Mangosuthu University of Technology: Independent Assessor Report; with Deputy Minister

Higher Education, Science and Innovation

18 May 2022
Chairperson: Ms N Mkhatshwa (ANC)
Share this page:

Meeting Summary


The Committee met virtually with the Council of the Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT) and its Student Representative Council, the Department of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU), and the Tertiary Education National Union of South Africa (TENUSA) MUT branch to receive contributions on the independent assessor’s report on the university.

The Department provided an account of what had transpired at MUT, and the steps taken to investigate further allegations that had been made. MUT had been plagued by leadership, governance, mismanagement, and other challenges for some time, dating back to 1999 when Prof Kader Asmal had made the first appointment of an independent assessor for the institution. Since then, it was on its third independent assessor’s report. It was this report that Members expressed their support for and rallied behind, and questioned the Council of MUT as to why, in its presentation, it had focused solely on the earlier SNG report. The institution appeared to have ignored completely the findings and the recommendations of the independent assessor, which had recommended amongst others that the chairperson of the Council consider stepping down as the chairperson of the Council. Members expressed their full support for this recommendation. On the other hand, the SNG report was widely quoted and acted upon by the Council. This report happened to be the one that was procured by the Council from SNG. Members questioned the Council why it had implemented only the recommendations of the SNG report, and had ignored those of the independent assessor.

The Department confirmed that the MUT Council had submitted its response to the findings and recommendations of the independent assessor's report. It was awaiting the Minister’s consideration and response. The Committee asked to be furnished with the Council’s response and the Minister’s when it had been finalised. The Minister would be expected to brief the Committee on this.

The Institutional Forum lamented issues of governance, and how the powers of the IF had been unilaterally altered by the Council. It referred to inconsistency in the application of rules and how the Council overstepped its mandate. It further outlined the bad organisational culture, alluding to a lack of freedom of expression in the institution and the non-existent transformation agenda.

NEHAWU detailed in its letter to the Committee that some of the key issues in the institution included frustrations at the delay by management to make decisions; decisions were seemingly reserved only for the Council; there was nobody authoritative enough to monitor and enforce compliance of the Council except the Council itself; and when the Council was in breach, there was no mechanism for self-correction, except perhaps by the heavy hand of the Minister.

TENUSA was not pleased about the lack of consultation with stakeholders, and said the union was not appraised of progress in dealing with issues raised by numerous external reports; the acting positions in critical positions, such as senior and executive management, and how it weakened the leadership of the institution. The SRC expressed concerns mainly on issues around governance at the institution and funding.

Members questioned the alleged interference by members of the Council in operational matters; the implementation of the independent assessor's recommendations; the costs associated with the SNG report, and the legal costs associated with the suspensions and settlement agreements with officials; whether the institution had submitted its data for the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) close-out project, and whether the money owed by the institution to NSFAS was related to the close-out project.

Tension ran high as the MUT chairperson felt “ambushed” and the Committee took great exception to its objectivity being called into question. There were a plethora of manners in which this Committee was allowed to roll out the oversight function. No one should dictate how the Committee’s oversight work should be conducted. The Committee had tried its utmost best to follow up on issues of concern around the institution

The Committee said it remained committed to having the problems at MUT resolved and undertook to visit the university. The Department was asked to report quarterly and detail how it was assisting the institution to stabilise. 

The Committee supported the IA’s report. The Committee implored the Minister to fast track the consideration of the IA report and ensure the interventions to implement the renewal of the programmes of the university should commence. 

The Committee supported the recommendation of the multi-disciplinary task team, and implored the Department that through the multi-disciplinary task team (MDTT) to ensure that the people appointed within the institution to govern and lead it have the requisite skills for turning things around and strengthening the work of the institution. They wanted to see an accelerated turn of the tide. They could not sit back and be satisfied with the slow pace of change and transformation. They were going to support all the interventions that could assist in ensuring that they brought about the requisite skills within the institution in terms of governance and leadership

Meeting report

The Chairperson welcomed everyone, and indicated that the Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT) Council had been invited to brief the Committee on the independent assessor's (IA’s) report, and that various stakeholders of the institution would also make some submissions. The subject matter had been a matter of interest for a while now, and the Committee had previously engaged with the institution. The Committee had been concerned about the state of the institution, coming out of that meeting.

Deputy Minister's remarks

Mr Buti Manamela, Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Science, and Innovation (DHESI), said that the MUT had been plagued by leadership, governance, mismanagement and other challenges for some time. As a result, it had been the subject of several ministerial interventions. In 1999, Prof Kader Asmal had appointed an independent assessor for MUT for the first time. When it became MUT in 2008, Dr Naledi Pandor had appointed another independent assessor, which had led to the university being placed under administration and the administrator was later appointed as the Vice-Chancellor (VC) in 2010. The Council-approved strategy in 2020 was developed to improve accountability and attract and develop academics; produce quality teaching and research, and produce efficient and effective programmes for students.

In 2016, challenges emerged again, stemming from the precarious relationship between the Council and the senior management of the university. The issues were linked to allegations of interference by the Council in the management and operations of the university. Several senior officials, including the VC, were suspended. Towards the end of 2017, there were new signs of optimism. Regrettably, in 2019, the university found itself in another controversy linked to governance and management problems, with calls for the Council to be dissolved. Again, allegations were submitted by the VC related to the hostile relationship between the executive management and the Council, which emanated from alleged interference by some Council members in procurement processes. Allegations were also made against the VC and other members of the management. The latter developments followed a history of a contentious relationship between a chairperson and the VC, which was documented in the 2018 independent assessor’s report. For two years, the Department had been engaged with the Council of the institution to understand the complexity of the challenges confronting the university and how they could be resolved. These engagements had resulted in the appointment of an independent assessor to independently verify a multitude of allegations that were presented to the Ministry, and to generate recommendations that could take the university forward.

Prof Anthony Stark had been appointed by the Minister from an independent assessment panel recommended by the Council on Higher Education. He was no stranger to the sector. He had recently retired in December 2018 as the Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Teaching and Learning, at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. He had a long-standing involvement in higher education in South Africa and had been part of senior management for a university and a technikon for many years. Besides serving as a director on several boards, he had also chaired the boards of the Cape Higher Education Consortium and Cape Library Consortium and the Committee of Deputy VCs of Former Technikons. He also chaired the Higher Education Quality Council Institutional Audit Committee and was a member of the executive board of South Africa Technology. He also chaired the board of trustees at the National Tertiary Retirement Fund, where he served as a member of the Investment Committee for the past nine years.

His wealth of experience in the sector was beneficial throughout the required assessment. He carried out this investigation independently of the Department and in terms of the Higher Education Act provisions. For the established practice, only secretariat support was provided to the assessor. Both the 2018 and the current independent assessor reports were critical and should be used as a vehicle to change MUT, seeing them as highlighting a few challenges that must be addressed, but certain realities that needed to be responded to. This would require strong and dedicated leadership at both the Council and management levels. They further made sound recommendations on strategies and solutions required to address the identified problems. Although complex problems are not resolved overnight, the assessor’s recommendations must be taken seriously and implemented accordingly. Hopefully, the Committee would have frank discussions centred on the interests of the university, and that it would not fail the students at MUT.

Briefing by the Department of Higher Education and Training

Dr Marcia Socikwa, Deputy Director-General (DDG): University Branch, DHET, took Members through the presentation, which touched on the background of the appointment of the independent assessor, with the findings, recommendations and action taken by the Minister.

She explained the process of the appointment of the independent assessor. The terms of reference covered the following matters:
various allegations made by the Vice-Chancellor (VC), Dr Duma Malaza, in his correspondence with the Department in March and April 2020;
allegations of misconduct and mismanagement against the VC;
circumstances and reasons for the suspension of the VC and other senior managers in April 2020;
the functioning, efficacy and relationships between the governance and executive management structures and portfolios;
the circumstances that led to the cash-flow problems of the University; and
any matters that, in the opinion of the assessor, may impact the effective functioning of the University, from the analysis of problems relating to governance and management.

The IA had submitted the report to the Minister within the stipulated period. The assessor had investigated the various allegations made by Dr Malaza in his correspondence with the Department in March and April 2020. There was no evidence to suggest that either the VC or any of the suspended members of management or any members of the Council were involved in any corrupt activity. There was little or no evidence to support the allegations made by the VC in the report he presented to Council at the meeting on 29 April 2021. The process of suspending the VC and the other senior managers was not conducted fairly and transparently.

Some of the recommendations made by the assessor were:

A concerted effort should be made to transform the culture of the University. There was a dire need to create a culture where the free expression of ideas and critical debate was encouraged and where concerns could be raised and criticism levelled without fear of reprisal, a culture which was enabling and aligned with the values of the institution.
Measures needed to be put in place to ensure that the trust relationship between the VC and the Chair of the Council was properly managed and nurtured. These measures may include clarity to be sought and agreement reached on the role of the executive committee (EXCO), and on what activities constituted Council overreach; agreement on protocols governing communication between the VC and Chair; establishment of the office of an ombudsman or some alternative dispute resolution mechanism; and strengthening the office of the registrar, which had an essential role to play in advising on governance and compliance.
The suspension of the Vice-Chancellor and the other two senior officials be lifted. The assessor, however, cautioned against the VC returning to the University, as the chronicle of events had alienated him from the executive team, and possibly certain members of the Council. Without the full support of the Council and its executive management team, the pressing challenge of transforming the culture of the institution may be insurmountable.
Placing the institution under administration yet again may not be the solution to the problems.
The Chair should consider stepping down in the best interest of the University, as he was not best positioned to steer the Council in the direction that would help nurture and restore a relationship of trust with the VC and provide management with the necessary support it requires.
MUT should change its approach in dealing with the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) as well as its investment approach, and make use of external expertise where necessary.
Management should prepare regular and reliable cash-flow projections and develop a comprehensive financial sustainability plan.
Further investigations were recommended to determine the full nature and extent of control weaknesses identified in different investigations or audits. Specifically, independent and comprehensive investigations were conducted into the following areas: secondary contracts and part-time lecturing (evening classes); student residence leases and related expenditure, such as transport costs; payroll integrity; the human resources (HR) database (with the focus on possible ghost employees); and capital projects (with the emphasis on tenders issued from May 2020).

Lastly, on actions taken by the Minister, it was reported that Section 47 (2) of the Act requires that the Minister must within 90 days of receiving the report provide a copy of it to the Council concerned, table the report before the National Assembly and publish such report in the Gazette. The report was published in Government Gazette No. 46088, Notice No 1931 of 25 March 2022. The report was also tabled before the National Assembly. As per the Act, the Minister also shared the report with the MUT Council and requested the Council to respond to the findings and recommendations of the report. The Council had submitted its response to the Minister, which was currently under consideration.

It was acknowledged that the matter had been long and drawn-out. The Council had reached a mutual separation agreement with Dr Malaza in January 2022, and recently (on 8 April) with the other two officials -- Dr Jerome Mabaso, now former Director: Audit, Risk and Compliance, and Mr Muzi Khumalo, now former Senior Director: Operations. Nonetheless, the Minister was considering the response of the Council and contemplating the action to take within the prescripts of the Act.

MUT Council Chairperson's remarks

Mr Morailane Morailane, Chairperson of Council at MUT, commenced his remarks by stating that he had been the chairperson of the Council since 2017, and his term would end in November 2022. The Council was pleased to be invited to come before the Committee. The presentation prepared was in line with the letter of invitation received from the Chairperson of the Committee. He indicated that the Council had sent a congratulatory letter to the Chairperson of the Committee and extended an invitation to the Committee to visit the university in Umlazi, Durban.

One of the issues the Council was requested to respond to had been the action plan to implement the recommendations of the independent assessor’s report. The action plan to be given to the Committee was agreed on at a Council meeting that took place on 16 March 2022. This plan, which formed part of their invited response to the Minister on the report of the independent assessor, had been sent to the Minister on 7 April. They had noted that the DHET was to make a presentation on the report before their engagement with them and the Minister on the same report. It was their hope that this sequencing would not cause challenges as they dealt with the report. Indeed, there were a few matters that had been raised that would be contested. They hoped that their engagement today would be held in a fair spirit and that they may be guided if they went astray.

Briefing by the Mangosuthu University of Technology

Mr Oupa Galane, Deputy Chairperson of the Council at MUT, presented the steps taken to resolve the current governance and management issues.

The first governance challenge was the stepping aside of the chairperson of the Council; however, he was exonerated by the SNG-Thornton Report, and was re-elected by Council in December 2020 for a final term that ended in October 2022. The second matter was the suspension of the VC, the Director: Audit & Risk, and the Senior Director: Operations. As things stood now, charges had been preferred against the three officials based on the SNG-Thornton Report.

After a disciplinary process that dragged on for over 12 months, the University reached a mutual non-disclosure separation agreement with the three suspended officials after they had approached the institution. After negotiations, the terms acceptable to all parties were agreed upon and signed. They had left the University.

The management challenges included the inability to attract and retain staff members with high-level skills in the key areas of procurement, HR and operations, and a lack of reserves. The University had engaged the services of a financial turnaround project manager who would be a resource person in the development of the University’s turnaround strategy. The process to develop a turnaround strategy was underway.

Ms Thulubheke Zwane, Chairperson of Human Resources at MUT, outlined the process of filling the post of the VC. The MUT’s VC and Principal positions became vacant on 1 February 2022 when the former VC exited MUT. At its meeting on 7 April 2022, Council formally approved the filling of the position of the VC and Principal. At the same meeting, a task team was appointed by Council to oversee the drafting of a guideline document for the position of VC. The task team had to develop a separate guideline for the recruitment of a new VC since the current guidelines were outdated.

A draft guideline document had been prepared. The recruitment process would commence after Council had approved the guideline document. It was envisaged that the recruitment process would be completed by the end of September 2022. Currently, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (DVC): Teaching and Learning, was acting as VC.

As for the termination of Dr Malaza’s tenure as VC, the University Council had received an approach from Dr Malaza for a possible settlement. The Council had deliberated on the terms of the proposed settlement and gave the go-ahead for negotiations. After the negotiations, a mutual non-disclosure separation agreement was reached with Dr Malaza. The terms were acceptable to both parties. Dr Malaza left the employ of the University on 31 January 2022.

Prof Marcus Ramogale, Acting VC, MUT, talked about progress in the filling of vacant senior management posts in 2022 and the consequence management implemented against employees implicated in the forensic report.

With regard to consequence management on the forensic investigation into ghost employees, the KPMG report had been received and made some findings. A payroll accountant from the Finance Department was implicated and subsequently resigned before the disciplinary enquiry. The matter had been reported to the South African Police Service (SAPS) on 3 August 2020. The ex-staff member’s pension was withheld and then paid after he made an application to the Pension Funds Ombudsman.  Feedback from SAPS regarding the criminal case was awaited. SAPS processes were slow. The IA had in 2021 also recommended that MUT conduct further investigations in respect of other possible ghost employees.

The SNG investigation into various allegations indicated that seven staff members were involved in various acts of wrongdoing.  Due to capacity and financial constraints, the University had prioritised disciplinary committee (DC) processes against the VC, the Senior Director: Operations, and the Director: Audit and Risk. They were charged and appeared before a disciplinary enquiry that dragged on for over 12 months. They had now left the employ of MUT after proposing a non-disclosure mutual separation agreement, which Council had accepted. After concluding the DC processes against the executives, MUT was now in the position to press charges on the remaining four staff members implicated.

Mr Rodney Delomoney, Chief Financial Officer, MUT, provided an update on NSFAS allowances. MUT received the first tranche of funds from NSFAS on 9 April 2022 amounting to R215 681 340 in respect of the 2022 academic year. MUT paid NSFAS allowances by the 4th of every month. There were no outstanding allowances due to students in respect of the 2021 and 2022 academic years for confirmed funded students. All allowance payments were up to date. MUT agreed with the Students' Representative Council (SRC) to pay 70% of the learning material and living allowances for March 2022 (the start of the 2022 academic year), as NSFAS funding would be received only in April. The same was applied in April, as allowances had to be paid on 4 April, whilst NSFAS funding was received only on 9 April. The balance of 30% was paid to students in April, after receiving the first tranche of funds from NSFAS.

Briefing by the MUT Student Representative Council

Mr Simanga Khumalo, SRC President, MUT, presented the SRC’s position on the matter in question and the situation in the institution. The presentation covered only poor governance and the financial crisis at the institution.

[See the presentation for details]

Briefing by MUT's Institutional Forum

Mr Lwazi Mthimkhulu, Chairperson of the Institutional Forum (IF), said the presentation was based on the mandate of the Forum, and also touched on issues of governance and management in the institution. The presentation covered the introduction, governance, management, organisational culture, and the way forward.

On the unilateral amendment of the IF's powers, it was involved in the recruitment processes and had full participating members of the selection committee. Currently, the IF believed that powers had been amended because there was no submission given to IF regarding the recruitment process. The IF’s involvement with HR related matters, when an appointment was made, was that it was allowed to express its opinion about the suitability of the candidate. Recently, it received a list of people who had applied but had not yet been interviewed, yet it was expected to give an opinion. Historically, an opinion would be made once a candidate had been appointed.

The culture at MUT was that people were afraid to express their true feelings about failures. Freedom of expression had consequences at MUT. People could not have differences of opinion anymore at the institution. The transformation agenda did not exist because the acting VC had made progress on this and appointed the IF as a transformation driver of the institution. The new acting VC also participated in the IF engagements and meetings.

Briefing by NEHAWU

Mr Linda Nzima of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU) read out its letter to the Committee.

He said NEHAWU would like to appreciate the kind invitation to make the consolidated presentation on the state of affairs in the university. However, as the majority union at the university, it was of the view that it would be impossible to make a joint or consolidated presentation with any other union because of their different orientations, understanding and analysis of the situation at the university. The national union was currently engaged in broad consultation with its members so that its presentation was informed by the thinking of the broader university constituency.

Its consultation with its members was informed by a few independent reports backdated from
2008 (Dr Vincent Maphai), 2018 (Professor Barney Pityana) and the recent one by Professor
Anthony Stark. They were guided by each term of reference, investigation report and their recommendations accordingly.

Some of the key issues raised included frustration at the delay by management to make decisions; decisions were seemingly reserved only for the Council; there was nobody authoritative enough to monitor and enforce compliance by the Council except for Council itself; and when Council was in breach there was no mechanism for self-correction, except perhaps by the heavy hand of the Minister, amongst others.

NEHAWU recommended that the Minister of Higher Education, Dr Blade Nzimande, must intervene to bring stability to the governance of the University. His intervention must be along the lines of the recommendations by the assessor to instruct management to speed up the process of appointing executives, including the Registrar.

In conclusion, the trade unions in the present epoch could not simply be the organs of democracy as they were in the epoch of free capitalism and they could no longer remain politically neutral, that is, limit themselves to serving the daily needs of the working class. They could no longer be anarchistic, i.e., ignore the decisive influence of the state on the life of peoples and classes. They could no longer be reformists because the objective conditions left no room for any serious and lasting reforms. The trade unions of this era could either serve as secondary instruments of imperialist capitalism for the subordination and disciplining of workers and for obstructing the revolution or, on the contrary, the trade unions could become the instruments of the revolutionary movement of the proletariat.

Tertiary Education National Union of South Africa (TENUSA)
Mr Bonginkosi Zwane, Chairperson: TENUSA, MUT, made a presentation to the Committee on the state of governance, administration, teaching and learning at the institution.

On the state of governance, governance structures were in place and did sit, but their view was that it was often seen as not robust enough, which made them appear weak. Whilst there was room for improvement, they noted that there had been some improvements in governance over the last two years.

On the state of administration, the well-known glitch administratively was too many people working in an acting capacity, especially at the executive and senior management levels. There had at least been some traction on Council-appointed positions, with the appointment of three of the five executive positions almost concluded. Appointments for faculty deans were yet to be made, and these positions were key to the effective pursuit of the teaching and learning agenda.

The Chairperson said she was confused by the opening remarks of the chairperson of the Council, particularly on the comment about the Committee being objective. When one looked at some of the findings from the assessor’s report, it had articulated that there was a lack of trust between the Council and management. Some of the accusations made by both sides were intangible. The Minister had appointed an independent assessor to come in and assist with what was happening at the institution. It left one flabbergasted as to the Committee’s objectivity being put into question. There were a plethora of manners in which this Committee was allowed to roll out the oversight function. No one should dictate how the Committee’s oversight work should be conducted. The Committee had tried its utmost best to follow up on issues of concern around the institution.


Mr T Letsie (ANC) agreed with the Chairperson that this Committee had taken a posture to support young women who were leading in different spheres. He congratulated the Secretary-General of the SRC for her service. The Committee wanted to see a stable post-school education and training (PSET) sector that serviced its core business effectively.

When the Committee met with MUT last year, Members were concerned about the situation and the battle between management and the Council. It was noted that both parties appeared to be embroiled in factional battles, where people were fighting for positions and tenders. They had reiterated their concerns regarding the attitude of the chairperson of the Council, and had asked that that conduct did not recur in future engagements. In that meeting, the chairperson of the Council appeared to be the central figure of governance instability in the institution. They had also asked the chairperson of the Council to introspect and reflect on the values that the chairperson of the Council should add to that institution. That meeting was not the first meeting that this Committee had had with MUT. On 13 September 2017, MUT was invited by the Committee to report on progress made in the appointment of senior managers and executives. The Committee would have requested progress made on the appointment of senior managers, other vacancies, and infrastructure rollout. That invitation stemmed from concerns that the senior executives at the time, 2017, had been suspended and subsequently resigned. Infrastructure projects had also been abandoned by contractors. During that time, some senior executives were suspended and resigned. One would like to draw parallels between what happened then and what was happening now.

The other time MUT appeared before the Committee was on 17 August 2014, during the height of the "fees must fall" campaign. There were violent protests that had resulted in damage to infrastructure. At that time, it was dealing with NSFAS issues, and the Committee had sought to ascertain the interventions of the university on how it was planning to address the issues at the time. In the meeting last year, the Committee had made some resolutions, but the programme was disrupted by local government elections. They had resolved, amongst others, to meet with the institution every quarter and receive reports on the recommended interventions and resolutions. They had also recommended that the Minister should present a way forward on interventions to restore good governance and management stability in that institution. Hence, the appointment of the independent assessor. They had also resolved that the university must develop mechanisms to increase its revenue streams and minimise its dependency on DHET subsidies and consult the Department of Science and Innovation to advance its capacity for postgraduate studies and research.

MUT was a repeat offender in incidents of problems in distinguishing between oversight and operations. Different assessor reports indicated that the MUT Council would interfere with operational matters that were supposed to be done by management. In the presentation today, two Council members presented on what they believed were operational matters. These were matters that should have been presented by management. This was deeply concerning, because it implied that the Council in that institution may be operational, albeit the clear roles for each structure.

The institution had indicated how it was implementing the SNG report, but there was an independent assessor’s report that contradicts the SNG report, to put it lightly. The latter report says that the disciplinary processes that would have been undertaken, or the evidence gathered against senior managers and the VC, as contained in the SNG report, had resulted in the arrival of those conclusions on hearsay and without proof.

Why would the institution continue to implement the recommendations of an SNG report whilst the assessor’s report claimed that the institution had arrived at conclusions without evidence? Would one be incorrect to conclude that the investigations that were done against the former VC and senior managers were a witch-hunt, given that there was no evidence to back up the allegations that were made? The findings of the SNG report that were made without supporting evidence had brought the names of those suspended executives into disrepute and tarnished their reputations. The SNG recommendations could not be relied on because there was no evidence gathered.

How many members of the current Council had served in the previous Council term, and how had they contributed to the strained relationship between the Council and management?

It was also concerning that it had incurred expenditure that could have been avoided both in legal fees, and in executives being suspended on full pay, including financial settlements.

The assessor’s report recommended that the chairperson of the Council should consider stepping down because he was not best positioned to steer the Council in the direction of trust between the Council and management. What was the Council doing about this recommendation? One would have preferred to hear point by point how it was intervening in the recommendations made by the assessor. It looked like there was a “pick and choose” approach towards which recommendations to implement.

What was the understanding of the Council on the recommendation that the chairperson of the Council should step down? There was no evidence that the VC or any of the suspended managers or executives were involved in any corrupt activities – this was the first finding of the assessor’s report. There was also little or no evidence to support the allegation contained in the response from the chairperson of the Council presented in the same meeting.

To the Department, here was a repeat offender or serious serial repeat offender (MUT); this was about the third or fourth time an independent assessor had been used at this institution. A lot of money went towards paying these assessors. That money could have been used to assist students or the institution. How far was the Department in implementing the independent assessor’s recommendations?

Stakeholders had told the Committee that things were not fine at the institution. It could not be that several stakeholders were saying the same thing. The independent assessor’s recommendation must be implemented fully by the Department.

Ms J Mananiso (ANC) said that the institution must submit its financial plan to the Committee. She expressed her disappointment with the Department's pace in dealing with the matters at MUT. It was not acting quickly enough. Regarding the recommendations made by the assessor, what could have the Department done, working together with MUT? This would assist Members to ascertain what had been done or not done thus far.

Secondly, she welcomed the fact that there was an indication by stakeholders that there was a crisis in that institution. Hopefully, the planned workshop on governance and management would not carry any cost implications. Money could not continue to be poured into workshops and interventions yet there was no result or change. It was confusing that an institution of higher learning led by learned persons would be having such serious governance issues. It was a bad reflection.

She asked the institution to provide in writing what it intended to do to address the submissions made by other stakeholders such as NEHAWU, the IF, the SRC and TENUSA. As Members of Parliament, they did not want to be seen as if they were interfering.

Lastly, on the floods that occurred in KwaZulu-Natal recently, was there any damage suffered by the institution? The consistent incapacity of people employed in the institution was extremely concerning. She supported the quarterly meetings with the institution, and said they should continue to take place.

Ms D Sibiya (ANC) asked for the reasons for the unresolved matters in the institution. What was the cause of unending negotiations between the institution and the unions? What criteria were used to select the students who were eligible for data for e-learning? Why were the renovations of internal residences taking so long to be completed?

Ms D Mahlatsi (ANC) said the presentation received today failed to give Members comfort and confidence in the operations and academia of the institution. If there were capable people in the management of the institution, why could they not bring stability to the institution? Why was a body like a committee seen as the structure that could do that? This indicated that there was no hope by the Council and management of bringing stability to the institution.

The Council had suspended the VC even though he had made allegations against the chairperson of the Council, among others, but today the Council chairperson remained in his position. Even some of the Council members had resigned. The report presented today even talks about how the chairperson of the Council was doing whatever he liked in that institution.

It further stated that the chairperson made new allegations without allowing the VC to respond. The maladministration in the institution was affecting the students the most. The report further stated that the suspension of officials came at a huge cost for the institution, not only financial but reputational as well. People had left the institution with a cloud over their heads and their reputations questioned; did they not worry about people’s mental health at all?

What had been the engagement with NSFAS to deal with the deficit? Secondly, what were the research and development budget and allocation from the DHET, and how had it been utilised? How much did the recruitment process cost, including the adverts? It would be important to know for accountability purposes the settlements that were given to the officials who had since left the institution. There was always a squabble around the procurement and finances of institutions. There was a need to consider the fiduciary duty matter on Council members – it looks like they could do as they wished, but nothing happened to them. The legislation did not leave room for the Committee to act on this. Perhaps, they should re-look at the Act on this matter before the end of this administration.

Lastly, on workers and students, all issues that had been raised by students should be responded to by the Council and management. The Committee wanted to know about issues of data, refurbishment of student residences and infrastructure. Why was there a challenge to having evening classes at the institution? One could see the element of intimidation in this institution and the undermining of stakeholders. Intimidation was very heightened for workers. The recommendations of the assessor’s report must be implemented, and there was a need to ensure that the Minister applied them.

It could not be that historically disadvantaged institutions were run down by academics, by those who had been entrusted with positions of leadership. The Committee must obtain the qualifications of all Council members. In some instances, they had institutions run by people with no qualifications or expertise.

The Chairperson asked whether the institution had met and engaged with NSFAS, particularly on the Close-Out project. Was the amount owed to the institution by NSFAS related to the Close-Out project? Could the institution confirm if it had submitted the data required for the project? Could the Committee get an indication of whether the funds owed to the institution by NSFAS would resolve some of the short-term cash flow issues of the institution? She sought an indication of how much was lost by the university on the alleged ghost employees, and whether the institution was still working with KPMG as its auditors? Why did the Council or management unilaterally take away the right of the IF to be part of the recruitment of senior positions in the institution, and whether it was communicated to the IF before it was implemented? The minutes of the meeting where that decision was taken must be shared with the Committee.

The institution must also submit the legal costs of the forensic investigations and the various suspensions that had taken place at the institution. Who formed part of the task team that was tasked to elect the new VC?

She was extremely discomforted by the findings made by the independent assessor that no evidence was provided on the allegations made, which had led to serious outcomes for those affected. What happened here, and how far was the institution with the implementation of the alternative dispute resolution?  


Student Representative Council

Ms Ndlovu said that last week, the SRC had gone to Cape Town to meet with NSFAS, but there were no tangible resolutions because there were issues that affected students, and the SRC was then referred to the Department to assist in dealing with these matters. Students that had appealed still had not received their allowances and those with outstanding debt could not receive their qualifications.

On the issue of residences, the question of fixing these residences also referred to the issue of the institution's income generation. There was a residence owned by the institution, which had been closed because of compliance issues. This was one of the ways the SRC believed the institution could generate income.


Mr Ramogale responded that the negotiations at the beginning of the year with the unions were about salaries. This may have affected the registration process, because students had indicated that they were experiencing a slow registration process. This had been partly resolved. An agreement had been reached with the one union, and the institution was still engaging the other.

In the recruitment process, the institution had not yet advertised the positions. The recruitment processes that were reported on were in respect to the position of the Vice-Chancellor, the DVC: research, the registrar and executive director for institutional advancement. Three positions had already been approved and the successful candidates were approved by the Council last week. There was only one position outstanding to be filled at this point.

The institution did have evening classes, but they had been curtailed because it was discovered that there was a lot of abuse that was taking place in the evening classes. It was a phenomenon that was costing the institution a lot of money. The acting DVC was the one who alerted the institution about the terrible abuse last year. There was an audit conducted on this as well.

In the ghost employee’s saga, according to the KPMG report, a loss of R2.2 million was suffered by the institution because of the person responsible. That person had since left the institution. The independent assessor had recommended that the net be widened by the institution on this to see if there were more ghost employees. KPMG was not the auditor of the institution. It had come in and assisted the institution on the ghost employees' matter.

Dr Makua said that fortunately, the institution had not suffered much damage from the floods. The damage was from roof leaks which had damaged about 20 computers. The other damage was suffered by the paved walkways, especially the ones that were steep. They had a project that they were in the process of procuring to address the roof leaks, but it would not address the issues with the other buildings that needed to be revamped. This would be done again at a later stage. In sections that were prone to flooding and erosion, the institution was busy with a stormwater management plan as part of the bulk infrastructure upgrade that would take care of all stormwater management measures that must be implemented going forward.

Previously, the institution had received an allocation from DHET to implement bulk infrastructure upgrades and renovations to residences. It was one lump sum, with these two components. Due to the increased demand for bulk services on campus, the bulk infrastructure needed to be upgraded. It left a small amount for the renovation of buildings, but the institution had approached the Department to request some assistance and it had given an indication of a positive response. There was a huge amount that must be done, so it would be done in phases.

The funds they used to allocate data to students were funds that were part of the Covid-19 responsiveness grant which the DHET had created to assist institutions with challenges posed by the pandemic. As time went on, the funds had been depleted because of the massive spending on data. They had approached the DHET to request the virement of the budget to continue providing data to the students. On both occasions, the DHET had agreed to allow the institution to make reprioritisations of funds. They were now on the last instalment of what was available to provide data to students, and may need to consider approaching the DHET to reprioritise some funds to continue providing data to students. Students changed their numbers all the time, and also did not update the numbers with the institution when they changed them. They had suggested that when students did not receive the data, they must approach the teaching and learning development centre.

Mr Delomoney confirmed that the interaction between the institution and NSFAS was ongoing, and it had since improved since the appointment of the Chief Operating Officer. They regularly interacted with NSFAS every week to resolve student matters.

As for the Close-Out project, this project covered the years 2017 to 2020, and several engagements with NSFAS had been held to deal with the funding and close-out issues. Following a letter received by the university on the close-out, there were still outstanding issues that needed to be resolved, on which the financial aid office was working closely with NSFAS. The deadline was the end of May 2022. The issues would be resolved, and they would continue to work with NSFAS to provide that information and resolve matters.

Regarding the amounts received from NSFAS, MUT had received the first tranche payment and an outstanding amount of R105 million from last year had also been received. His office followed up regularly on the outstanding payments by NSFAS. NSFAS had confirmed the payment cycles and they would ensure that they received what was due when it was due.

The close-our project would finalize the outstanding amount due to the NSFAS by the institution and vice versa. From the analysis conducted and engagements with NSFAS, MUT was expecting more funds to come through from NSFAS.

MUT prepared regular cash flow forecasts and monitored them carefully. It had also improved its cash flow management over the last six to 12 months. In the first quarter, when no funding was coming in from NSFAS and the DHET, the university was able to settle its debts and had used part of its funds to assist students with allowances.

Prof Ramogale said what was noteworthy about MUT was that despite all the encountered challenges, the academic front was stable. The good work on the academic front was even confirmed by external parties. The Acting DVC: Teaching and Learning, had alluded to successes that had been recorded in terms of the accreditation of programmes by independent bodies. If the core business was not functional, these accreditations would not have been received. The DVC had also alluded to an award that MUT received last from the National Research Foundation (NRF) in recognition of the excellence of the research and the speed at which it was conducted. In addition, the student success rate had been consistent for MUT in comparison to its counter institutions. Credit must be given to the academics, and the institution appreciated them. Despite all the challenges the institution experiences, the core business of the institution was maintained well.   

Mr Galane replied to the comment that the response in the presentation had left out certain issues, and said that when the invitation was sent to the Council it was clear the number of questions that needed to be responded to. They knew that they needed to be detailed in the responses covering the reports as well. Secondly, on the issue of members of the Council responding to questions suggesting that there was interference by the Council in operations, the statute of MUT and the Higher Education Act was very clear on the responsibilities of the Council and management. Their response had touched on governance issues, and there was also an example made by HR, having a Council member responding to HR matters -- it had been a high-level response on HR-related issues that were under the HR Committee of the Council. Lastly, on the independent assessor report and SNG – there was a view that they had responded only on the SNG report; the latter was a forensic investigation.

As Council members, they welcomed disclosure of their qualifications and the professional experience that they possessed.

Ms Sane Mnyandu, Chairperson of the Student Affairs Committee of the MUT Council, spoke on the picking and choosing of the Council to decide who to suspend and who not to suspend, and said it would assist everyone if facts were brought into such utterances. At the time of deciding to precautionary suspend the former VC, the Council had done so in the absence of the current chairperson of the Council. The Council had decided to put the former VC on suspension to undergo the necessary investigations without the office of the VC meddling in the investigation. This suspension was received by the VC, as it was not a foreign act for him in the university. It was a tool that he had also utilised when he intended to undergo investigations with officials. The talk that “Ku ka Malume (its uncle’s house)” was not a true reflection of how this Council operated. She spoke of this with the same conviction as active alumni of this institution, having done undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. They served this university at the best level that they committed to when they entered it. It was not treated like a tuck shop -- this was not true. The people of South Africa deserved to hear this from a member of the Council who was a product of this institution.

When the independent assessor’s report came out, the Council had responded in detail to every finding from the report. The Council had also responded to the Minister’s Office. The Council would have had to be advised that the same response should have been sent to the Committee and it was possible that the Committee may not have had the privilege of that response. No preference was undertaken when the Council responded to the findings of the independent assessors’ report. There was an issue of this Council not considering the mental health or reputation of the VC. This Council could not ignore the allegations against the VC and take into consideration his mental health and reputation -- it had a responsibility to act on the allegations, which it had done.  It had precautionary suspended the VC after the findings of the forensic investigation that was undertaken by the Council, and then decided to further charge the VC and undergo the disciplinary proceedings. It was only fair to bring the Committee into this confidence.

Mr Ntuli said under the new management at the institution, there had been a lot of changes and they had presented some changes to the Council to address the findings. Firstly, management had filled three executive positions and the process to fill in the vacancy of the VC was underway. There were a lot of policies that were underway by management, and there was now an “open door” policy at the institution, something that did not exist before. The Committee should come to the institution and interact with the executive team and see what was happening. The university was moving forward, and was expecting to be supported, not ambushed, by the Members of the Committee. It looked like the Members had come here to ambush them, and that there were hidden agendas.

The Chairperson cautioned that there was no attempt by the Committee to ambush anyone. She asked Mr Ntuli to retract the statement that he had made, insinuating that Members of the Committee were not engaging in good faith.
Mr Sandile Dlamini, a Member of the MUT Council, said that he was concerned about the impression that members of the Council were getting out of the meeting. It would be incorrect for the Committee to say that nothing was being done to address the challenges that the university had been facing over the years. There was a positive direction that the institution was moving towards.  One of the main reasons why the Council had instituted a forensic investigation was to find facts. They were experts in findings those facts. The suspensions emanated from the findings of the forensic investigation and a disciplinary process had been undertaken. The institution had been approached during that process to discuss a settlement. The Chairperson of the Council had stepped aside at the time the processes were unfolding.

Ms Zwane commented on the chairperson of the Council, but commenced by saying that the issue with him must be put to rest, as perhaps the understanding of the Council had been different from that of the Committee. When there were allegations on the issues around the chairperson of the Council, SNG had been sanctioned to investigate the allegations. The SNG had given the Council a report that exonerated the chairperson. It would be correct to allow the comments that stated that the chairperson of the Council had to step down. As per the SNG report, the chairperson of the Council was not implicated.

The independent assessor’s report came and claimed that the chairperson of the Council must consider stepping down, but there was no basis for that. Each time they meet with the Committee, this matter always came back, but the question was, what must the Council do? They were independent thinkers, and they analyse and think about the decisions they take as Council members. Before making decisions in the Council, they seek legal advice to ensure that the decision assists the university, even in the long run.

The task team that was appointed by the Council was not for the recruitment of the VC, but for the development of the guidelines that would be used in recruiting the VC. These guidelines would cover which stakeholders would become part of the team. They had identified the gaps from the 2017/18 recruitment process and decided to go back to the drawing board to not experience the same problems that were experienced with the former VC.

Mr Morailane said that coming to this Committee was always problematic. They did not want to come and offend anyone, yet they failed every time. They did not want to come and be checkmated by presentations made here -- they were keen to come and add value and answer questions. The Council had to reflect on its contributions to this meeting to avoid mistakes and should follow the letter of invitation in making the presentation, but as they did so they end up being at fault or being misunderstood. The agenda should be followed by a letter of invitation. Participants must ensure that their contributions were on point and in line with the agenda. They had not come here to show each other’s weaknesses. They did not know when they could respond, and they did not have the time to respond to the long comments and questions of Members. They often left these meetings with the impression that they accept what had been said here, but many of the things said they did not agree with. Unfortunately, this platform was used for grandstanding.

The Chairperson interjected, and said that she was concerned that there were matters he claimed there was not sufficient time to respond to, but there had never been a time when any person had interjected while responding to the questions. If there were matters that the Council felt that it did not get an opportunity to respond to, it could write to the Committee, unless he thought that the engagement would not be done justice in terms of time to respond.

Mr Morailane said that there was not sufficient time to respond to some of the questions and statements made by the Members. There were many issues raised by the Members, but they would write to the Committee.

He continued with his remarks and said that it was unfortunate that this forum was used as a complaint forum as well. MUT had created adequate forums where structures interacted with management and where necessary with the Council. They invited the stakeholders to come and voice their complaints in the Council and why they had not taken advantage of all the forums to voice their complaints. Maybe there was a lot wrong with these forums and how they were running. They needed to be clear about what the laws of the country said about the roles of different structures within their space. Structures that did not understand their roles and assumed that they had all kinds of powers were a colossal challenge. This Committee should protect its processes in such a way that informed people who came here and made their contribution. The public accountability of universities was exercised under the law. The higher education sector had achieved this through the instruments of independent assessment.

An independent assessor had been appointed under the law and had made findings and recommendations. These should be followed, and the institution was following them. They did not want to find themselves in a contest between the Council, the DHET and the Committee about governance and oversight. They would reflect on some of the requests made here and respond accordingly. They remained committed to governing the university properly and by the law. They also want to be justly held accountable by authorised bodies for their actions and decisions. They wanted to reiterate that the request by the Committee to visit Umlazi was welcomed. Presentations would be prepared to provide a full picture of MUT. They believed that Members would be well informed and may have a better view of the institution.

He found himself in an invidious position, as a lot had been said about him, and one speaker had referred to him as being at the centre of many of the problems at MUT. If he had the time to respond, he would challenge these assertions, but would not do so here. The independent assessor did not make a recommendation to the Council to remove him -- he had left it to him to consider stepping down and he had chosen not to step down as he had done nothing wrong since he joined MUT in 2014. They would be coming to the Committee, and hoped to add value going forward.


Dr Thandi Lewin, Acting DDG: University Education, DHET, said that the presentation made by the Department was based on the findings of the independent assessor. Many of the questions were focused on that report and it was an important report for the Department, as it had been commissioned by the Minister. The Council had responded to the Minister on the independent assessor’s report and when the Minster applied his mind, it may be possible for him to meet with the Council. No further updates could be provided at this point, but the engagement with the institution had not yet commenced. The Department continued to engage with MUT on all aspects of the institution's work. Surely, this conversation would continue.

The Chairperson said that there had been a meeting in February 2021, and in June 2021 the former Chairperson of the Committee, Mr Philly Mapulane, had written to the Minister to request that he consider some intervention in assisting to address some of the challenges at MUT. The Minister had responded by placing an independent assessor and that process had unfolded. The reason for the Department to be present here was so that it could also take the Committee through the findings of the independent assessor, and for the institution to also have an opportunity to respond to those findings and recommendations. Members would not limit their engagements, and had only asked about the independent assessor’s report, but Members would also ask questions about the current state of the institution. This was what informed further bullets or themes that the Committee would have requested the institution to prepare for.

The Committee could not interfere with the processes, and those processes must be allowed to unfold in the manner that they were supposed. The Council had responded to the independent assessor’s report, and it had been submitted to the Minister. Once the Minister had concluded considering the responses, they would be shared with the Committee. Unfortunately, they could not wait until the Minister had considered the report for the Committee to do its work. When the Minister had done this, he would come and share with the Committee the responses and his consideration of the way forward.

Secondly, she did not recall receiving an invitational letter from the Council, and the Committee had assessed its correspondence and lines of communication but to no avail. However, if there was a further invitation for the Committee to come to the institution, then it would be welcomed.

She requested that the information requested by Mr Letsie on the chat line be responded to by the Council in writing.

The Committee was going to remain concerned with the fact that the institution had experienced governance and management challenges for about over 20 years. It seemed that collectively, they had a common vision about this institution and what needed to be done, but they were not finding one another in terms of where the institution found itself currently. This would require deeper oversight from the Department, and they had seen this through enacting the independent assessor. They must commit themselves as a Committee to visit the institution. Considering the limited time, a delegation or the entire Committee may be sent to visit the institution. They may not be able to meet physically every quarter, but they did need quarterly reports in writing. They also needed the Department to detail how it was assisting the institution to stabilise.

The Committee had to indicate that it was finding irregularities and disjuncture between how the Council continued to refer to the SNG report and implement some of the recommendations of the SNG report, but the independent assessor’s report indicated some concerns over irregularities with the SNG report, thus putting it into question. The independent assessor’s report should be taken with greater consideration, considering that the DHET played an oversight role over the institution. It would be best for the institution to strongly consider the IA’s report, unless the institution rejected it.

The Committee wanted to state its support for the IA’s report. The IA’s report was fair. When they met here, they were not only engaging the institution but also the Department, which would have the responsibility of playing the oversight role on the implementation of the recommendations coming out of the IA’s report. The Department should consider taking this strongly, and the Committee implored the Minister to fast track the consideration of the IA report and ensure the interventions to implement the renewal of the programmes of the university should commence. Whether or not the Council agreed with the report of the IA was something else, and it was concerning. This was a discussion the Committee would have with the Department.

The Committee supported the recommendation of the multi-disciplinary task team, and implored the Department that through the multi-disciplinary task team (MDTT) to ensure that the people appointed within the institution to govern and lead it have the requisite skills for turning things around and strengthening the work of the institution. They wanted to see an accelerated turn of the tide. They could not sit back and be satisfied with the slow pace of change and transformation. They were going to support all the interventions that could assist in ensuring that they brought about the requisite skills within the institution in terms of governance and leadership.

They supported the recommendation by the IA to work on the culture at the institution, calling for free expression of ideas and critical debate and allowing for a space where concerns could be raised, and criticism leveled without the fear of reprisal.

The Chairperson said she became alarmed and concerned about the lack of space for engagement, and they needed to question whether the current spaces in the institution were conducive for various stakeholders. Stakeholders must be protected where assertions were made and could be backed up by evidence.

To insinuate that Members were grandstanding was strange, because all the engagements of the Committee were public. This meeting was in a public space. When they came to the MUT, they were also coming to a public space and the meeting was public as well, because it was a public institution. Members would raise issues on that platform with the same conviction as this platform. That must be understood. Members of the public could engage and be represented by the stakeholders that had been granted the right to participate in that space.

She requested a breakdown of the legal costs of the forensic investigation, suspensions and financial settlements. Secondly, management and Council must submit a response and a plan to address the issues raised by stakeholders. She encouraged the stakeholders to meet with the Council or management to voice their issues. Thirdly, the Department and NSFAS had to investigate the issues around NSFAS at MUT. The students had raised several issues. What was the agreement between NSFAS and the MUT at the recent meeting that was held in Cape Town by the MUT SRC and NSFAS? The students had indicated that nothing tangible had come out of those engagements.

Fourthly, there were several acting positions at the institution. The Committee agreed with the findings and the recommendations of the IA, and the recommendation that the chairperson of the Council consider stepping down. The Committee supported this recommendation. It wanted to see an end to all the acting positions in management and the finalisation of the appointment of the VC. Who was leading the process of developing the guidelines for the appointment of the VC?

Mr Letsie emphasised that when the Council responded, it must not create an impression that it was being defensive. The Council should also be cautious about the use of words against Members and make unfounded insinuations. They did accept the invitation to visit MUT, and he would be visiting at any time.

Ms Mahlatsi raised the issue of the advertising of vacancies, especially the new ones. If the recruitment processes had been concluded, how much was spent on the adverts, inclusive of the negotiations and the release of the previous personnel? The only agenda this Committee had was to see to it that the right thing was done. The agenda of the meeting was to discuss the IA’s report and whether it said the institution had been run down. If the Council was indeed doing a great job, why was the report saying something else?

The Chairperson said that what gave her hope was when the members of the Council indicated that they also wanted to see the institution do well. As stakeholders, they all wanted what was best for the sector. Members of the Council may feel that the Members of the Committee did not respect them and wanted to see the worst and were just busy with the red pen and sitting on brooms busy with the “hunt.” It may indicate that there was vigour in all of them to see what was best for the sector.

The Committee would continue to work with the Department, management and the Council of the institution to see this process to the end. It would await the outstanding information requested from management and the Council. It urged the Department to speed up considering the contribution of the Council and to begin the important work of addressing the challenges.

The recovery of funds that had been misused or misappropriated must be returned.

The meeting was adjourned.




No related

Download as PDF

You can download this page as a PDF using your browser's print functionality. Click on the "Print" button below and select the "PDF" option under destinations/printers.

See detailed instructions for your browser here.

Share this page: