Dear Mr President

Mangosuthu University of Technology reels under the weight of its council’s mismanagement and Minister Nzimande seems to be reluctant to act

1. I have been apprised of more information which shows how the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology, Dr Blade Nzimande, rules the higher education landscape as he pleases and not for the benefit of our higher education system and our children’s futures.

2. This time, matters unfold at the Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT) where the minister’s lack of attention is driving this beleaguered institution further into the ground. This after the adverse findings of the 2018 “Report of the independent assessor into the state of affairs of Mangosuthu University of Technology” by Professor Barney Pityana and Ms Judith Favish (‘the Pityana Report’).

3. The Pityana Report had made various strategic findings and recommendations to right the MUT-ship, none of which had allegedly been heeded and/or implemented; including that serious consideration must be given to the disbandment of the MUT council.

4. The fact that this did not happen is now having an adverse effect at the MUT as there are serious allegations that the council is compromised, and that some of its members are doing their utmost to further their personal enrichment schemes.

5. I am informed that three senior management members, including the vice-chancellor and principal, Dr E Duma Malaza, have been suspended by the council, for months now, with no formal charges brought against them. Aside from this being, what seems to be, unfair labour practice, this allegedly happened as part of an effort to protect staff member/s who were suspected of procurement and payroll fraud and a potential cover-up of the alleged interference of the council chairperson, Mr Morailane Morailane, and the chairperson of the audit, risk and compliance committee in the award of a security tender.

6. It appears that matters were driven to a head when Dr Malaza, in April 2020, made a report to the MUT council about the unethical and non-transparent manner in which Mr Morailane held him to account, holding irregular executive committee meetings, the use of sub-committees to intimidate university management and the aforementioned interference in the award of a security tender.

7. The council then apparently took the decision to suspend Dr Malaza and his colleagues and decided that a forensic investigation of some manner was in order. The problem with this course of action is that the council cannot institute an investigation into itself and it would be fair to argue that any terms of reference drafted by a biased council would in turn be biased and may well be manipulated to suit a certain outcome.

8. To provide further context, the Pityana Report had asked pointed questions of Mr Morailane’s council chairpersonship, as he had a judgment taken against him at the North Gauteng High Court in 2017 in terms of which property was attached and a sale in execution was set in 2018. Yet, despite some doubts around his suitability, Mr Morailane still is the MUT council chairperson and now, what appears to be, under a suspicious and darker cloud.

9. There are further allegations around irregularities in the appointment of SNG Incorporated as the forensic investigator, as well as their credibility as their investigation has apparently been led by bias and will in the end show a predetermined outcome. If these allegations are true, it is clear that the sophistication with which corruption is being covered-up is becoming greater and greater.

10. I understand that many key university stakeholders, such as the student representative council, the MUT convocation and even some council members, have raised the above issues with the minister (and his Deputy Director General: University Education, Dr Diane Parker) and pleaded that the council should be dissolved, yet those calls have fallen on deaf ears.

11. It is clear that, whatever the circumstances at MUT, urgent and drastic intervention is required. Given this university’s troubled history, the minister’s lack of attention since 2018 and his current recalcitrance, after having been repeatedly told of the crisis, is doing further immense damage and one can but speculate about his motivations and reasons.

Maybe the plan is to let everything at MUT go up in smoke and then parachute-in an administrator, of his personal choice of course, to save the day and secure yet another block in the personal empire he seems to be building at the taxpayers’ expense?

12. It is our sincere wish that you will acknowledge that all is not well in the Department of Higher Education and Training and that Minister Nzimande is not doing this country any favours by staying his current course, and neither are you Mr President by playing the proverbial fiddle whilst Rome is burning.

Yours sincerely
Mr Bantu Holomisa, MP
President of the United Democratic Movement