The Committee met with the Council of the Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT) and the suspended Vice-Chancellor in a virtual meeting to receive briefings on its governance and other related matters. However, the meeting was quickly thrown into disarray when the Chairperson of the MUT Council refused to engage with the Members in the presence of the suspended Vice Chancellor, arguing that this was a resolution of the Council.
Although members of the Council were present in the meeting, the Committee expressed its strong disapproval that the MUT Council was seemingly trying to dictate the agenda of the meeting and who should be invited to it. It reprimanded the Council’s Chairperson and deplored his attitude, reminding him that he accounted to Parliament. The Committee also made it clear that it was not going to venture into any terrain that was part of the disciplinary case against the suspended Vice Chancellor, but wanted to know how the university had got to this point. Its intention was to assist the MUT to get out of the hole in which it found itself.
After an extended squabble between the Chairperson of the Council and the Committee, the Members agreed unanimously that the meeting should continue with the Vice Chancellor present, and if the Council wished to leave the meeting, it was welcome to do so. However, the Council had no choice but to continue with the meeting, as the Committee threatened to invoke Section 49B (1) of the Higher Education Act because the Chairperson of the Council had displayed complete disregard for accountability and the role of Parliament, while the university he was leading was in complete mess.
Both parties -- the Council and the suspended Vice Chancellor -- presented their briefings to the Committee. There was also input from the MUT’s students’ representative council, and the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union.
Members asked whether the Department and the MUT Council were convinced that the university would overcome the governance and management issues on its own, without invoking Section 49B (1) of the Act. They sought details on the business forums that were stopping construction work on sites, and the contingency plans to ensure that this was stopped; whether the challenges facing the Council and management were having a negative impact on the university; and, in the light of supply chain management issues, who the audit and procurement teams accounted to.
The Committee concluded that Members were unanimous that the Minister must consider invoking section 49B (1) to place the university under administration. It also resolved that the university must report to it on a quarterly basis to monitor progress in bringing the institution to a point of stability, in order for it to execute its academic mission.
vObjection to presence of suspended Vice Chancellor
The Chairperson brought to the attention of the Members that he had received a letter from the Chairperson of the Council of Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT) raising some issues regarding the participation of the Vice Chancellor. He had received the letter pretty late – only this morning -- and he did not have the opportunity to interrogate it and engage with the Chairperson of the Council on it.
The letter was objecting to the participation of the Vice Chancellor, Dr Duma Malaza, because the Council had placed him in suspension, and they were therefore not comfortable with engaging with him.
The intention was not to ventilate matters at a disciplinary committee (DC) level, but to understand what was going on at the institution from the Council’s and Vice Chancellor’s perspective. The Chairperson of Council had had to step aside when the institution instituted the forensic investigation.
The Committee thought that in order to understand the issues from the whole perspective was to invite both sides. The intention was not to make this platform a substitute for the work already done at the university. Members had a duty to understand what was going on from both sides.
He felt that he needed to bring this matter to the Members’ attention so that they could decide whether the meeting should be cancelled or postponed, or have only one of the parties engage with the Committee. Now, the Council was instituted based on the legislation
Ms N Mkhatshwa (ANC) agreed with the Chairperson on the role that the Committee must play with regard to this matter at the MUT. Members needed to understand how things had got to this point, so it was important for them to hear what Dr Malaza had to say. She suggested that the agenda remain as it was and allow the parties to speak.
Mr S Ngcobo (IFP) said that he was partly covered by the previous speaker, but Members needed to hear both sides of the matter. There was no harm in Dr Malaza being present – this was a fact-finding mission for Members as they executed their oversight role.
Mr W Letsie (ANC) said that if the University had a problem with this, it could not dispute the engagement at such a late stage. This raised the question as to why the letter had been sent to the Committee Chairperson so late.
This was the third attempt to get the MUT and the parties to come before the Committee in order for Members to get a sense of what was happening there. This was a previously disadvantaged institution, which made Members more interested in it.
Ms D Sibiya (ANC) also shared her sentiments on the matter, agreeing with the previous speakers. All that was needed was for all to be present and to bring their sides of the story to the table, and not this “hide and seek” happening.
Overall, the view of the Committee was for the meeting to proceed. This was not a DC or a “kangaroo court,” but a platform for organs of state to account. Issues at the level of the DC would be avoided, and Members would seek to understand the matters happening in the institution.
Dr Morailane Morailane, chairperson of the university council, said that it would be best to start by responding to Mr Letsie’s comment on disputing the engagement at such a late stage. He said they had not responded this late by choice -- it was done because they had received the agenda only yesterday. It was from that agenda that they had realised that Dr Malaza was going to be part of this meeting. In the letter of yesterday, they had made the point clear that if they had we known that Dr Malaza was going to be here, they would not have hesitated to inform the Committee about their position.
Members did not seem to see any problem in discussing the matters of MUT, but the invitation that came to them for today stated the six items that the Committee wanted them to discuss, but the current agenda was now different. They were prepared to discuss the six items that they had been asked to discuss. With that said, they would not discuss anything further with Dr Malaza – this was the Council’s decision -- that no member of the institution could interact or engage with Dr Malaza except on a disciplinary committee platform. They could only engage with Dr Malaza on the current platform only once the Council had revised that decision.
The Chairperson sighed with disappointment, and said that he was extremely flabbergasted. However, he clarified that the Committee had not issued any instruction to the University or Council about not instituting any disciplinary processes against anybody. The Committee had not said that the Council of the MUT must not discipline any of its employees. The Committee understood its role very well.
It had invited the Council to come and brief it on the matters that were of grave concern, and had asked the Council to engage the Committee on the six issues that the Chairperson of the Council had referred to.
He was concerned about how the Chairperson of the Council addressed a Member of Parliament. The Council of the University was a body established by law – it was answerable and accountable. The attitude seen here was that which displayed an impression that the Council could not be held to account, or that Parliament had no right or duty to invite it to come and account. This was extremely disappointing, and the Committee could see that it was dealing with an issue of attitude here – both the Chairperson of the Council, and the Council itself, seemed to be undermining the role of Parliament.
It was the first time he had experienced a public official coming to Parliament and saying that they would not account.
Mr Ngcobo said that the MUT had been called to the Committee to come and account, and it would come and account. If the Council refused to do so, the Committee would devise other means for the Council to appear. The Council had not been called here to talk to Dr Malaza, but to provide Members with an understanding of the issues that were happening at that institution. The MUT had been in a mess for a long time, and it did not belong to the Council but to the citizens of this country.
The Chairperson of the Council had no right coming here to tell Members that he would not engage with them in the presence of Dr Malaza. Members had a responsibility, and that involved everyone who needed to be held to account to account.
Mr S Tambo (EFF) said that if the letter that was circulated by the Committee Secretary had been sent out much earlier, Members would have got a sense of what to expect and the type of person they would be dealing with. There was a genuine impression that MUT had been constituted to secure positions for people, rather than to exist in the interests of the people. This was what inspired the Chairperson of the Council to behave like this, and for his Council could determine who could give presentations to this Committee. No one was forcing the Council’s Chairperson to engage with Dr Malaza here -- in fact, it was worrying that the he was so reluctant to be in a space where his own narrative or presentation may be contradicted. No one had said the Members would discuss the suspension of Dr Malaza -- that was never intended -- but the Council had taken a presumptive posture that their narrative might be compromised, and they had to go back and caucus. This was extremely wrong, and it must be condemned.
There was an Ubuntu Business Advisory and Consulting (UBAC) report that was instituted by former Minister Pandor, which had suggested that the Council be dissolved. He believed that the attitude from today must support that stance. The Committee needed to consider how it would manage the attitude of a Chairperson of a Council. Its oversight role and capacity had been undermined. If the Chairperson of the Council left here today without accounting to Parliament, the Committee might as well accept that it would be dictated to by people who thought that public institutions were constituted to serve their interest.
Mr Letsie also agreed that the attitude of Dr Morailane confirmed the things that the Members had read about what was happening in the MUT. He had read the letter referred to by the Chairperson, and said the sixth point in that letter was extremely worrisome, because the Council was telling them that if they allowed Dr Malaza to participate here, they would not participate. They wanted to participate on their own terms. Clearly, the allegations that had been levelled against the Council must have some weight or truth to them. That institution was not their Spaza shop, and if they fled the meeting, he proposed that the Committee recommend having the institution placed under administration.
If this was the attitude they had towards the Committee, one wondered how the Council treated its students, students’ representative council (SRC) and members of staff. They must continue with the meeting, and if they did not participate, the Committee should recommend to the Department to have it placed under administration.
Ms Mkhatshwa said that there was a document compiled by the Department that tracked the state of higher institutions during Covid-19. This institution had been in the red until about August, then it gone into amber and in October they had gone into green. This document was compiled in January, and the Department could assist Members by telling them what the current state was now. From analysing this document, it seemed like the MUT would be ending its academic year by the end of March.
It was puzzling how the leadership was reluctant to engage with the Committee while leading an institution that was performing poorly. It was also puzzling why the leadership would not want the Members to understand its dynamics in order to assist in drafting recommendations that would resuscitate the institution. The MUT needed to fulfil its mandate, and this attitude was exactly the hindrance and stifling element that made it difficult for black students to receive an education and become active participants in the economy.
The Committee had already wasted much of its time trying to make the Chairperson of the Council understand the purpose of this meeting. This was the very first time a Chairperson of a Council had displayed such level of disrespect and undermining of Parliament.
She agreed that the meeting should continue as planned. This conversation needed to end immediately, because the delegation was not here to talk to each other, but to them as Members of Parliament.
Ms C King (DA) said that the Committee would be failing in its mandate if it did not hold this institution and its officials to account. There were serious issues happening at this institution and Members were not on a witch-hunt, but were trying to understand and get clarity on what was going on there. There had been four administrators the MUT and this clearly showed why, based on the attitude of the Chairperson of its Council. They should proceed with the meeting, and then at the meeting on 24 February they could report back to Council and to the Committee if the delegation felt it needed to address the Committee further.
The Chairperson welcomed the comments made by Members, and said it was a unanimous decision to proceed with the meeting. The Committee would open the platform to Dr Malaza to have an opportunity to speak. The Chairperson of Council would account here today, and the meeting was proceeding. Council had to account to the people of this country and to Parliament.
Dr Malaza would also account here today, as the suspended Vice Chancellor.
If the Chairperson and his delegation felt that they were above the law – they were more than welcome to leave the meeting.
Yesterday the country had received the State of the Nation Address (SONA) from the President. This would be debated in Parliament, and the President would need to come back and respond to the issues raised. He said that Dr Marailane was not above the law, but if he felt he was, he was welcome to leave the meeting, but would have to come back to Parliament to account. Every public office bearer was required by law to come and account to Parliament.
The meeting would proceed as planned. The Committee was aware that it had made a serious oversight by not extending the invitation to the SRC to come and present the students’ perspective.
He asked the MUT to commence with its presentation.
MUT briefing on governance and other related matters
Dr Marailane expressed his concern about being called arrogant, and hearing the threats from Members to have the Council disbanded.
He took the Members through the presentation, commencing with the structure, or organogram, of the Council and management.
The MUT had been established 40 years ago by Chief Mangosutho Buthelezi and Mr Oppenheimer to address technical skills that the KwaZulu homeland needed.
As a result of this establishment, they had a legacy that was unique among the universities in South Africa. They were located in a township with no land to provide appropriate higher education facilities such as lecture halls, laboratories, libraries and student housing, befitting a modern university. They were a stand-alone university that was not touched by the recommendations of the National Working Group (NWG) that was appointed in March 2001 to advise on the restructuring of the institutional landscape of the higher education system. They had historically offered only undergraduate qualifications, but had recently begun to offer some post-graduate qualifications.
This legacy impacted on the prospects for growth into a 21st century institution that would take its students into the new world of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the Internet of Things. Given this legacy, they were eager to engage with those who were interested in assisting them to solve their problems.
In terms of enrolments by major areas of study, it had the highest proportion of students registered in science, engineering and technology (SET) of all the universities of technology (UoTs) and of all the universities in KwaZulu-Natal. The MUT had the second highest undergraduate pass rate (degree credit success rate) of the UoTs.
In terms of student funding, 69% of MUT students received National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) funding. Three-quarters of MUT students stayed in residence. Of those in residence in 2020, 18% were in university-owned accommodation.
The MUT was unable to grow its subsidy by increasing its student enrolments significantly. There was no space to accommodate more students, and very little land suitable for building.
Mr Phumzile Masala, Deputy Registrar: Policy Development and Secretariat, took over and presented the status report on the forensic investigation by SNG-Thornton in 2020.
(See presentation for details)
Prof Marcus Ramogale, Acting Vice-Chancellor and Principal, presented on progress in the implementation of the recommendations contained in the UBAC forensic investigation report that was released in 2016, and reflected what had happened since that time. The report had been released on 29 July 2016. It had recommendations against the former Vice-Chancellor, Prof Mashupye Kgaphola, who had already left MUT, and specific staff members -- mostly members of senior management.
The MUT had appointed Macgregor Erasmus Attorneys to provide a legal opinion on a possible course of action. The first legal opinion, presented to Council on 28 September 2016, had been based solely on the attorneys’ reading of the UBAC forensic report. The legal opinion recommended specific actions to be taken against former Vice-Chancellor Prof Kgaphola and specific staff members.
Mr Mike Naidoo, MUT Registrar, presented on progress with the implementation of the 2018 independent assessor’s recommendations.
Dr Johan van Koller, Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Resources and Planning, presented on the progress in the filling of vacant senior management posts in 2020. The executive and senior management structure was comprised of 21 positions, with eight currently vacant. Six of the vacant positions were currently being recruited.
Ms Malindi Xala, Acting Senior Director: Operations, presented on progress with the infrastructure rollout. A list of completed infrastructure projects since 2018 to date showed that the institution had spent R279 million. She touched on the status of abandoned projects since 2017, while current projects had a commitment of R296 million.
She concluded her presentation with the challenges on infrastructure development, which included procurement issues; the impact of the national lockdown; the non-availability of decanting facilities; work stoppage by business forums; bulk sewer requirements; and the lack of the University capex budget.
Dr Morailane concluded with a request to the Committee for assistance on moving forward, and said it could assist by ensuring that NSFAS made upfront payments on time and released outstanding funds soon after universities opened; by arguing that historically disadvantaged individuals (HDIs) should have an opportunity to redress the historically low level of their tuition fees; to get the bulk infrastructure approvals from the eThekwini Municipality speeded up; and with legislation that would allow public-private partnerships (PPPs) on university land, especially to deal with student housing.
Suspended Vice-Chancellor on state of governance and management at MUT
Dr Duma Malaza, MUT’s suspended Vice Chancellor, took Members through the presentation and touched on compliance with the pillars of governance, the conclusion of the forensic Investigation by the Council, the disciplinary inquiry, and the state of management processes, conclusions and recommendations.
Regarding the failure by Council to provide good governance, the MUT had been put under administration in 2008, and there was no meaningful change/transformation achieved. The administrator had worked collaboratively with the Council to fix the governance problems. The UBAC Report of 2017 had outlined serious violations of governance principles by the Council, with the Chairperson and the Deputy Chairperson engaging in irregular procedures. There was no punitive action taken, and no policies or rules to prevent future governance violation had been developed.
The independent assessor report of 2018 had found that a dominant Chairperson of the Council dominated the Registrar, and a Chairperson of the Council with a judgment against him remained the Chairperson till today. There was a failure by Council to hold management accountable in a fair and transparent manner. It focused on operational issues, and there was an active involvement of members of Council in procurement processes. The findings and recommendations regarding these interventions were largely not addressed or implemented.
(See presentation for details)
Oral briefing by Students’ Representative Council
Mr Mthokozisi Gumede, SRC President: MUT, said that an opportunity must be provided for student leaders to have an input in these platforms. From the students’ perspective, there were a lot of issues and discrepancies that required attention, such as the cash flow problems the university was experiencing. A decision had been made by the ANC to shut the institution down.
People had been suspended while their cases dragged on for a long time. Suspended people were receiving benefits while on suspension, and this contributed to the MUT’s cash flow problems
He wished the Committee had invited him much earlier in order to ventilate these matters further.
Oral briefing by NEHAWU
Mr Linda Nzama, of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU) at MUT, was also given an opportunity to highlight some of the issues that were affecting the staff at the institution. He said that most of these issues were operational in nature, where management tended to take decisions that actually affected the members of the staff without informing them. The challenge was about taking decisions as management, and Council encroaching on the decision-making autonomy of management. If he had had the opportunity to prepare, he would have prepared a presentation outlining all the issues.
Mr Letsie felt that the matter between the Council and the university’s management was a classic case of two bulls in one kraal. This was a fight of egos – fighting over the resources of the institution, which were not even meant for them. Serious allegations were being made against one another.
A had been written to the Minister in August last year. The Minister had mentioned that the Department was applying its mind on the best decision to take going forward. He asked the Department whether it was convinced that the institution would rise out from the governance and management issues on its own, without invoking Section 49(B)(1) of the Act.
He also asked the institution the same question.
He suggested that Members visited the MUT to conduct oversight, but security must be present.
He appealed to the institution to report to the Committee on progress on the matters raised, particularly with the implementation of the recommendations and the findings of the forensic reports.
He proposed that it should be recommended that the MUT be placed under administration.
Ms J Mananiso (ANC) condemned the behaviour exhibited earlier on by the Chairperson of the Council. This behaviour had to be condemned and must not happen again.
The Minister in his letter had described the MUT as an institution that was in deep trouble. Members needed to ascertain what recommendations or findings of the forensic investigations had been implemented so far. Everyone who was implicated in any corrupt activities at the institution must pay back the money when found guilty.
Mr Tambo also extended his apology for the oversight by the Committee to send out an invitation to the students and NEWAHU to come and join the meeting. It had really missed out on important contribution, because these were the stakeholders who were affected by the decisions taken by management and the Council.
Firstly, he asked about the construction of new laboratories. Members had been told that there were business forums that were stopping the construction of the student centre. Who were these business forums, and why were they doing so? Secondly, what contingency plans had been put in place to ensure that this was stopped? It was puzzling how business forums were involved in the developmental prospects of an institution with its own procurement processes. What work packages were they demanding, and on what legal basis were they making these demands?
The refurbishment of air-conditioners and ventilation seemed to be on hold indefinitely until a service provider could be appointed. This was a project that had to be prioritised, considering the Covid-19 environment that people, and particularly students, were living in.
Was the Council trying to suggest that all the uncertainty and instability around the management problems confronting the MUT had not had an impact on the infrastructural development at the institution? Had they not affected the fluidity of operations at the institution? Who did the audit and procurement teams account to in the midst of all these battles around the forensic reports?
He asked the Chairperson of the Council whether he did not think all these issues had impacted on the fluidity of the institution. The frequent use and presence of forensic investigations suggested to Members that the high level problems in management were hindering development.
Further, if it was the case that the issues were not going to be dealt with any time soon, no stability would be seen at the MUT. What were they to do, because all this suggested that there was still a very long road ahead?
There had been no progress report on the infrastructure development projects at the institution. This was extremely problematic. What guarantees were there that there would be stability going forward at the MUT?
He now understood -- after the presentation -- why the Chairperson of the Council had such an attitude towards engaging with the Members, because there was nothing good happening at the MUT. It was spiralling out of control.
Mr Ngcobo suggested that the Committee conduct an oversight visit to the MUT. He asked about the Chairperson of the Council’s term, as he had been reappointed again and again, but there had been no improvement in the university’s performance. The assessors’ reports had outlined adverse findings about him. One could not have a Chairperson of the Council implicated in a number of allegations.
There had been several interventions during the term of the Chairperson, and there had been serious allegations of violation by the Council and the Chairperson engaging in irregular procedures. Perhaps the Committee needed to take time and look into these allegations and probe their contribution to the current state of the institution.
The Chairperson of the Council had had a judgment against him, yet he had become the Chairperson again. These were some of the issues the Committee needed to get into much more deeply.
The SRC President had mentioned that there an amount of R500 000 that was being earned by people doing nothing. It had taken so long for the Council to resolve the matters leading to the suspensions. The disciplinary hearings were yet to commence. and it seemed that the delays were deliberate.
He asked why the executive positions had not been filled since 2017.
Why had the Council immediately resorted to the suspension of the Vice Chancellor when he had complained about how the Council was making his job difficult? His removal seemed like a witch-hunt, unless Members were furnished with clear reasons why this had been done. The Vice Chancellor had alleged that he had not been furnished with documentation to use or submit during the disciplinary hearings.
The Committee needed to visit the MUT as a matter of urgency.
The Chairperson said that the Chairperson of the Council had not made a good impression on the Committee when he wanted to determine the content of the Committee’s agenda. It had later come out in the submission of Dr Malaza that it was a characteristic that was displayed in the Council. This left Members with no option but to say that the Chairperson was the central paradigm in the collapse of governance at the institution. Maybe the issue was that he had been in this position for the third time or fourth term. When it came to this point, the best thing one could have done was to leave the position.
The MUT was a public institution, and 61% of its funding came from appropriations voted on by Parliament. Therefore, it was a public institution, and it was not a private company. Members had been told today that the Chairperson of the Council was implicated in forensic reports. This may be a matter that needed to be looked into more deeply. It was much clearer that the Chairperson of the Council was the central part of the problems at the MUT. Perhaps he needed to reflect on his presence at the institution and ask himself whether his presence was adding value to the institution or subtracting from it.
The Committee might make a recommendation to the Minister to appoint an independent assessor, or place the MUT under administration, because the lack of such interventions would continue to cripple this institution.
The interference of the Council in the decision-making of management was extremely concerning. To save this institution, perhaps it would be best if the Chairperson of the Council tendered his resignation and allowed others to make their own contributions. It may be time for him to move on with his life.
It seemed that the Vice Chancellor got suspended when he complained. No investigation had been conducted into the conduct of the VC, or a formal process which would legitimately lead to his suspension. He got suspended when he complained.
The intervention was critical as it was possible that the academic year may not be completed in March. All other institutions had completed their academic year.
He handed over to Ms Mkhatshwa to act as Chairperson, as he excused himself.
Ms Sibiya said the MUT was experiencing serious challenges, and the Council did require assistance from the Committee. The Registrar was allegedly mismanaging the academic structure of the institution.
Mr B Yabo (ANC) asked the Council to furnish a cradle-to-grave report on how it ran its procurement processes. These public institutions were not meant to be the personal fiefdoms of Councils and management, but were meant to serve the people of South Africa.
He also emphasised that when people came to Parliament, they should stay away from thinking that they could take advantage of Parliament or disrespect it.
The Chairperson of the Council had to really look within himself and perhaps consider whether he was making a valuable and substantive contribution to the MUT.
Ms King said a lot had been said, but her concern was the preparation of the institution for the 2021 academic year, seeing that the exams would be completed on 26 February. If the delegation provided the Members with some assurance on how it was planning on dealing with the challenges at the institution, this would have assisted them.
She suggested that the MUT provide the Committee with a proper plan on what it would do going forward, instead of a plan on how the Council it would respond to the investigations, so that Members would be assured that it planned to address the challenges at MUT.
The Minister should really get involved, and a consultation with the Council of Higher Education (CHE) should be set up to discuss the effectiveness of the Council and the Senate. Clearly, the governance matters were going to be constrained going forward.
The ICT system of any institution was critical, so how strong was the ICT system at the MUT? If it was weak, it would affect important aspects, such as registration and NSFAS payments, amongst others.
There was no plan from the Council about increasing its revenue stream going forward. The institution could not merely depend on the Department’s grants alone. The squabbles going on affecting the running of the institution were critical, and there was a lack of a credible plan put on the table for Members. The best solution would be to ask the Minister to intervene and put the Council under suspension and appoint an administrator for a period of six months. After six months, if there was no improvement, then it would be best to either close this institution or merge with another institution that would be capable of running it.
Ms N Tarabella-Marchesi (DA) was concerned the Minister and Deputy Minister were not present, because it would have been very helpful for Members to get their views on this matter.
It would have been profitable to get information on how the university was going to navigate through this Covid-19 period and ensure that the infrastructure was suitable to adhere to the Covid-19 regulations.
Dr Morailane said many matters had been raised during this engagement. The institution could get out of this hole, and there were a number of things that had already been done in this regard.
To the Council’s knowledge, there had been no impact on the students as a result of the fights in the Council, notwithstanding the allegations that had been made here.
The process of recouping money from service providers was under way, but some of the funds may not be recouped. However, this matter was being dealt with through legal processes.
The Council had written a letter to the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee when the administration was appointed, and had requested the Committee to visit the MUT. Indeed, the Committee could come through to the MUT, and a detailed presentation could be made at such a time about all the aspects of the institution.
Council had adopted a procurement policy that gave the Vice Chancellor full authority on all procurement processes, with a single proviso that he had to report to Council after awarding the procurement. The Council did not get involved in procurement matters, although the previous Council had been. Anyone who claimed that the Council got involved was not telling the truth.
He had joined the Council only in 2014, and had served the first four years which ended in 2019, and he was now serving the last two years of that term. He had been elected Chairperson of the Council three times, but during this period there had been expiry of terms, so in essence he had served as Chairperson of Council for only four years. There were people who have served for more than 15 years in other areas. There was no rule that precluded him from serving as many times as Council deemed he should.
The university could not respond to the allegations that were made by the Vice Chancellor. Council had taken a decision to appoint an independent forensic entity, SNG Thornton. He was uncertain why there had been suggestions to appoint another independent body. It was through that independent body that the disciplinary actions that were taken by Council had been implemented. He was uncertain why this was considered necessary, when it had already been done.
He was unhappy with the statements made by the Chairperson of the Committee, and hoped that he got all his facts straight before making startling allegations. The Members had been misinformed about the Council refusing to engage with the Committee. The Committee had requested the Council to come, and it had come and provided all the information. It was not true that the Council had wanted to collapse this meeting -- in fact, it had wanted to assist this meeting to achieve its objectives as communicated in the letter. The Council had been not told how the Committee worked and what its processes were, except that participants were at risk and their voices were stifled.
The Council had employed the VC and given him what he wanted to know. In its view, the Council felt the meeting had been designed to give the VC a platform make unfounded allegations that he had failed to make in the Council. The VC’s input was a self-congratulation and the peddling of lies. The Council had been given a list of issues that needed to be addressed, but it should have been invited to come and defuse the lies that the VC was allowed to peddle. There had been the appointment of an independent forensic investigation, so why should another one be appointed?
New allegations had been made at this meeting, and these could not be responded to here. The fact that internal stakeholders were invited to come and make assertions would only be indicative of a meeting that had a particular outcome in view. The conclusion made about him was based on allegations by one individual whose allegations had not yet been tested. However, the conclusions had been made and his name had been dragged through the mud.
The Council had been asked to make a presentation, and that presentation had been second-guessed. The Council had acted within proper morals and ethical standards, but they had still been questioned. All the data it had provided was true, but today it had been questioned. He took umbrage at being accused of wanting to take control of resources, as it created an impression that he was corrupt and it was based on no evidence. He did not take lightly to these allegations.
The Acting Chairperson interrupted him, because Members were interjecting on points of order.
Mr Ngcobo said that Members had never been disrespected in this manner before. For Dr Morailane to say that the Committee had a predetermined outcome for this meeting was an insult to the Members.
Mr Tambo echoed Mr Ngcobo’s comment that for Dr Morailane to say that this meeting had a predetermined outcome was out of order, and undermined Parliament. He had to learn to control his emotions when he was being held to account.
Mr Letsie also agreed with the previous Members and suggested that if he refused to withdraw, he must not continue engaging the Committee.
The Acting Chairperson said that the Committee had been accused of being a bully. It was unanimous that his tone and insinuations were not welcomed by Members, particularly the assertion that the Committee had a predetermined view on the outcome of this meeting.
She asked Dr Morailane to be mindful of his tone as well.
Dr Morailane said the issue he had serious problems with, was the Members’ insinuation that he was corrupt, and that he should not be expected to respond to that.
The Acting Chairperson asked Dr Morailane to withdraw that comment, because the Members’ view on him was based on the engagement that had taken place in this meeting. Their attitude towards as solely informed by his engagement with them at the start of the meeting.
Dr Morailane withdrew his comment.
One of the Members had made a statement that when the visit to the MUT was made, there should be security provided because people were being killed in fighting over the resources of the institution. His name had been mentioned in that context. He was also a citizen, and he should be protected, and such statements should not be made by Members of Parliament because they created a bad impression.
He would exercise his mind on the call for his resignation. He felt that he was not in a position to resign.
Mr Oupa Galane, Deputy Chairperson of the Council, clarified that some of the issues presented to the Committee were not correct. Firstly, the UBAC report did not mention the Chairperson of the Council. The report had been conducted to investigate the previous Chairperson, Council and Vice Chancellor. It did not touch on the conduct of the current Council and executive management.
It was not the Chairperson who had suggested that the VC must be suspended. It had been a resolution taken by the Council after a robust engagement. The implicated individuals had been excluded from that meeting because they were implicated.
Thirdly, the issue of Council wanting to intervene in operational issues involving procurement was not true. It was the current Council that reviewed the procurement policies of the institution, and it was the VC who was responsible for the procurement processes. The Council only received a report on these matters.
The current Council made sure that all the policies were developed to govern the university going forward, and to avoid non-compliance with its policies.
Prof Ramogale responded to some of the questions, and corrected that the perception that the university would not finish its academic programme. He said the MUT was finishing its academic programme at the end of this month. At the moment, the academic staff was concluding the learning and teaching.
On the issue of the university being closed at the end of the month, the Council wanted to propose a review of the academic year. The plan was to start the academic year in March, but unfortunately NSFAS had told the institution that it did not have the funds. Accommodation for students and all other costs would need to be paid, so Council had thought it would be prudent to start the academic year in April. This suggestion came from the Department when the MUT wrote to it outlining the issue of funding from NSFAS.
The biggest challenge arising from the Covid-19 pandemic was the resources. Most of the students were NSFAS beneficiaries, and they were still waiting for laptops from NSFAS. Internally, the university had procured laptops for students that were not supported by NSFAS. Hopefully, when the academic year commenced, these laptops would be available.
He said Dr Malaza had made some serious allegations.
The Acting Chairperson interjected, and asked for the responses to those allegations tobe provided in writing.
Ms Xala said that historically, the two projects that were halted had been due to business forums stoppages. These were Umlazi Business Forum and the Amadela Ngokubona Business Forum. They would come to the university and stop all work happening at the construction site through intimidation until a percentage of the work was allocated to them.
When she joined the MUT, there had been a project steering committee already established that involved representatives from the business forum and ward councillors. With the committee, there was now a platform to engage the business forums on potential opportunities that they could get involved in. The team had ensured that engagements involved the ward councillors as well as community representatives to ensure that the demands of the community were communicated. They were now involved in one of the projects – the fencing project -- and it had gone well without any interruptions.
The Acting Chairperson appealed to the delegation to be mindful of the time, and if any questions were not answered, they should ensure that written responses were provided to the Committee through the Secretariat.
Dr Malaza said that various mechanisms had been suggested in this meeting that needed to be looked at, to ensure that the institution rose above the challenges. Secondly, the credibility of the SNG investigation was in question, because the terms of reference of the investigation were not decided on by the Council, but by the project manager in the office of the registrar. Thirdly, the methodology that had been followed by SNG throughout the investigation had resulted in information not being sourced from reliable documentation and sources.
Mr Gumede said that these matters had frustrated students. There were many matters that remained unresolved and not attended to, such as funding matters, post-graduate studies and accommodation. These matters had been raised with management, but nothing was being done.
There was a lack of academic transformation, and the content of the curriculum was not satisfactory. The university Council had to take critical decisions on these matters, and a permanent structure needed to be constituted in order for the student body to raise its issues.
In the midst of these fights, the students were ones who were suffering the most.
Mr Nzama indicated that NEHAWU was covered for now, but it would like to engage with the Members when they came for an oversight visit.
Ms Thandi Lewin, Chief Director: Institutional Governance and Management Support, Department of Higher Education and Training, said that the DHET had listened carefully to all the information provided. The team would go back and advise the Minister on these matters. The Minister had engaged with the Council on many of these matters, and would continue to do so. An opportunity for the Minister to brief the Committee on this should be provided.
The Department did engage closely with MUT on many of the matters that had been referred to, particularly the recommendations that came from the forensic report. An impression should not be created that the Department was not doing anything to assist the university. It had now established a task team to deal with the matters crippling it.
The biggest challenge was that the university had faced many interventions before – it was a complex situation. The Minister had to take into account many factors.
The Acting Chairperson concluded that Members were unanimous that the Minister must consider invoking section 49B (1), to place the university under administration. Members also resolved that the university must report to it on a quarterly basis to monitor progress in bringing the institution to a point of stability, in order for it to execute its academic mission.
The issues raised by both the Council and management, Dr Malaza, workers and students, indicated challenges that required an in-depth process that would ascertain whether there was merit in them or not. Members would consider engaging the Minister and the Department on this matter further, and would interrogate the forensic report and progress reports on the implementation of previous investigations and the recommendations of the independent assessor.
The next sensible step was to engage the Minister on the next level of intervention.
The meeting was adjourned.
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