Two UKZN professors suspended

2012-04-26 00:00

TWO respected medical professors at the University of KwaZulu-Natal were suspended from their posts yesterday.

Professor Umesh Lalloo and Professor Razia Bobat were told their fate when they returned home from leave last week.

In a public announcement to staff yesterday, UKZN said: “They have been suspended pending an internal disciplinary process. The suspension was served on Thursday, 19 April, 2012.

“This is as a result of an extensive investigation that was instituted by the university following Tipp-off Anonymous. We must all respect the process and its outcome.”

Tipp-off Anonymous is a fraud hotline designed to maintain academic integrity on campus.

Professor Lalloo is a respected pulmonologist who has raised millions of rands in grants for the university and is the former dean of the Nelson Mandela Medical School.

His wife, Professor Bobat, is a well-known paediatrician.

Lalloo declined to comment to The Witness, saying he was waiting to see the allegations behind his suspension.

He said he was shocked to receive news of the suspension when he returned home from his overseas trip.

Nomonde Mbadi, the UKZN spokesperson, said: “Professors Umesh Lalloo and Razia Bobat have been suspended pending further investigations. In this regard we request that the media respect the university’s due processes.”

A number of top academics have left UKZN since the appointment of Vice Chancellor Professor Malegapuru Makgoba.

Most recently Vice Chancellor Professor Tahir Pillay resigned from his post under a cloud of controversy.

Professor Steve Naidoo, professor of forensics, also resigned recently. Pillay said he was considering attractive offers from overseas. The Witness has documents to show that he was also under investigation.

Naidoo told The Witness he could not work under those conditions.

In 2008 Makgoba was accused of adopting a harsh management style and many staffers were angry when his contract as vice chancellor was extended for a second term.

A committee was formed to investigate whether the UKZN’s governance structures and processes impeded academic freedom and freedom of expression, and whether its dispute resolution mechanisms fostered “a culture of hostility”.

Representations were heard from 103 respondents.

The South African Science Journal reported: “The committee was tough on UKZN’s dispute-resolution mechanisms, finding that disciplinary measures had in the past been applied inconsistently and often harshly. The committee accepts that steps have to be taken to make litigation a last resort in any disciplinary matter.”

Even the Council of Higher Education (CHE) was recently drawn into the UKZN’s internal conflicts in its 2008 university audit.

It commented that the unresolved conflicts between academics and management at UKZN should be dealt with through the governance structures of the institution.

“It is not within the CHE’s mandate, and rightly so, to resolve such conflicts.

“If anything, attempts to drag the CHE into addressing internal institutional conflicts hold greater dangers for institutional autonomy and academic freedom than does the quality assurance role of the CHE.”

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