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Nzimande won't wait for court decision to appoint Unisa administrator

Minister of higher education Blade Nzimande.
DECISION TIME Minister of higher education Blade Nzimande.
Image: Supplied

Higher education minister Blade Nzimande has rejected a request by Unisa’s council to wait for the court to rule on the independent assessor’s report before he makes a final decision on appointing an administrator for the institution.

In a letter addressed to lawyers acting on behalf of the council on Friday, the state attorney stated that Nzimande however agreed to extend the period for making representations to him to 30 days from the date of his notice to the council on August 4.

“He will take a final decision upon the expiry of the 30-day period,” the state attorney said.

Nzimande wrote to council chair James Maboa last Friday informing him that he was satisfied that a report by independent assessor Prof Themba Mosia “reveals financial and other maladministration of a serious nature and serious undermining of the effective functioning of Unisa”.

He told Maboa that Mosia’s report revealed that the appointment of an administrator would be in the best interests of Unisa and of higher education in an open and democratic society.

He gave Maboa seven days to make written representations to him concerning the action he contemplated taking and indicated he would consider it and then take a final decision.

Maboa confirmed to TimesLIVE that the council met on Thursday afternoon to discuss their response to Nzimande’s letter but declined to provide further details.

However, according to the letter Maboa sent to Nzimande on Thursday, which was leaked to TimesLIVE, Maboa said they did not agree with the conclusions reached by Mosia.

The council took a decision on June 7 to go to court to have Mosia’s report reviewed and set aside. They lodged an application in the high Court in Pretoria on July 4. The matter is yet to be heard.

Maboa informed Nzimande that they were confident the court would rule in the council’s favour and as a result, they did not intend to further respond to the conclusions made by Mosia.

He told Nzimande that placing Unisa under administration would cause irreparable harm to its reputation and stature and affect Unisa's ratings and rankings, which have been on the rise in recent years.

Nzimande’s attention was drawn to the fact that 18 out of 23 members of council had joined only after his decision to appoint a ministerial task team in 2020, led by Vincent Maphai.

He told the minister the composition of the council had drastically changed since the ministerial task team report and Mosia’s report, and that he would be dissolving a relatively new council.

Maboa asked Nzimande to consider their submission and take a decision that will not cause further harm to the reputation and business continuity of Unisa.

He also asked Nzimande to give them a final communication if he remained unswayed by the council’s plea and wished to immediately proceed with placing the university under administration.

This was because the council requested members not to resign before there was clear finality on the matter as this would affect the governance stability of the university.

Maboa told Nzimande they wanted to avoid a situation where the members, most of whom came after Mosia’s appointment, find themselves unable to serve on future boards because of having been previously removed from a position of trust.

Both Maboa and his deputy were also available to meet Nzimande to further discuss details of the letter they sent him on Thursday.

TimesLIVE


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