The newly appointed minister of higher education and training, Prof Hlengiwe Mkhize, may have to hit the ground running in a long-standing matter that involves the alleged breakdown of governance and financial maladministration at the University of Zululand (Unizulu).
The department has confirmed in a letter that it is in the “process of appointing an independent assessor” to Unizulu. The letter, written by M Mogano from legal services within the department, informs an axed Unizulu CFO that the assessor’s task will be “to investigate affairs of University of Zululand”.
This was in response to a lawyer’s letter of demand sent to reshuffled minister Dr Blade Nzimande, protesting that action be taken against Prof Gideon de Wet, the deputy vice-chancellor at the institution, for giving a false testimony during an oversight visit by the portfolio committee on higher education and training.
In September 2016, Nzimande wrote to council and announced his intention to send in an assessor to stabilise the institution and salvage the “academic project” at the beleaguered institution.
Several sources accused Nzimande of overlooking the transgressions allegedly committed by council in awarding tenders to themselves and an associate, who it was confirmed is related to the SACP general secretary.
De Wet is accused of repeating the same misrepresentations and misleading parliament during what was supposed to be a feedback meeting between council and executive management in September.
At this meeting, both the chairperson of council, CV Gamede, and vice-chancellor Prof Xoliswa Mtose failed to attend the meeting and delegated other officers to attend on their behalf.
Unizulu has been besieged by accusations of financial impropriety, militarisation of campus, intimidation of students and unionised staff members as well as allegations of Mtose’s misrepresentations of her own academic accolades.
The office of the public protector confirmed a few months ago that it had reopened an investigation against the abuse of power, corruption and degrees for sale allegations at the institution that appear to have been mysteriously closed during Thuli Madonsela’s tenure as the public protector.
A report handed by the the portfolio committee itself recommended that the institution must hold an inquiry into the fitness of Mtose to hold office as well as around allegations of inflated security tender allegedly awarded to council members and associates of those in management positions.
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