No progress on UniZulu as­sess­ment

The depart­ment of higher ed­u­ca­tion says the min­is­ter is still re­view­ing doc­u­ments re­lat­ing to the ap­point­ment of an as­ses­sor at the uni­ver­sity

CityPress - - News - MSINDISI FENGU msindisi.fengu@city­press.co.za

Al­most a year af­ter he ad­vised the trou­bled Uni­ver­sity of Zu­l­u­land (UniZulu) coun­cil of his in­ten­tions to in­ter­vene and re­store proper gov­er­nance, Higher Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Blade Nz­i­mande has still not ap­pointed an in­de­pen­dent as­ses­sor to in­ves­ti­gate al­le­ga­tions of fi­nan­cial mis­man­age­ment at the in­sti­tu­tion.

Since 2010, the uni­ver­sity has been dogged by re­peated al­le­ga­tions of mal­ad­min­is­tra­tion and mis­man­age­ment, de­spite two in­ter­ven­tions meant to help deal with the prob­lems.

Most of the stu­dents who at­tend UniZulu come from low-in­come back­grounds,

The de­lay in ap­point­ing an as­ses­sor has left Par­lia­ment’s port­fo­lio com­mit­tee on higher ed­u­ca­tion won­der­ing why the in­sti­tu­tion’s coun­cil was not be­ing held re­spon­si­ble for its ad­min­is­tra­tive trou­bles. The com­mit­tee had re­ferred the mat­ter to the min­is­ter.

City Press learnt this week that Nz­i­mande has not acted on the mat­ter. This is de­spite hav­ing re­ceived a re­sponse from the uni­ver­sity’s coun­cil to a let­ter he sent in Septem­ber, in which he asked the coun­cil to in­form him why an in­de­pen­dent as­ses­sor should not be ap­pointed to scru­ti­nise the in­sti­tu­tion.

The depart­ment pre­vi­ously in­ter­vened in 2010 and 2011 with the ap­point­ments of in­de­pen­dent as­ses­sors, Pro­fes­sor Hugh Africa and later Pro­fes­sor Chris de Beer, to ad­min­is­ter the uni­ver­sity.

At the time, Nz­i­mande an­nounced that he had ap­pointed De Beer to disband and set up a new coun­cil, re­store proper gov­er­nance and ad­min­is­tra­tion, and ini­ti­ate and con­clude a foren­sic in­ves­ti­ga­tion into al­le­ga­tions of mal­ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual abuse of fe­male stu­dents at the hands of se­nior aca­demics at the in­sti­tu­tion also sur­faced this year.

A fe­male stu­dent in­volved in the only case that has been re­ported to po­lice was al­legedly raped three times in sep­a­rate in­ci­dents within two years.

The lat­est in­ci­dent al­legedly hap­pened on cam­pus and was wit­nessed by an­other aca­demic, who has since resigned in what his lawyer claimed was a de­ci­sion made in fear for the safety of his fam­ily (

be­low). see story

UniZulu has no ap­proved pol­icy on sex­ual mis­con­duct – only a code of con­duct – a sit­u­a­tion that a source said had cre­ated a “cul­ture of sex­ual abuses” and had sparked al­le­ga­tions of sex for marks.

Si­bongile Ma­puti, a par­lia­men­tary spokesper­son, said the com­mit­tee on higher ed­u­ca­tion was on record in con­demn­ing vi­o­lence against women at ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tions. The com­mit­tee also planned to ask in­sti­tu­tions of higher learn­ing and train­ing to take sex­ual abuse cases se­ri­ously, and to thor­oughly in­ves­ti­gate them.

“The com­mit­tee will there­fore ex­pect a re­port on steps taken to in­ves­ti­gate, and will ask that the uni­ver­sity coun­cil be held ac­count­able as well as en­sure that rel­e­vant poli­cies are put in place.”

Ma­puti said the port­fo­lio com­mit­tee was con­cerned that there seemed to be con­tin­u­ing gov­er­nance chal­lenges at the uni­ver­sity, de­spite pre­vi­ous in­ter­ven­tions.

“The com­mit­tee asked that min­is­ter look into this mat­ter,” he said.

Ma­puti said that, fol­low­ing De Beer’s ap­point­ment in 2011, the com­mit­tee con­ducted an over­sight visit to as­sess whether progress had been made to get the uni­ver­sity fully func­tional. Dur­ing the visit, the com­mit­tee ob­served that there was still a sig­nif­i­cant amount of work to be done to get the in­sti­tu­tion up and run­ning.

Higher ed­u­ca­tion spokesper­son Madikwe Mabotha said Nz­i­mande was still re­view­ing the UniZulu coun­cil’s re­sponses to his let­ter.

Nz­i­mande had also an­nounced that he had asked the Coun­cil on Higher Ed­u­ca­tion, a qual­ity as­sur­ance body, to con­duct an in­sti­tu­tional au­dit at UniZulu.

He was still wait­ing for the out­come of the au­dit, Mabotha said.

“The pre­vi­ous [De Beer’s] ad­min­is­tra­tion did not fail. How­ever, the tran­si­tion from that pe­riod was in the hands of the new coun­cil. The min­is­ter acted in terms of the Higher Ed­u­ca­tion Act.”

He said that, fol­low­ing the post-ad­min­is­tra­tion pe­riod, the min­is­ter was made aware of “old al­le­ga­tions”. He said new al­le­ga­tions of fi­nan­cial mis­man­age­ment had also been made against the cur­rent coun­cil and man­age­ment.

“The act has been amended to en­able the min­is­ter to bet­ter over­see the tran­si­tion phase from an ad­min­is­tra­tion to a new coun­cil,” Mabotha said.

UniZulu spokesper­son Gcina Nh­leko-Md­luli con­firmed that the uni­ver­sity did not have a sex­ual of­fences pol­icy.

“The uni­ver­sity has a code of con­duct that clearly out­lines the model of be­hav­iour for all uni­ver­sity em­ploy­ees. A code of ethics, which is a set of prin­ci­ples that in­volves sys­tem­a­tis­ing, de­fend­ing and rec­om­mend­ing con­cepts of right and wrong con­duct, is also in place. A sex­ual ha­rass­ment pol­icy is in the draft phase await­ing ap­proval.”

Nh­leko-Md­luli would not com­ment on al­le­ga­tions of sex for marks. She said sex­ual ha­rass­ment was not part of uni­ver­sity cul­ture, but that it was a so­ci­etal prob­lem in the coun­try.

Pro­fes­sor Narend Bai­j­nath, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Coun­cil on Higher Ed­u­ca­tion, said the in­sti­tu­tional au­dit of the uni­ver­sity was still un­der way and re­ports were cur­rently be­ing writ­ten.

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PHOTO: GALLO IM­AGES

STALLED De­spite in­ter­ven­tions to deal with prob­lems at the uni­ver­sity, there have been re­peated al­le­ga­tions of mal­ad­min­is­tra­tion and mis­man­age­ment

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