The Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Innovation met with Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT), the Department of Higher Education (DHET) and other stakeholders to engage with the independent assessor’s report on various allegations concerning the institution.

The Minister of Education, Science and Innovation, Dr Blade Nzimande, appointed Professor Anthony Staak as the independent assessor to conduct the investigation. His report was published in the Government Gazette on 25 March 2022 and has also been tabled in the National Assembly.

The MUT experienced instability when the university Council, led by Mr Morailane, suspended Vice-Chancellor Dr Duma Malaza and two other senior university officials, Dr Jerome Mabaso, former Director of Audit, Risk and Compliance, and Mr Muzi Khumalo, former Senior Director of Operations. 

Vice-Chancellor Dr Malaza then made a series of allegations to the DHET relating to a hostile relationship between the university’s executive management and the Council. The allegations concerned alleged interference in procurement processes from some Council members, including its Chairperson. The Council Chairperson also made a series of counter allegations against the Vice-Chancellor and the two officials. The disciplinary processes that followed dragged on for more than 12 months.

According to the DHET, the assessor’s report found no evidence of the Vice-Chancellor and staff being involved in any acts of corruption. The report also found no evidence to support counter allegations made against the Council. The report recommended that the sanctions against the Vice-Chancellor and the two senior officials be lifted, and found that their suspensions were not conducted in a fair and transparent manner. The report further recommended that the Council Chairperson should consider stepping down, in the best interest of the university.

However, the MUT informed the committee that it now has a non-disclosure agreement with the three officials and that all three have since left the university. Furthermore, during his closing remarks, the Council chairperson Mr Morailane remained adamant that the independent assessor had left it up to him to decide whether or not to step down.

The assessor’s report also recommended that MUT’s management should become more proactive in its approach to dealing with the National Student Financial AID Scheme (NSFAS).

Participants in the committee meeting also included the Student Representative Council (SRC), the Institutional Forum (IF) and labour unions National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union and Tertiary Education National Union of South Africa. The committee raised its concern that the labour unions were unable to work together to present a consolidated presentation to the committee. The SRC then mentioned that unending negotiations between the institution and unions are hindering normal academic life.

The Chairperson of the committee, Ms Nompendulo Mkhatshwa said: “The reputation of the institution is of great concern to the alumni, those who are currently in the institution and those who will be members in future.” The Chairperson further said that there should be financial stability within the institution to fulfil its core mandate of teaching and learning.

The committee said it was extremely concerning that the university incurred expenditure in legal fees that could have been avoided. The committee further noted that the university paid the officials while they were at home for over 12 months and also paid them a settlement to part ways. The committee called for stability within management and urged for collaboration on NSFAS projects.

The committee expressed concerns about serious unsubstantiated allegations that have affected people’s lives and caused harm to the reputation of the institution. The committee Chairperson continued: “We cannot find ourselves in a situation where this particular culture continues to persist. Its unhealthy, it’s not normal and very unprofessional.”

The committee said it supports the recommendations put forward by the independent assessor. It recommended MUT to strongly consider the report, given the fact that DHET plays an oversight function over the institution. The committee also requested MUT’s management and Council to submit written responses and a plan to address the issues raised by other stakeholders during the meeting.

Jabulani Majozi 
19 May 2022