Follow-up engagement with CPUT on governance and related matters

Higher Education, Science and Technology

01 April 2021
Chairperson: Mr P Mapulane (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Video: Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Technology, 01 April 2021

23 Mar 2021

Current state of affairs of higher education sector: stakeholder engagement; Follow-up engagement with CPUT

The Committee met virtually with the Cape Peninsula University of Technology Council, the unions and the student representative council (SRC) to follow up on matters that came up in previous engagements with the university and its stakeholders, during which the stakeholders had expressed their experiences with management and how the Committee needed to intervene before the university was burnt to the ground.

The stakeholders – the National Insourced Workers Union (NIWU) and the SRC -- did not make supplementary submissions because they believed that since the previous submissions, nothing had changed at the university. Management was still unilaterally making decisions regarding members of the staff without engaging the labour unions on issues like salary increments. They also asserted that there was still a lack of honouring commitments by management. Council was constantly failing to discipline the Vice-Chancellor, and as result, labour had lodged an application for a legal protest. NIWU warned that another shutdown was on the cards.

The University Council apologised for its no-show at the previous meeting, but denied the allegations of arrogance and refused to be held to account, arguing that it did not have enough time to prepare for the meeting, to which it had been invited at short notice. Although, Members were not pleased with the no-show, the apology was accepted by the Committee.

The presentation of the Council covered the Yekiso and Moerane Commissions; governance-related matters, and resignations of previous chairpersons of Council; the Council’s response to the 20 demands by students; responses to all other listed student demands; responses to the unions and students’ presentations; academic matters, and the way forward.

Members asked whether there had been engagements between the SRC and management on the tuition fee increments; how much was spent on renovating the Freedom Square, and who had approved the payment for the work that was done and monitored the project; if management had implemented the Council resolution to engage the SRC on tuition fee increments; and whether the suspension of students had resulted from the recent protests.

Meeting report

Opening remarks

The Chairperson said the Committee was meeting with the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) and all its stakeholders in a follow-up session. There had been suggestions that the Committee should visit the university, but it could not do so during this recess period. It was meant to meet with the university last Tuesday, but it had failed to turn up. The Committee had received a letter on the Monday indicating that it would not be able to attend. The Committee had sent the letter the previous Thursday, and in its letter the university had argued that this was short notice. The Committee did not welcome that reason, as this had been a follow-up meeting to get feedback and responses in order to craft a way forward. It was not pleased that it was informed that it was short notice when the meeting was merely a follow up.

Subsequent to that, the Chairperson had received a phone call from the Vice Chancellor tendering an apology for the absence. It sounded sincere and he had accepted it, but that apology still had to be submitted to the Committee. He had also spoken to the Chairperson of the CPUT Council, who had expressed his willingness to come before the Committee and clarify the issues, as well as getting the matters resolved.

The Chairperson had also received correspondence from the student who claimed that the situation at the university remained the same, and urged the Committee to have the meeting to ventilate these matters.

The Committee had written to the stakeholders requesting supplementary submissions. There was a supplementary submission from the university and from one of the unions.

The Committee would now take the supplementary questions.

From the previous engagements, what had emerged was that the relationships were at their lowest ebb amongst the stakeholders. The Committee was interested in how the university would attend to the matters that had been raised by the stakeholders in a more substantive manner, and devise a way forward.

Discussion

Mr W Letsie (ANC) said he was not pleased with the manner that the university management and Council had dealt with the Committee. They had been playing cat and mouse with accountability. There were accusations that the Council was micro-managed by the Vice Chancellor and that it behaved like a sub-structure of the Vice Chancellor’s office. This became evident during the previous engagements with the Committee. It looked like the person who did not want to come before the Committee was the Vice Chancellor. This was the same Vice Chancellor who had written to the Speaker of the National Assembly, complaining about how the Chairperson had treated someone else from another institution, but he could not come before the Committee to account himself.

CPUT Student Representative Council (SRC)

Ms Nonele Ganyile, SRC Secretary General, CPUT, said the SRC had taken a resolution that it would not make a supplementary submission. Issues at the institution had worsened, with no willingness from management to attend to them. The SRC was indirectly undermined because management had already sat and taken resolutions about whatever they would be presenting before the Committee. They knew this because it had been the modus operandi, where management would sit and take decisions, and when they went to meetings they were informed of the decisions which had been taken and they would claim that they had had a meeting with them. The issues of the students had not changed -- things were still the same.

National Insourced Workers Union (NIWU)

Mr Yiza Maphukatha said that the unions would not make any supplementary submissions because things had not changed and were still the same. Management had informed the unions only that there would not be an increase.

Last night, the unions were also called, but they were not having it. The lack of honouring commitments by the university had become a norm. It was high time that the Vice Chancellor was disciplined. The VC had dismissed two chairpersons, and those chairpersons had won their cases and the VC had been ordered to reinstate them, but he had not done so.

He emphasised that the situation was extremely bad, and labour might soon to go to the streets to protest. The unions had given management enough time to heed its demands and requests. Organised labour had made applications for a legal protest.

Last night, there had been demonstrations at all the CPUT campuses. Management and Council could not come before the Committee and claim that everything was going well, because that would not be true, as could be seen from the demonstration of the students. Workers were going to take to the streets soon on the salary negotiations. As labour, they had given them all the time to address concerns. Just recently they had come back with nothing. They were stating on the record that they were going to stop everything at CPUT, because things were getting worse.

The Chairperson said that the Committee had received a supplementary submission from the Cape Peninsula Union.

Cape Peninsula University Employees Union (CPUEU)

Ms Yeouculte Choma, Representative, CPUEU, refuted the legitimacy of the expulsion of the two chairpersons of unions who had been charged for allegedly leaking information related to the psychometric test results of the candidates contending for the VC position. Her presentation outlined the timeframes of the events and allegations on how management had concocted these allegations to get rid of the two chairpersons. She also argued that the allegations on leaking the psychometric test results were not linked to their expulsion or dismissal, as these allegations had come after the matter had already gone to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).

The Chairperson thanked the stakeholders for their input, and said the CPUT Council and management would now present to the Committee.

Briefing by CPUT Council

Adv Zuko Mapoma, Chairperson of Council, CPUT, apologised to the Committee for not attending the meeting of 23 March, and said this had not been deliberate. There was a Council meeting which was taking place on the Saturday and the invitation from the Committee had come on the Friday, and the Council still needed to engage on the matters. The concern of the Council was that there had to be proper engagement on the matters, and it was indeed short notice because it needed more time to prepare in order to present a substantive briefing to the Committee that responded adequately to all the issues that had previously been raised.

Council had no reason to pretend that it did not want to come, and it was clear about its responsibilities as they pertained to accountability. However, if Council and management had come across as described by Members, it was with deep sadness and regret.

The presentation covered the Yekiso and Moerane Commissions; governance-related matters, and resignations of the previous chairpersons of Council; Council’s response to the 20 demands by students; responses to all other listed student demands; responses to the unions and students’ presentations; academic matters; and the way forward.

The recommendations made by the Yekiso and Moerane Commissions included:

  • Student amnesty
  • Student residences and accommodation
  • Freedom of expression
  • Ombudsman’s office
  • Labour relations
  • Management
  • Climate and culture studies

[See presentation for details on these recommendations, Council’s responses and resolutions].

Some of the student demands included, but were not limited to, the abolition of students’ suspension since the #FEESMUSTFALL protests and in the period of the current VC in office; the immediate resignation of Dr Nhlapo, Ms Prem Coopoo, Mr P Du Plessis and Prof. M Moll; a charge against the Council Exco of gross negligence and dereliction of duty with intent, and a call for the immediate declaration of Exco as delinquent directors; the immediate removal of all “trigger-happy” private security companies from all CPUT campuses; a request for more shuttle buses and the in-sourcing of transport; a demand for the university to restart the tender process for cafeterias; and for the transformation policy to be thoroughly implemented, amongst others.

[See presentation for more details]

Adv Mapoma responded to the assertions made by the labour unions. In social discourse, there was an inherent dialectic tension that arose, with parties not finding each other. The Council was comfortable that the process had been followed and there had been constant consultation with the unions. The Council had received reports that there have been cordial engagements with the unions intended to find common ground.

With regard to the presentation that was made by Ms Choma, this was an issue that related to employees who were dismissed over misconduct. During the process of the recruitment of the VC, the unions had participated in the selection process, but it had come out that the psychometric tests results had been leaked to the external environment. The Council took a decision to set up a team that would facilitate the appointment of an independent investigator. It was important for the Committee to take note that the current VC was one of those persons whose personal information had been leaked outside. The Council then took a decision that at all material times, when this matter was dealt with, it would exclude the VC from the deliberations. He assured the Members that whenever this matter was dealt with, the VC was not involved.

The investigator was procured and had come with a report that pointed fingers at the individuals of the unions who had sat in those selection committee meetings. Those members were charged and were found guilty, and recommendations were made for dismissal and they were dismissed. They had gone to the CCMA, and the CCMA had ruled that two of these members must be reinstated. The university took a decision, having considered how the process went at the CCMA, in light of the irregularities that had occurred, to take the matter on review. These matters were now on review. The CCMA, or the members involved, had then gone to the university with a writ to attach items when there was a pending review application. That application had been opposed successfully – the issue of attachment was taken to court, and the court had ruled in favour of the university. At the moment, these matters were pending the outcome of the review process.

The Council had a duty to ensure that there was accountability and the view was that these colleagues who were dismissed had been dismissed through the right processes. This was to ensure that there was accountability, and the Council had a duty to ensure that there was stability in the university. There was no injustice involved in this matter, and the Council had testified that this was a matter of employer/employee relationships, and it was being dealt as such.

The intention of the Council was to do what needed to be done to preserve the bona fides of the university. He assured the Committee that the Council was here with an open mind and to receive whatever critique the Committee deemed necessary in order to take the university forward.

The Chairperson said that he did not quite understand why the VC was not included in briefing the Committee, because there were matters that were reported by Council which had been dealt with by management. For example, the unhappiness of the unions regarding their engagement with management should have been addressed by management. The Council may have encroached on operational matters that were within the purview of management. Nonetheless, he thanked the Council for its presentation.

It remained a conundrum why the stakeholders were still unhappy when management and the Council presented a rosy picture. Why were the students still raising issues if things were going accordingly at the university? This remained a concern.

Vice-Chancellor’s comments

Prof Chris Nhlapho, Vice Chancellor, CPUT, commenced by explaining the absence of the board and management from the meeting. He said it was not intentional, but a decision of Council on how it could put its best foot forward in representing the brand of the institution well. There might be a negative perception that was created that management and Council did not want to account, but that was not the case.

With regard to the unions and his involvement, these matters had emanated from the recruitment process, and he had not been under-handed or participated in the deliberations leading to his appointment.  Grade 1 to 4 positions were the Council’s purview, and he had been one of the candidates. He did not have a clue about some of the matters that had been raised implicating him, because he was on the other side. Management would always ensure that it would engage with the Committee and the stakeholders of the university in good faith.

Discussion

Mr S Tambo (EFF) expressed his appreciation for the university’s apology for not showing up. It needed to ensure that this did not happen again, because it now encroached on the parliamentary recess. He urged the university to act on labour-related matters and the in-sourcing of transport services, as it would be costly in the immediate future for there to be further delays.
He impressed on management and the Council to review that perspective, because outsourcing was a parasitic labour policy, which was adopted by people who had no vision for the sustainable internal capacity of the institution. It was adopted by people who did not want to have a direct relationship with the interests of workers. For example, at UCT when the regime of outsourcing was introduced under Mamphele Ramphele, her basic logic for outsourcing during engagements was that it was easy to deal with workers when they were outsourced. It was a desire to not be responsible for the labour force. In the long term, it was better to in-source, even in terms of costs.

He commented that students kept on complaining about the issues, but the institution kept on presenting itself as delivering. The problem with bureaucracy was that they were out of touch with the realities of the students on the ground. With that said, his main point of contention was the university’s conduct in responding to disciplinary matters and student protests. This institution lacked the political capacity to resolve conflict that related to the demands of students, such as accommodation, historic debt and student safety on campus. It seemed there was always a budget to hire private security companies, which also tended to be tinged with a lot of corrupt activities.

The Committee should not accept the ‘’unjustified’’ process of suspending people on campus, including the dean and the VC. An institution in South Africa had to be able to address the conflicts and protests for basic demands and needs, but not at a punitive level. Some of these students who protested for the clearance of debt and other matters were already people who were in the system, so one could see that there was no malice. They were sacrificing their degrees and their livelihoods for the benefit of the majority and others, yet there was such a hostile attitude towards people who were showing selflessness, humanity and consideration for other people. One needed to think about discipline from that level, and it was unacceptable for two people to decide these people must be removed from the institution, ending their prospects of getting employment and subjecting them to poverty. The Committee must impress on the institution to embark on a process that was not punitive in terms of dealing with student activists. There were people whose lives had now been brought to a halt because they had dared to demand dignity for other people. There were student leaders and SRC members who were now subject to staying at home for being selfless enough to fight for others. The tendency to appoint private security to fight students must come to an end. If there was money to pay for private security, it could be better utilised to assist students with their needs.

Mr Letsie said the VC may claim to be a humble person, but all the assertions made by various stakeholders were pointing in an opposite direction – everyone saw him as a different person.

He suggested that the Council had to be advised to engage with stakeholders at the CPUT. The stakeholders had claimed that they were engaged only in anticipation of the Portfolio Committee meeting. They were refuting the claims by Council that there was ongoing engagement with them.

He asked the management and the SRC if management had engaged with the students before increasing fees for the 2021 academic year, or if the engagement was done after the fees were increased.

How much was spent on renovating the Freedom Square, and who had approved the payment for the work that was done? Who had monitored the Freedom Square project?

The Deputy Vice Chancellor (DVC) had informed the Committee that the relationship between the university and the Council was fine, but what the Committee heard from the stakeholders was a complete contradiction. Who was not telling the truth on this matter?

He asked the VC if management had implemented the Council resolution to engage students before increasing tuition fees. What had the Council done regarding the management’s failure to engage students on the increase in fees?

It had been reported that there was a strike currently happening on one of the campuses, and that this had happened due to a lack of communication between the Council, management and the students.

He appealed to students that when they were protesting, to keep away from destroying the little infrastructure that universities had. Students must stop destroying property when they were protesting, even when there was a demonstration against management, as they needed to ensure that it did not affect the students in turn. There had been a pregnant student at CPUT who could not have access to an ambulance because it could not get in due to the strike that was happening.

Ms N Mkhatshwa (ANC) said it was unfortunate that the institution had to be summoned to appear before the Committee. However, beyond CPUT, one had great concern about the attitude of the institutions in the sector that came before the Committee. It seemed that walls were being put up to prevent Members from doing their job. This attitude lacked foresight in terms of understanding that if there was no cooperation amongst all the stakeholders, including the legislature, it would prove difficult to meet the mandate of the sector. However, the apology was noted.

She acknowledged the disjuncture amongst the stakeholders within the institution. She was concerned that the stakeholders at CPUT were not working together and there was no good faith amongst them. It seemed that there was a façade being presented, and there was no synergy amongst the stakeholders and the institution. What the students and the unions were saying did not match what management was saying.

Regarding the expelled and suspended students, was there confirmation that the students that had been suspended was as a result of the recent protests? She also asked for a breakdown of the demands that Council was responding to – were these ongoing demands, or just recent student demands? Were there any current demands from the SRC? Were there any outstanding demands or issues from the students?

On Council’s response to the student demands in relation to the pardoning of students that were involved in protest action, she said that if the State was able to pardon students involved in protest action, then Council should surely follow suit. There were concessions that management referred to in terms of processes that had to be followed, but could the SRC confirm whether the channels that management speak to were functional and available? Did the SRC find joy in what the management or Council was saying regarding this matter?

Management had indicated that it was requesting evidence as to why people had to resign -- had the SRC presented these to management?

Ms Mkhatshwa said the use of private security posed a great safety issue for students, because these security personnel had no conflict resolution skills and no sense of dealing with the students in a proper manner. This was not acceptable. It also did not allow for a proper learning and teaching environment for the students.

Many individuals in the institution did not feel safe. There were individuals in the Council that felt that there was no safe space for them to engage freely on the issues that were happening in the institution. Members needed to know what kind of environment was being created in the institution. Many of the stakeholders felt victimised and were operating in fear. The Committee was not on a witch hunt, but merely wanted to ensure that the challenges in the sector were resolved.

Ms D Sibiya (ANC) also accepted the apology from the University for not coming to the meeting. Of the 20 demands, management and the students should sit down and revisit the matter of the transport.

Stakeholders’ responses

Ms Choma said that the CPUEU was embarrassed by the Chairperson of Council coming before the Committee and saying that the two chairpersons had been found guilty of leaking information. Labour had a different view, and there would be evidence submitted to the Committee regarding the matter. The two chairpersons were not found guilty by the independent chairpersons of leaking information.

The Chairperson asked what they had been found guilty of.

Ms Choma said that she would not want to get into details, but asked the Committee to look into this matter and it would be surprised at the discovery, particularly with regard to the chairperson of the CPUEU. What she had been found guilty of had emanated after she was charged with leaking information. It seemed that the university was looking for something to get her dismissed.

Mr Mphumzi Biyana, Secretary of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU) at CPUT, commented on the presentation of the Council and said that the engagement with stakeholders within the university were very sour, and they did not link with each other. The Council did not have a grasp on issues at the institution. When the stakeholders met with management, it happened for the sake of meeting or communicated for the sake of communicating. They did not look at the depth of the issues that were meant to be discussed. Hence, all these matters had been brought to this Committee because there was no clear objective by Council or management when meeting with the stakeholders. They did so just to make their diaries look ‘proper.’

In 2016 and in 2019, there had been a commission to look at the relationship between the stakeholders. This had confirmed that there was a problem. There were persistent problems – this was the last resort, and the stakeholders had explored various structures in an attempt to resolve matters at the institution. They did not want a situation where the institution ended up closing down because students and stakeholders were not happy. He appealed to the Committee to intervene. The Council was micro-managed by the management of the institution. What had been reported to the Committee was merely a mirage or a cover up.

If he was the chairperson of Council, he would be honest about the challenges that were happening at the institution. It seemed that what the stakeholders had presented to the Committee had been overruled by what the Council had put before the Committee, implying that the stakeholders were not telling the truth.

Mr Maphukatha said that the Committee was sitting with a dilemma, where the stakeholders were saying one thing and the university -- through the Council -- was saying the other. There was no way that the majority of the stakeholders would come before the Committee and make untruthful utterances before the Committee. This institution was in crisis. At its first appearance, the NIWU had submitted ten pages of the workers’ demands, but the response from the institution had been a mere tiny report. This was viewed as an insult.

In the opening remarks, NIWU had indicated that the institution was not taking workers seriously. It was shocking to see a member of Council who was not in touch with the day to day operations of the institution reporting on issues that were happening daily at the university. Adv Mapoma had said in his opening remarks that it was a hearsay that Council was not holding management to account and that it played the role of a sub-structure of management. He emphasized that the VC micro-managed the Council, and whatever the Council was saying was what the VC had instructed the Council to say.

They had asked why the forefront of reporting on daily issues of the institution was done by Council, and not by management. He proposed that after the recess the Committee should visit the institution and physically see the presentation of management reflected in what was actually happening at the institution. Ms Liezl Groenewald, CPUT Council member, had claimed that all was well in terms of in-sourced staff, but where were the contracts of employment for in-sourced staff who had been in-sourced in 2016. These members of staff did not have contracts, and did not even have medical aid.

The stakeholders had not been furnished with the Yekiso Commission the report in its entirety. The majority of things that had been said were contained in that report.

Ms Ganyene commented on the tuition fee increments. At the last Council meeting in November; this matter had been presented before the Council by the finance committee (Finco). The SRC in that structure had rejected this increment and requested that negotiation take place between management and SRC to reach a consensus. The SRC had outlined a number of reasons, from the delivery of academic results, unequipped laboratories, the appalling conditions of residences, etc. and a decision was then taken by Council for management to engage the SRC further. Surprisingly, the SRC was called to a meeting a month later to be informed that the tuition fees had been increased. This meeting was a justification for the increase of fees -- there had been no negotiation at all. The SRC had rejected this meeting and closed it.

The SRC went to a Council meeting again on 20 March, and raised its dissatisfaction with management for failing to uphold the decision of Council regarding engaging the SRC. The Chairperson of Council’s ruling on this matter had no punitive weight or implication. The SRC put it emphatically before the Council that its considerations had not been taken into account.

She was disturbed by how Ms Groenewald had responded to the demands -- perhaps she was not talking about the demands that the students had submitted. It clearly showed that she was a Council member who was detached from the daily issues that were happening at the institution. For example, there was the issue of the library, when students had said that they needed a library that was operational 24 hours. The study area referred to was already operational -- this was a study area, and it was not a library.

She supported the idea that when the Committee returned from recess, it should come and visit the campus. The Committee must prepare itself to be deceived by management. The management had deceived the Council when it came to do a walk-about at the residences -- on that day, management had prepared itself extensively to discredit everything that the students had been complaining about. One would not even see papers lying on the floors.

With regard to the suspensions, the process of the hearings was not fair and the university would do anything to ensure that one did not come back. At the first appearance, the student affairs disciplinary hearing, the chairperson had been appointed by the Dean of Students, and was paid by the university. The Head of Department (HOD), as a member of panel, was also paid by CPUT, as was the prosecutor. During these hearings, there had never been a witness that was not a CPUT employee, especially when the hearing was about the student leaders. All the witnesses were CPUT employees. The Dean recommended to the VC that the student should be suspended – the very same person who appointed the persons who chaired the hearings. Once the recommendations had been sent to the VC, as soon as possible or in even less than 14 days, one must be charged. With the current suspensions, that had not happened. Even the appeal processes were not fair.

The CPUT hearings had been a charade, a disgrace and a slaughterhouse where student leaders were sent to be butchered and targeted to instil fear among those who thought they could stand up against the university.

She was surprised that the university claimed that it had paid all NSFAS grants from last year. This was not true. There were issues outstanding from last year that had not yet been resolved. Students were subjected to horrific conditions every year to register. It had become very unclear as to why students who owed over R100 000 in tuition fees but were passing were not allowed to register.

Mr Nanga, the SRC President, raised serious concerns regarding the Yekiso Commission. The Committee had mandated that the report be released. The chairperson of Council had then presented the report to Council, but it was not the complete report. The question remained, where was the rest of the Yekiso Commission report? Was the chairperson of Council saying that the only legitimate parts of the report were the recommendations presented today? At what stage had Council adopted this report? As far as the SRC knew, the Council had rejected this report as if it did not bear the signature of a judge. Lastly, how much had been spent on this Commission, which was now deemed not to have judiciary powers? In the previous engagement with the Committee, the Committee had indicated that it had the power to summon Judge Yekiso to come before it to present the report of the Commission, if the Council failed to do so. He asked the Committee to follow through on that.

Mr Sikelela Msizazwe, Secretary, CPUT SRC Bellville Campus, said that the dean of students and the VC were leading the institution, so that when students spoke out against the two, the students would be subjected to suspensions. Since the arrival of the new dean of students, all student activists who spoke for the students had been suspended and expelled, regardless of the merits of the case presented in the judicial committee. The judicial committee was biased, because whenever one raised facts and points one was deemed as unruly, and the prosecutor would always ensure that happened. He recommended that the suspension powers must be stripped from the dean of students and the VC. Students were often threatened and victimised. Last year, when there was student unrest, he had also received a warning letter that he had to stop using his freedom of speech and participating in student protests. What kind of leadership was this that did not allow proper engagement channels to be opened between management and the SRC?

Mr Sihle Ngxabi, deputy president, CPUT SRC, commented on the matter of cafeterias on campus. It had been reported that these were closed in 2019 for maintenance purposes, but these cafeterias were still closed and no maintenance had been done. The process of appointing the cafeteria owners had been halted when the SRC raised the point of demographic representation of the owners that would be running the cafeterias. They would like the Committee to ascertain why that process had been halted and seek an update.

In the previous meeting, it was recommended that the student centre as a whole be brought to the ownership of the students, because it was the students’ space and whoever was operating that space must be under the administration of the SRC. If needs be, the space must be rented out, but by the SRC to any outlets. Up to now, nothing had happened. He also supported the proposal that after recess, the Committee should visit the campus and look into this.

The Chairperson said that the matter regarding the increase of tuition fees was a new matter. It seemed like it was a serious issue, and the Committee would have rather appreciated a supplementary submission on this matter.

Responses
 

Adv Mapoma said that the Council had not attempted to present “a hunk-dory picture” of the institution. However, Council would respond in a manner that paved a way forward.

Mr Sonwabile Ngxiza, Student Counsellor at CPUT, said he was comforted by the appeal not to destroy public infrastructure. The amount of damage to property by students when protesting was quantified up to R110 million and this was money that could have been spent elsewhere for the benefit of the students.

Secondly, the Council appeared before the Committee for wisdom and objective intervention to do better. The declaration that there was a clear bias did not give confidence to assist the Council objectively on where it was wrong. The students and the workers were also not perfect, and Council would appeal for a balanced approach for the sake of the institution and its stakeholders.

Thirdly, the current SRC president was fairly new in his position and his input on the Yekiso Report was somewhat outdated. The reality was that the final Yekiso Report had been signed and deliberated upon by Council last year, and there had been legal advice not to release the entire report because it cited people’s names. What was important was to release the recommendations, which meant a way forward to bring stability and normality to the institution. This was what the Council had done, and this was not contested.

Council had argued strongly in its deliberations around the terms of reference for the disciplinary committees and appeals processes, and had decided and insisted that students must be involved in those processes. It was wholly inaccurate to say that the processes were dead-set against students and victimised them. The Council had instituted processes to ensure that there was a balance, and that everything was done on merit.

It was this Council that had written to the Committee inviting it, at its earliest convenience, to undertake a physical inspection and engagement with all stakeholders on campus in order to advise on a tangible way forward.

On the matter of suspension, some of the issues were fairly new, and the Council had not been updated on the merits of the cases.

Lastly, the private security had been appointed at a time when the institution was extremely vulnerable. Workers were also uncertain about certain things, and students were on the offensive and there were arson attacks on the institution. Buildings were being burnt on a daily basis and the appointment of the private security was a temporary intervention to protect the property of the institution.

In a protest that happened at a residence in Bellville, the safety of a residence coordinator who lived with his family on the property had been threatened.  What must the Council do in such an instance when the rights of persons were threatened? He urged the Committee to also look into this matter and verify it so that there was no argument for a blanket amnesty on certain matters. Specific issues had to be addressed on their own merits.

Prof Gilingwe Mayende, Deputy Vice Chancellor: Operations, responded that it was tough to find oneself having to call on private security to assist during student protests on campus. The institution was now rolling out a process to increase campus security, but the in-sourced security personnel still required more training on certain aspects. This would assist in slowly disposing of private security.

He acknowledged that the cafeteria issue had been under discussion for a long period of time, and the discussions that had taken placed involved various stakeholders. A sub-committee had been constituted to look into this matter. A procurement process had ensued and a service provider had been identified. This facility was now on the verge of being equipped and rolled out, and would be up and running around June/July. There had been some contestation by the students on this matter, which included the dietary provisions that were going to be made. The students had indicated that the menu must be African cuisine, to be in line with the bulk of the students on campus.

During the presentation, there had been reference to a number of forums that promoted engagement between trade unions and management. The most senior was the Management and Unions Committee, where trade unions and management discussed matters on a quarterly basis.

Below this forum was the Employment Relations (ER) forum, in which management and trade unions engaged at the level of human capital. ER issues were identified as a functional responsibility. This was the forum that he chaired. These ER issues were drilled right down to the specific issues, and a way forward was mapped out there.

There was a bargaining forum, which was a duly constituted structure in line with the provisions of the Labour Relations Act and other labour legislation. This forum was chaired by a member of the executive, and issues pertaining to salary negotiations were deliberated and then escalated up to Council for approval. The process of salary increments was currently underway, and they understood that there had been complaints about how slowly this process had gone.

The amount spent on the renovations at Freedom Square was R26 million.

The Chairperson interjected, and asked for a detailed submission in writing on this matter.

Prof Mayende assured the Chairperson that a detailed report would be submitted.

There were currently about 15 cases before the CCMA at the moment. Nine of these cases had been set for arbitration between April and July, and about six to eight of them had been settled outside the CCMA.

Employment contracts for in-sourced staff did exist and had been presented to the staff members concerned. However, the staff members had not signed these contracts for a number of reasons, and the most important had been medical aid. He was pleased to say that the medical aid matter was nearing resolution, and he hoped that in the next two weeks the matter would be resolved and finalised.

The Chairperson indicated that some of the information would be asked to be provided in writing, such as the matter about the Freedom Square and the unions.

Prof Nhlapo said the institution in-sourced close to 1 000 employees, such as cleaners and security personnel.

On the fee increment, fees were regulated, and while there were institutions that were charging very high amounts, CPUT was right at the bottom of the fees. The SRC was represented in the Finco, and when the deliberations on the fee increment were taking place, the SRC had been present. It was not true that there had been no consultation with stakeholders. Consultation had taken place and the final decision was then taken to Council for approval.

With regard to the meeting with labour yesterday, it had not been an attempt to cover up anything. The meeting had been convened merely to share the Council’s presentation for this meeting and inform labour on the issues that it would cover. This presentation was the eleventh version resulting from various engagements with the university’s stakeholders.

On the victimisation matter, this would be taken as homework, and management would reflect on this further.

On micro-managing the Council, he was the smallest person within the institution and he did not have the capacity to micro-manage the Council. This could be a matter of perception, but it would not be dismissed.

When he commenced his duty as the VC, management was not happy with the condition of all the cafeterias due to hygienic issues. The surveys had already been done for the menu, the tenders had also been concluded, and the remaining issue was now the fitment.

There were two properties that had been refurbished when he took office and they were not in good condition. The figures for Freedom Square were not adequate – the building was old and had not been properly maintained. This information would be given to the Committee in a detailed report.

In conclusion, the institution was financially viable, and was able to meet its obligations.

Regarding writing to the Speaker of Parliament, Ms Thandi Modise was the Chancellor of CPUT, and there were always ongoing engagements. He proposed having this conversation with the Chairperson offline.

Adv Mapoma concluded that the Council and management would refer to the concerns of the Members regarding the tenuous relationship between the institution and the stakeholders. This would be heeded seriously.

Chairperson’s comments

The Chairperson thanked the Council and the university. He was still unclear on the relationship between management and its stakeholders. The stakeholders were so emphatic on the state of the relationship with management. The Committee would like to request Council and management to attend to this thoroughly and substantively. The Committee could intervene, but the decisions regarding the institution had to be made by Council and management.

Contentious issues involving labour and the students had to be identified and assessed at the point of convergence and divergence. Part of implementing the Yekiso recommendations involved fixing the environment of the institution.

The issue about the expulsion of two chairpersons from the trade unions seemed to have various interpretations of the actual reasons as to why it had happened. The Committee would not like to interfere with labour processes. However, a detailed report on these expulsions should be submitted to the Committee detailing aspects of it and the current status. One received a sense from the unions that it was a contentious matter. There seemed to be a deep-seated concern by the unions that a lot of money was being utilised by the university to get rid of the union leadership by employing the services of lawyers, and a figure of R3.2 million was mentioned that had been spent on legal matters. This may not help in creating the necessary environment for good labour relations. The Committee would need a report on the expenditure on labour relation matters and disciplinary committee processes and investigations. The report should also include the matters in the CCMA and the labour court.

The Committee wanted the Council to review the processes it employs on disciplining the students. Members were certainly unhappy with this, and the students felt like they were being targeted. Students felt that too much power had been given to the VC, which in some instances made him a referee and a player. The process must be fair and it must also be seen to be fair.

The Council must create a democratic space in the institution. However, students did not have the right to damage the university’s property. This was working backwards, and students could not destroy the little that they had. Destroying the very same property that had been erected to serve them undermined the legitimate fight of the students.

He commented that the Committee had gone way above the time allocated, and the Council should note that there were submissions in writing that still needed to be submitted to the Committee.

The meeting was adjourned.
 

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