Gauteng High Court Blocks Minister Nzimande’s Move to Place UNISA Under Administration

Gauteng High Court Blocks Minister Nzimande’s Move to Place UNISA Under Administration

Court Interdicts Minister’s Administration Plans

The Gauteng High Court in Pretoria has issued an interdict against Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande’s attempt to place the embattled University of South Africa (UNISA) under administration.

The ruling, handed down on Friday, October 6, 2022, marks a significant development in the ongoing controversy surrounding the university’s governance.

Minister’s Previous Intentions

In August, the Department of Higher Education, Science, and Innovation revealed Minister Nzimande’s intention to put UNISA under administration.

This move was based on his powers outlined in Section 49B of the Higher Education Act, 101 of 1997, which allows for the appointment of an administrator.

Section 49E of the same Act stipulates that the UNISA Council would be dissolved upon the appointment of an administrator.

Findings of Independent Assessor and Ministerial Task Team

The decision to consider administration came after reports by an Independent Assessor, Professor Themba Mosia, and the Ministerial Task Team (MTT) on UNISA, chaired by Dr. Vincent Maphai.

These reports highlighted issues of financial and administrative mismanagement at the university.

Court’s Ruling and Immediate Actions

The Gauteng High Court in Pretoria has now ruled that Minister Nzimande should withdraw his notice and cease any steps towards implementing the administration.

The court’s order explicitly states, “The Minister is ordered to withdraw the notice forthwith upon the granting of this order, the Minister is ordered to immediately cease and desist from taking any steps to publish and implement the Notice or to take any steps of whatever nature to implement the Notice.”

Scathing Report on Mismanagement

A scathing 300-page report, presented by the Independent Assessor, exposed serious mismanagement at UNISA.

It revealed instances of Vice-Chancellor Puleng Lenkabula allegedly flouting procurement procedures for five years.

The report detailed extravagant spending on renovations to her VC residence, including substantial amounts for furniture, flooring, and a Mercedes-Benz SUV.

Additional Staff and Financial Concerns

Furthermore, the report highlighted the addition of new staff to the Vice-Chancellor’s office, including a chef and a head of social media, with associated costs of approximately R14 million.

Salary increases and backpay dating back to 2007 were also a concern.

Minister Nzimande expressed satisfaction with the report’s findings, asserting that the appointment of an administrator was in the best interest of UNISA and higher education in an open and democratic society.

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