Blade forces DG to quit

2010-10-17 08:08

 Higher education and training director-general Mary Metcalfe is set to quit following a nasty fallout with minister Blade Nzimande.

Three sources in the education field, all of them in government, say Nzimande has demanded that Metcalfe resign after barely a year in her position.

Nzimande and Metcalfe’s relationship of more than 20 years has broken down barely a year into the newly formed Department of Education and Training.

Two government officials who are aware of a meeting that took place at noon on Monday, and where the resignation was ­discussed, told City Press that Nzimande ­informed Metcalfe that he no longer trusted her and that she should leave.

Nzimande and Metcalfe had previously worked together in a United Democratic Front structure, the National Education Coordinating Committee, and at the ANC’s national post-secondary education initiative.

Things are said to be so bad that Metcalfe was looking at leaving at the end of the current financial year next March, or even earlier.

An education official said Metcalfe had quit her job at Wits to join the department and was upset that “an impression would be created that she has done something wrong” if she left.

The source said Metcalfe was “taken aback and shocked” at Nzimande’s demand for her resignation, which has since sent shockwaves through the new department.

The source said it was not clear what had made Nzimande demand Metcalfe’s resignation and on what information he based his ­mistrust of the director-general.

The source said Nzimande was “paranoid” and believed there was a cabal within the ­department that was working against him.

Another education official said Metcalfe had in the past few weeks questioned the cost of an overseas trip Nzimande was to undertake. The trip to Cuba has been postponed ­after Metcalfe questioned what appeared to be inflated prices that would have cost the department more than R1 million.

Yesterday Metcalfe would neither confirm nor deny that she had been asked to leave.

“The only thing I am prepared to say publicly is that I have not resigned. The work of the department is critical to the future of the country and I am carrying on with work,” she said.

Nzimande’s special adviser, Gwebs Qonde, said: “It is absolutely incorrect and we are going to issue a statement on Monday on the matter. The minister has never ever asked the DG to resign. No, no, no; he has never done that.”

Asked to comment on other allegations, including the postponed trip to Cuba, Qonde pleaded for more time.
 
“All your questions will be answered on Monday when you will hear the department’s position,” he said.

The first official said Nzimande’s suspicion of a conspiracy was allegedly sparked by revelations of his stay at the luxurious Mount Nelson Hotel in Cape Town last year.

The source said Nzimande also felt that ­Metcalfe was dragging her feet in hiring blacks in senior positions.

Since her appointment Metcalfe has filled two vacancies with black deputy directors-general while a third one rejected the job after ­going through the interviews, the source said.

Tshwane University of Technology deputy vice-chancellor of research, innovation and partnerships, Prince Nevhutalu, was tipped to take over one of the senior posts in the department but he allegedly declined it.

Nevhutalu told City Press he and the department had been involved in a negotiation process but that it had died down due to lack of progress.

A source outside the department but within the education field said: “Blade’s advisers have limited or no experience in higher education.

Metcalfe had a stint at Wits and even her appointment was questionable because she does not have a PhD.

“All was not well there and maybe the minister wants to counteract this lack of experience.”
 
He cited Dr Molapo Qhobela, the former deputy director-general for higher education, as having had a fallout with Metcalfe, since leaving to join his former minister, Naledi Pandor, at the Department of Science and Technology.

Metcalfe confirmed she did not have a PhD and that Wits knew that when she was
appointed.

She also said she had great respect for Nzimande’s advisers.

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