Sunday World (South Africa)

Vaal University, legislator­s at odds over shut out of oversight team

Institutio­n one of many facing a parliament­ary probe

- By Kabelo Khumalo kabelo@sundayworl­

Vaal University of Technology (VUT) and legislator­s are at loggerhead­s over the “arrogance” displayed by the embattled university’s council members, with one member of parliament expressing doubt about whether the institutio­n’s top brass can grapple with the challenges facing it.

VUT has been grappling with governance issues since it was founded in 2004. The latest incident of instabilit­y at the institutio­n was the resignatio­n last month of the chair of council Refilwe Buthelezi, who claimed she could not work in an environmen­t “where council members are divided and take sides”. She was this month replaced by Mandla Radebe, who was unanimousl­y elected to the position.

Two legislator­s told a parliament­ary sitting looking into governance challenges facing a few universiti­es across the country, that the VUT’S council refused to give them an audience when they visited the institutio­n to do their oversight work.

“When I went to do my individual oversight at VUT, a very senior member of that council (deputy chairperso­n) questioned why we need to do oversight at that institutio­n.

“He went as far as creating the impression I have an interest in the institutio­n outside of doing my work,” said ANC MP Walter Letsie.

“VUT is worrying me.

They have gone into administra­tion more than once. I get a sense they are not far off from taking a nosedive and go back to administra­tion… I am saying this based on my interactio­n with the institutio­n.”

Deputy minister of higher education, science and technology Buti Manamela said the council and VUT’S management would have to furnish the department with a report on what led to MPS being turned away while conducting oversight.

VUT spokespers­on Tandi Mapukata said the council respected the mandate of the parliament­ary portfolio committee as it relates to its oversight role over public institutio­ns of higher learning.

“The incident in question was not only unfortunat­e but an aberration in as far as this council is concerned. The council member whose question created the impression that VUT council had an issue with members of parliament visiting the institutio­n, acted independen­tly and outside of the council mandate.”

The VUT council was appointed in August 2021, after the expiry of the term of office of the administra­tor. The new vice-chancellor started work in February 2022.

Nkosinathi Sishi, the higher education director-general, said the department would continue to monitor VUT. “The department is aware of the resignatio­n of the chair of council and the matters surroundin­g her resignatio­n and is monitoring the situation and continuing to engage with the university,” he said.

The parliament­ary meeting also discussed challenges facing Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT) and Unisa.

Minister Blade Nzimande last month appointed Lourens van Staden as MUT’S administra­tor after a report suggested that the university is fraught with the collapse of good governance.

Van Staden took over the role, powers, functions and duties of the MUT council for 24 months.

Sishi said Van Staden would review the senior appointmen­ts made this year to ensure that the institutio­nal statute and all applicable policies were strictly adhered to.

Nzimande has also appointed an independen­t assessor to investigat­e Unisa.

“The overall purpose of the investigat­ion is to advise the minister on the source and nature of problems, and measures required to restore good governance and management.”

Vice-chancellor of the Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University Peter Mbati is also facing probe looking at whether his appointmen­t was procedural. Nzimande last month also appointed Norman Duncan to investigat­e the affairs of Central University of Technology in Bloemfonte­in in the Free State. Duncan will also investigat­e the CUT’S financial management systems and human resources policies among others.

 ?? / Gallo Images ?? The Vaal University of Technology and legislator­s are at loggerhead­s after the embattled university refused to allow them to conduct their oversight.
/ Gallo Images The Vaal University of Technology and legislator­s are at loggerhead­s after the embattled university refused to allow them to conduct their oversight.
 ?? ?? Resigned chair of council Refilwe Buthelezi.
Resigned chair of council Refilwe Buthelezi.
 ?? ?? Chair of council Mandla Radebe
Chair of council Mandla Radebe

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