multi-party stakeholder participation and change the institution for the better. 

Ms N Nolutshungu (EFF) thanked the Council for explaining their side of the story. She suggested putting time frames in the implementation plan. With many student rapes on campus, there is a need to create some kind of rape prevention framework. There is also a transport issue where students are struggling to get to campus. There are allegations of insourced workers getting salaries that are less than the agreed amount.

Mr Kekana said when the Council is advertising certain positions it has to make it clear whether jobs are voluntary or not so that people are aware. He emphasised how crucial it is for Council to be present when it comes to meeting with the Portfolio Committee.

Mr R Mavunda (ANC) noted the change of attitude that has come following the presentation. He proposed that the Council look at the reports from the previous oversight meeting in which they were absent, to take note of the allegations that came up. The presentation today did not address those allegations.

Ms S Mchunu (ANC) asked how legitimate the Council’s report was. The report showed the Council meeting more than four times a year, yet the chairperson of the Council explained the difficulty of getting members to attend meetings. She asked that the Department explain the role of Council because it seems as though members did not know what it takes. She also wanted to understand why there are always issues with CPUT. She suggested that the Council accelerate the appointment of the Vice-Chancellor to ensure stability.

The Chairperson asked for clarity on the investigations of the former Vice-Chancellor, the reasons for his suspension and the outcome. People cannot simply get away with issues by just resigning. Instability comes from not having a Vice-Chancellor in his permanent position. In addition to the instability, CPUT staff complained to Parliament about staff placement and staff promotions. There are also students that are refusing to sign documents regarding NSFAS.

The Chairperson suggested that the Council respond individually to the submissions that were made at the oversight meeting. So many of the institution’s stakeholders are anti- Council and there needs to be a dialogue so that people are held accountable. She asked how the Council is planning to facilitate a harmonious relationship with stakeholders. She asked the Council to respond to the Committee in detailed writing.

Ms Thandi Lewin, Chief Director: Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) said that many of the issued raised are not only confined to CPUT. Council members know what their roles constitute and that is clear from the beginning.

The chairperson of the Council assured the Committee that they have already expelled 12 students and established disciplinary approaches. The university is in the process of addressing the issues brought up in the meeting.

The meeting was adjourned. 

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