SMU Vice Chancellor Inquiry

Higher Education, Science and Technology

17 August 2021
Chairperson: Ms N Mkhatshwa (ANC) (Acting)
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Meeting Summary

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The Committee resumed its oversight inquiry into the appointment of former University of Venda Vice Chancellor, Prof Peter Mbati, in Part A: University of Venda inquiry. Two witnesses came before the Committee to submit statements, namely Mr KK Maimela and Ms Noluthando Pendu

Mr Maimela’s statement touched on information about the Task Team and its role. It also detailed what the Task Team reported and advised the EXCO on, on 10 April 2015. It touched on the Council’s concern about the legality of the Commission on Gender Equality (CGE) report, taking the CGE report on judicial review; if Prof Mbati utilised the University resources to defend himself; ratification of the Task Team recommendations; and the CGE investigative report. 

Members asked the first witness, Mr Maimela, about the role of the Task Team; details of the legal review of the CGE report; if the Council engaged sufficiently before making a decision about taking the CGE report on review; knowledge of the sexual harassment policy; if the subcommittee of Human Resources of Council did enough to review the policies of the Institution; if it considered amending the sexual harassment policy to close the apparent gaps at the time; sexual harassment case involving Prof Mbati; and if Prof Mbati used the university resources for his personal legal battles. 

Ms Pendu’s statement disputed claims made by Prof Mbati against her. The first response was about fraud charges; reasons behind expulsion; and Prof Mbati’s behaviour. 

Members asked the second witness, Ms Pendu, if she qualified for the position she was appointed for at Univen; if she was headhunted and details of her relationship with Prof Mbati; if there was corruption or maladministration taking place with the graduation of students and if she would be willing to assist in an investigation about these claims; where the allegations of her incompetence came from; if she could provide proof of her qualifications; and details of maladministration and corruption by Prof Mbati.

The Committee concluded day 10 of part A of the inquiry, and Members were requested to submit views on the matter to the secretariat as it prepares to do its report.

Meeting report

The Committee Secretary welcomed everyone present and asked the Committee to elect an Acting Chairperson. Members appointed Ms N Mkhatshwa (ANC) to chair the meeting.

The Acting Chairperson thanked the members and conveyed condolences to the families of honourable Mthokozisi Nxumalo (IFP), who was part of the Committee, and honourable Lulama Ntshayisa (AIC)  who recently passed away.

The Acting Chairperson noted the deployment of Mr Philly Mapulane (ANC), the former Chairperson of the Committee, as the newly appointed Deputy Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies. She said the Committee lost a very strong and dedicated member. The Committee is grateful for the strides he made during the short time members worked with him. Members must collectively commit, as members from different political parties, to ensure the progress achieved during his leadership is not lost.

The Committee was now on day 10 of the inquiry into the appointment of Professor Peter Mbati, former University of Venda, Vice Chancellor, and today the Committee will proceed with Part A of the inquiry. The Committee will receive statements from Mr KK Maimela, who is a former Council Member at the University of Venda (Univen) and former Chairperson of the Human Resources Committee (HRC) of the Council. He also served on the Task Team which was appointed by Council.

The second witness is Ms Noluthando Pendu who is the former Higher Education Management Information System (HEMIS) officer at Univen.

Witness – Mr KK Maimela

Mr K Maimela took Committee Members through his statement and touched on information about the Task Team and the role of the Task Team. He detailed what the Task Team reported and advised the EXCO on, on 10 April 2015. It touched on Council’s concern regarding the legality of the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) report; taking the CGE report on judicial review; if Professor Mbati utilised the university resources to defend himself; ratification of the Task Team recommendations; and the CGE investigative report.  

See attached witness statement

Discussion

The Acting Chairperson asked if it was fair for a person looking into this matter to be part of the Task Team, if the person was also a member of Council. She asked if there was a need for an external view or an external person to be in the Task Team, instead of members of Council.

Mr Maimela said it was the late Mr Masego and himself who were appointed to the Task Team. He did not believe there was bias. Looking at the report, it was open for people to join the Task Team. He said they were fulfilling a fiduciary duty, so it was important to take up the task given by Council.

The Acting Chairperson asked about the advice given by Mr Maja on the legal review of the CGE report. She asked if Council had sufficient room to engage on the advice given by Mr Maja or if Council took the decision without engaging on it, as the Council ought to.

Mr Maimela said it was done based on leadership directive, and it was engaged on by EXCO and Council.

The Acting Chairperson said the CGE report says the matter of the settlement was brought by the University and its lawyers, but in Mr Maja’s statement it is said the settlement was proposed by CGE’s lawyers. She asked who proposed the settlement.

Mr Maimela said he would like to say Adv Edward Lambani, as the Director of Legal Services at the University of Venda, might have been the one who dealt with this and will talk to the settlement issue.

Mr T Letsie (ANC) said he wanted to follow through on the timeline of the sexual harassment case. On 1 November 2011, Prof Thidziambi Phendla was dismissed from Univen. On 3 November, the first Lavery Modise report was issued and Council received it; this was two days after Prof Phendla was dismissed. In June 2016, between five to seven months later, Mr Modise issued another mediation report at Council’s request, to clarify certain issues. On 5 July 2016 Masego attorneys were asked to provide an external legal opinion on the sexual harassment case against Prof Peter Mbati, former University of Venda vice-chancellor. Minutes of the Council, dated 4 September 2015, speaks about Council’s decision to settle the matter out of court. During the previous testimony, all chairpersons of Council, from the time the sexual harassment case was initiated, all denied knowledge and involvement in settlement offer discussions. After the Masego report of 5 July 2016, Council had a meeting on 8 July 2016 and the minutes of the meeting indicate numerous interesting facts. The minutes state the Council of Univen agreed there was a consensual sexual relationship between Prof Mbati and Prof Phendla. Council agreed to accept the Lavery Modise and Masego Attorneys findings. The Council accepted three specific findings, which were:

  1. Professors Phendla and Mbati had a consensual sexual relationship with each other.
  2. There was no basis to the complaint by Prof Phendla about being sexually harassed by Prof Mbati.
  3. There was no prima facie case of misconduct and the matter was to be closed permanently.

Mr Letsie asked if this was how Mr Maimela remembered the chronology of events as a member of Council at the time.

Mr Maimela said he remembered some of the issues which were part of the Council meetings.

Mr Letsie said the same minutes dated 8 July 2016 were only signed on 6 September 2016. He asked why there was such a significant lapse in signing these minutes.

Mr Maimela said he was not able to answer this.

Mr Letsie said this late signing of the minutes leaves room for one to suspect something “fishy” was going on. He wondered if these minutes were authentic and said it was confusing because no one can explain why it was signed so late. The minutes reflect the parties involved in the sexual harassment case were not a part of the meeting. He asked why the parties, whom a finding was accepted on, were not part of the meeting which made the finding on them.

Mr Maimela said the second Modise report was overtaken by events because Prof Phendla was already dismissed and was no longer covered by the university policies. Secondly, on the findings, it was incorrect for Council to entertain the matter of Prof Phendla because she had to rely on the external remedies by virtue of not being covered by the university policies.

 Mr Letsie asked if the Masego Attorneys referred to was not the same Mr Masego who was now late and was the member of the Council.

Mr Maimela confirmed it was not, but said he would verify this information and verify if the men were related. This is something supply chain would have to comment on but in the deliberations it would have come up as a matter of conflict of interest.

The issue of the settlement was managed by the legal services of the University. He is only aware of the settlement due to the information in the minutes and through doing through the paperwork of this case.

Mr Letsie asked if it was not brought up during Council meetings.

Mr Maimela said this matter occurred long before he started at the University and bits and pieces of the information came through various channels.

Mr Letsie was not pleased he could not remember if the matter was discussed in a Council meeting.

Mr Maimela said he was appointed in 2014 and these issues preceded him, it was not because it stopped when he was appointed. This case was attended to by the legal services of the University.

Mr Letsie said he had possession of minutes where a decision was taken by Council, but former members of Council have come before the Committee claiming to have no knowledge of the settlement, yet the settlement appears on one of the sets of minutes of Council. He went back to the policy on sexual harassment, specifically Section 5.2.2; and asked if Mr Maimela was aware of it.

Mr Maimela confirmed he was aware of it and the relevant section.

Mr Letsie asked who the appropriate person was to make a finding about a prima facie case of misconduct being present or not.

Mr Maimela said the last time the policy was reviewed was in 2012, and it had no provisions on how to engage or discipline an executive such as the Vice Chancellor (VC). The Director of Human Resources (HR) did not know what to do because it was the VC who was implicated in this matter, and the policy was not clear on how to address a matter of misconduct implicating the VC.

Mr Letsie asked what steps HR took to address this matter.

Mr Maimela said the policies would be reviewed by HR, but in its tenure, it requested to have a workshop, which was compromised of officials from the University and some Council members who had the expertise to look into it. As for Section 5.2.2, there was an oversight function looking into how any issue involving the VC or the Deputy Vice Chancellor (DVC) should be handled by the Director of HR handling the case.

Mr Letsie said during tenure there were allegations made against the VC but he could not be charged due to the gap in the sexual harassment policy. He asked if Mr Maimela, as the Chairperson of the HR Committee in the Council did not see it fit, because there was a gap, to strengthen Section 5.2.2 and 5.2.3, as the director was basically a gun without a bullet. He asked if Mr Maimela, in retrospect, thought the HR Committee could have done better on this matter, and he asked what HR tried to do to address the gaps of policy which presented itself.

Mr Maimela said the Committee did its best to deal with policies but Section 5.2 was a broad clause. It might need to be amended to take into account the handling of the issues involving the VC. When the Committee starts encountering issues around a specific matter, the policy is consulted to see what can be done to resolve the issue.

Mr Maimela said the Committee saw gaps in various policies and advised to make sure the policies were reviewed based on the gaps identified. There was a workshop held to give advice on closing the gaps in these policies. In the workshop there were about 20 or 25 policies looked at, and all the ones thought to have gaps were looked at too. It was advised for these to be reviewed. The workshop was for all policies, and the Committee reviewed these policies based on the input made during the workshop. The workshop was not only for a specific policy or clause.

Mr Letsie asked if there was a different procedure or disciplinary code applicable to the Vice Chancellor or senior manager at the time Mr Maimela left.  

Mr Maimela said he did not recall a certain policy specifically dealing with the Vice Chancellor, or a Chief Executive Officer, or Senior Manager.

Mr Letsie said when arriving at the institution, Mr Maimela was appointed as a Chairperson of the HR Committee of the Council, which was one of the big portfolios of Council’s subcommittees. There was a big issue hovering over the Council and there were gaps in crucial policies identified, but none of this was done by the time Mr Maimela left.

Mr Maimela said he was pleased he made a contribution by the time he left, even though he was only there for one term.

Mr Letsie said there was a witness who came before the Committee and said it was the responsibility of Council to investigate any misconduct by the Vice Chancellor. He asked Mr Maimela if he agrees with this statement.

Mr Maimela said the VC reports to Council and he is appointed by Council, hence it is the responsibility of Council to deal with matters which concern the VC. There are certain matters Council cannot deal with, such as his payment of salaries, but it must be specified which issues Council deals with regarding the Vice Chancellor.

Mr Letsie said he was finding it difficult to accept the response. Council needed to do its job by investigating to ascertain if there was indeed misconduct. A member of the Executive laid a compliant and Council failed to investigate the complaint against the CEO. The HR Subcommittee ought to initiate a process to ensure a policy which deals broadly with such matters is developed. Mr Letsie said one cannot look at specific cases. One must talk about a policy which covers broadly, because tomorrow it may be a senior manager or someone else in the Council. This would then necessitate a development of a policy to address the identified gaps in the sexual harassment case and it would be applicable to everyone who is implicated.

Mr Maimela agreed about it being the responsibility of the Council to deal with the complaint laid against the Vice Chancellor.

Ms J Mananiso (ANC) asked Mr Maimela about his understanding of the policy at Univen at the time, and said it seems he was familiar with the policy, but noted HR is the custodian of policy development, and planning and evaluation. She asked Mr Maimela to indicate if Council dealt with the matter in the interest of the University or in the interest of the individuals involved.

Mr Maimela said during his tenure Council had to make sure it improved the human resources aspect of the University. A proposal was made to workshop policies governing the institution and this workshop took place. There were various stakeholders involved in this process and it was done for the institution, not for specific individuals.

Ms Mananiso asked Mr Maimela if as the person in the HR space, he understands the importance of the HR unit in an institution. She asked if he does not think this case exposed the reluctance of the Council to deal with those in higher positions.

Mr Maimela said at times there are benchmarks in organisations and this type of case may provide the kind of benchmark which might be needed in the future. It shows something was being done about this matter.

Ms Mananiso asked him to define Prof Mbati’s leadership.

Mr Maimela said it would be very broad and from the HR perspective he would want to describe people based on the work the person did, and not the person personally. He said he looked at it strategically and was innovative in identifying ideas for people to buy into to accomplish the innovation.

The Acting Chairperson asked when Mr Maimela served Council and the Task Team.

Mr Maimela said he received a letter of appointment around December 2015 and the Task Team was convened immediately after council members were appointed. This was around November or December 2014, in his absence. He was later informed he had to be part of the Task Team by virtue of being the Chairperson of the HR subcommittee, and the late Mr Masego was appointed as the chairperson of the Task Team.

The Acting Chairperson asked Mr Maimela to confirm if the matter of the settlement was still being discussed on 8 December 2016. Secondly, she asked if matters relating to the settlement would be brought to Council for discussion.

Mr Maimela said he was still part of the Council then but he was not privy to the issue of the settlement and he was not involved. All he knew was Adv Lambani was dealing with the matter. Generally, it would be the case to bring the settlement matter to Council.

The Acting Chairperson asked for his personal view on the use of monetary settlements in disputes.

Mr Maimela said he had different views because it would depend on the merits of the case.

The Acting Chairperson asked why Council took a decision not to defend the second Modise report against the call by Professor Mbati to have it reviewed, bearing in mind the very same report assisted Council to make a finding of permanently closing the complaint of sexual assault. She asked Mr Maimela if he found there were inconsistencies by the Council in dealing with the sexual assault matter. A decision was made to exonerate Prof Mbati but the very same report used to exonerate him, was not defended by Council in court.

Mr Maimela said in any situation one would find one could have done better. Maybe review could have been an academic exercise, but surely a little bit more could have been done.

The Acting Chairperson asked Mr Maimela how Mr Maimela thought this happening again could be curbed in the future. Secondly, she asked if the decision of the Council to exonerate Prof Mbati should still stand or be rescinded, considering the report it based its decision on was set aside by the court.

Mr Maimela said generally it is important for all parties to fully understand the terms of reference to deal with the situation. Secondly, the stakeholders involved in this matter would have done due diligence on the issues, and he did not have expertise to comment on what could have been done differently.

The Acting Chairperson wanted clarification regarding if Prof Mbati utilised university resources to settle his personal legal battles.

Mr Maimela said, regarding the terms of reference, the Council was investigating if the VC used the university resources for his legal battles. There was no evidence of misuse of university resources for his personal legal costs. There is no certainty if there was a use, but there was no misuse.

The Acting Chairperson said when going back into the previous page of the statement, there was an attempt to initially engage the CGE in its report and then Council would subject it to judicial review. She asked what the stance of the Task Team was on the CGE report, regarding the judicial review.

Mr Maimela said for the Council it was best to have the CGE report taken on judicial review, based on the sentiment it shared for this kind of investigation.

Mr Letsie asked if it was the Council’s decision to take the CGE report on review.

Mr Maimela said, looking at the statement, it was Mr Maja, the former Chairperson of Council who authorised the CGE report to be taken on review. There was a letter from the Chairperson attached to the documents submitted.

The Acting Chairperson thanked Mr Maimela and said any remaining questions and responses will be conducted in writing through the secretariat.

Witness – Ms Noluthando Pendu

Ms Pendu read out her statement, which disputed claims made by Prof Mbati, about her. The first response was about her appointment into the position of HEMIS officer, fraud charges, reasons behind her expulsion, and Professor Mbati’s behaviour.  

Discussion

The Acting Chairperson thanked Ms Pendu for her testimony and said Mr Madzibanani (unidentified) told her Prof Mbati instructed him to headhunt Ms Pendu. She asked if this means Prof Mbati believed she was fit for the job, and asked when she initially started. Secondly, she asked how Ms Pendu’s working relationship with Professor Mbati was in the initial stages of her time in the institution.

Ms Pendu said there was an email Professor Mbati wrote saying he saw the reasons behind her non-appointment, but Mr Mugwebi must make sure to advertise the position to suit the necessary candidate with the necessary skills. When Ms Pendu got there, the relationship was good but it later changed and she did not know why.

The Acting Chairperson asked what could have degenerated. She asked Ms Pendu if she would say it was her activism which could have caused the relationship to degenerate.

Ms Pendu said it was her activism through the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU), because during the meetings there was disagreement with what management was saying. She recalled when she made a statement during the negotiation of salaries and requested a breakdown of expenses for senior managers of the institution, including for Prof Mbati. It was found he spent R960 000 on SNT and Ms Pendu said she enquired about this. She believes it was the questions she asked which placed her in Professor Mbati’s bad books, and refusing to approve the staff association which was there at the time. When she arrived at the institution, NEHAWU was not a majority union and it was not recognised, but the regional office did write to Adv Nemukula for the recognition agreement of NEHAWU and ensured the Union was represented in the Council.

She also heard she was not performing, which was not written to her. It was merely a rumour instigated by Professor Mbati. She asked the internal auditor Mr Ramawa, who knew what she was doing, about why there was a rumour about her not being able to do the work. She has been doing HEMIS since the year 2000. Some of the things she was doing was uncovering things and raising questions.

The Acting Chairperson said in the written statement on page 2, paragraph 3, there is mention of various forms of maladministration on registration and graduations, which is extremely alarming. She asked if Ms Pendu believes there was corruption going on in the awarding of degrees in the University, and if she would be in a position to assist any investigation in this regard.

Ms Pendu said although not every student was part of this it was happening in the Human and Social Sciences faculty. She also indicated she would be happy to assist in any investigation.  

The Acting Chairperson asked how she discovered such an irregularity.  

Ms Pendu said it was due to the nature of the work she did through validations, which had to be conducted for students who were graduating. During validations, she was able to pick up if the student had all the credits required for graduation and when the student registered. There was a student who registered in 2015, but the student did not appear on the Higher Degrees Committee and never presented to the Faculty Board, yet the student was awarded 75%. This student had only registered once in 2015. This was a part-time student and the nature of the work would not have allowed the student to study for only one year.

The second student related to a PhD graduation, but this student submitted to the Higher Degree Committee. This student was supposed to graduate in September but graduated in May. This student had links with Prof Mbati, and he called for the student to be added to the graduation list.

The Acting Chairperson asked where the allegations of her incompetence came from or if she would say the allegations came from the fact she was doing her job and making discoveries of maladministration. She wanted to know which part of the graduation directly impacted Prof Mbati.

Ms Pendu said Prof Mbati was responsible for the PhD student graduating because he called her colleague and the colleague confirmed it was Prof Mbati who gave the instruction for the student to be included on the graduation list.

For the Social Sciences faculty, when she enquired from the Deputy Director of exams, he said the instruction came from above, but the name was not mentioned. The only name mentioned was a person with close ties to Prof Mbati.

The Acting Chairperson asked what Ms Pendu did with this information.  

Ms Pendu said when she discovered these acts of maladministration it was around the time of the HEMIS audit, and the report made these findings too, but she was uncertain what happened.

The Acting Chairperson asked whose responsibility it was to oversee graduates’ information before students graduated.

Ms Pendu said the challenges were with the post-graduate students because these students had to present to the Higher Degrees Committee, the Faculty, and the Promoter.

The Acting Chairperson asked if there was any progress made in relation to these allegations by the time Ms Pendu left the institution.

Ms Pendu said, no.

The Acting Chairperson pointed to page three of Ms Pendu’s statement and asked about the allegations against her on the forging of the certificate and misrepresenting a qualification. She wanted to know what the difference was between these.

Ms Pendu said she wrote on her CV that she had a diploma in practical bookkeeping but she has not received her certificate and she has been going back and forth about this with the Institution, to get her diploma. As for forging, this is taking someone else’s certificate and writing your own name on it.

The Acting Chairperson asked if she eventually found her matric certificate.

Ms Pendu confirmed she found her matric certificate but she had to reapply for it because it had been lost. As for the diploma, Damelin has been giving her a hard time, and this diploma she completed in 1993. This was indicated in the application.

She provided her matric certificate to the Institution during her appointment, along with her academic record from Unisa, where she did Public Relations.

The Acting Chairperson asked why Ms Pendu could not provide proof of the short course she did with Damelin, but all other documents she provided to the institution.

Ms Pendu confirmed she never forged any certificate and all relevant documents were submitted to the Institution upon her appointment.

Ms Mananiso asked about the sexual harassment policy and how familiar Ms Pendu was with it.

Ms Pendu said she was not familiar with it, and as a unionist, the Union was marginalised at the Institution.

Ms Mananiso asked what she would say about Prof Mbati if she was asked to talk about him.

Ms Pendu said the good thing about him was he was a visionary, but he would often manipulate the systems at the Institution to suit his desired outcomes. When she spoke to him about the lack of unions in the Institution, he would only entertain the conversation at his own benefit and would not include the unions in the discussions, but would invite members of NEHAWU for engagement without a formal invitation to the Union itself.

Ms Mananiso asked her to share with the Committee the requirements of the position she applied and was appointed for, as it was advertised.

Ms Pendu said she could not recall very well. It was either a three year diploma or N+3.

Ms Mananiso asked if she met the requirements as advertised.

Ms Pendu said she did not meet the requirements because she was still studying, but she did possess the required skills needed for the job. Prof Mbati had written to Mr Mukwedi to say the Institution needed her, as she possessed the required skills.

Ms Mananiso asked if she agreed or disagreed with the notion she was not appointable.

Ms Pendu said she would not say she was not appointable because of the skills she possessed. She had done the work since 2008 and she had always done her work diligently.

Ms Mananiso asked what role Prof Mbati played on her appointment.

Ms Pendu said Prof Mbati played a significant role because he wrote the email which led to her being headhunted for the position.

Ms Mananiso asked how familiar she was with the process of whistleblowing at the Institution.

Ms Pendu said there was a whistleblowing hotline but it never went any further than this. The staff would not even think about using it because there was nothing anonymous about it.

Ms Mananiso asked if this was raised in a formal meeting with management.

Ms Pendu said this was raised in one of the meetings and there was no confidentiality about the whistleblowing hotline. The Registrar said the Institution cannot allow anyone to just express themselves.

Ms Mananiso asked Ms Pendu about the grounds for not renewing her contract.

Ms Pendu said she was not on contract, she was permanently employed. She was charged with fraud but it was nullified at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA). There was a declaration saying it remained non-disclosed because both parties were not on the right track.

The Acting Chairperson asked for confirmation about NEHAWU being in support of Professor Mbati serving another term.

Ms Pendu said NEHAWU was against Professor Mbati serving another term because of his abuse of power, maladministration, and the personal use of the legal services of the Institution. Regarding maladministration for example, there were Univen Innovative Growth Company (UIGC) funds which were meant to develop the University. These funds were transferred to the UIGC. During this period the Institution engaged with Dr John Mudau who said there is a farm under UIGC and a travel agent, as well as a mining company. Ms Pendu said she was told this was for the University and the generation of funds, and the Vice Chancellor was part of it. The Union refuted this saying the Institution was not a profit making company and the funds should be used for the benefit of the University and the students.

The Acting Chairperson asked about the sentiments of NEHAWU regarding the sexual harassment matter.

Ms Pendu said NEHAWU is opposed to any form of Gender-Based Violence and sexual harassment. At the time NEHAWU was still under marginalisation and it was not recognised as a union in the institution.

Mr Letsie asked what UIGC is.

Ms Pendu said it is Univen Income Generation Company for the University. It operates within the University and it had its own director, Dr John Mudau, who ran all the income generating projects. There was a time when there was a fight about the cleaners and security personnel on campus. This was placed under UIGC because the Institution claimed it did not have money, but the money would come from the University and there would be money transferred from UIGC to the Institution. It was a very unclear situation.

Mr Letsie said the Committee was not against universities pursuing third income streams, especially the historically disadvantaged universities. This is something the Committee would need to look into by inviting Mr Mudau.

He asked for details on what happened after the CCMA matter.

Ms Pendu said she was really fed up of what was happening at the Institution and resigned. However, during her notice period which was a month, she was charged with fraud because of the certificate. She then went to the CCMA and won the case.

Mr Letsie asked about the disciplinary processes which were carried out during the month she was serving her notice. He asked if she found it strange to see all these processes were concluded within a month.

Ms Pendu said she was not very surprised because she knew when Prof Mbati pinpointed you, there is no going back. There are people who are frequenting CCMA since 2015, and the University keeps changing lawyers. There are two people she knew, and the other has won the case. The University was ordered to pay but the Institution was now challenging this.

Mr Letsie said this needed to be followed up by the Committee. It looks like the University resources meant to be utilised for students were being used for legal battles.

He wanted to know how closely she and Prof Mbati worked and how the working relationship between the two of them was.  

Ms Pendu said at first she worked with him very well, but that was at the beginning. There were some meetings with her colleagues who queried her appointment, and she thought if there was such a query and Prof Mbati was the one who sent the email for her to be headhunted, he would protect her, but that did not happen.

Mr Letsie asked what happened after winning the case at the CCMA.

Ms Pendu said because she had resigned she did not go back even though the CCMA recommended she be reinstated, she did not want to go back.

Mr Letsie asked who signed the charge sheet.

Ms Pendu said it may have been the Registrar or Adv Nemukula, but she was uncertain.

Mr Letsie asked who made the allegations leading to the legal division charging Ms Pendu.

Ms Pendu said it was Professor Mbati who initiated or made the allegations against her.

Mr Letsie said the Committee was informed by Mr Makhado that he and Ms Pendu were targeted by Prof Mbati because of challenging the potential appointment of Prof Mbati for the third term.

Ms Pendu said this matter was discussed in NEHAWU with some of the members of Council who were members of NEHAWU. After this discussion, somehow Prof Mbati learned NEHAWU was opposing him serving a third term. This was opposed due to maladministration.

There were building projects within the University which were not completed and no one knew what was going on. There was also some money donated by Lotto to build a swimming pool. This swimming pool could not even accommodate the community. It did not meet the specifications of a swimming pool meant for students and the community of Thohoyandou.

He also had a very bad attitude.

Mr Letsie said in the statement it was alleged one student graduated without passing and was awarded a degree. She asked if Ms Pendu believed there was corruption in awarding degrees in the Institution.

Ms Pendu confirmed there was.

Mr Letsie asked what actions she took after discovering this corruption.

Ms Pendu said she informed her superior and the auditors.

The Acting Chairperson thanked the witness for her time and wished her the best of luck for future endeavours.

This session concluded day 10 of the Inquiry: Part A: Univen. The following day the Committee would continue with Part B. She announced the colloquium on the Institution’s autonomy which was set to take place on Friday, but would be postponed to 10 September 2021.

Members would have to send views on the Part A of the Inquiry, as the secretariat is preparing the Inquiry report.

The meeting was adjourned.

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