×

We've got news for you.

Register on SowetanLIVE at no cost to receive newsletters, read exclusive articles & more.
Register now

Government ordered to retract notice placing Unisa under administration

On Friday higher education minister Blade Nzimande appointed the former vice-chancellor of the University of Johannesburg, Prof Ihron Rensburg, to act as administrator for two years after dissolving Unisa’s council. File image
On Friday higher education minister Blade Nzimande appointed the former vice-chancellor of the University of Johannesburg, Prof Ihron Rensburg, to act as administrator for two years after dissolving Unisa’s council. File image
Image: ANTONIO MUCHAVE

The Pretoria high court ordered higher education minister Blade Nzimande to immediately retract a government gazette notice that announced the appointment of an administrator for the University of South Africa (Unisa).

Acting judge Andre le Grange ruled on Wednesday that Nzimande’s decision was in breach of an order granted by judge Leicester Adams on August 24 ordering the minister not to act on the recommendations of independent assessor Prof Themba Mosia’s report until two separate applications challenging it are finalised.

Another judge of the same high court, Harshila Kooverjie, ordered Nzimande on October 6 to withdraw his notice of intention to place the university under administration.

On Friday Nzimande appointed the former vice-chancellor of the University of Johannesburg, Prof Ihron Rensburg, to act as administrator for two years after dissolving Unisa’s council.

Le Grange granted the parties leave to approach the deputy judge president of the North Gauteng high court, Aubrey Ledwaba, for a date and time for consideration of the issue of contempt.

According to Adams’ ruling, Nzimande was ordered not to take any decision based on Mosia’s report until two applications challenging it were finalised.

Le Grange said: “The minister, however, claims this paragraph was a mere ‘undertaking’ and not an ‘operative order’ and was disregarded by the minister. Considering this defence, this court could not but wonder if we have reached a state in our democracy where a minister’s word and undertaking means nothing.”

He said the order of Adams remains and is operative.

“As the minister has gone beyond his intention and acted by appointing the administrator, a similar question arises before this court. This court is considering the order of judge Adams and questioning whether the minister is contemptuous and in breach with his appointment of the administrator.”

Le Grange said the court “cannot find otherwise than that the act of appointing the administrator was and is in direct conflict and breach of the order of judge Adams and unlawful”.

“The proper functioning and authority of the courts would be considerably undermined if functionaries are allowed to disregard direct orders with the conception and belief that its decision remains in place until it be declared unlawful again.

“Any and all actions that flow from this (already declared) unlawful decision are void and unenforceable to be met with contempt of court proceedings.”

Le Grange said it had been strongly suggested by the council of Unisa that the court should grant an order calling on Nzimande to show cause why he should not be held in contempt of court.

“The court is therefore willing to grant the parties leave to approach the deputy judge president for a date to properly deal with the issue of contempt.”

TimesLIVE

Would you like to comment on this article?
Register (it's quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.