Free State varsity wins against Nzimande

2012-08-13 16:14
Blade Nzimande (File, Sapa)

Blade Nzimande (File, Sapa)

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Bloemfontein - The Free State High Court in Bloemfontein has set aside Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande's appointment of an administrator at the Central University of Technology (CUT) in Bloemfontein.

On Monday, Judge Johann Daffue found for the council of the CUT, which had brought an urgent review application and sought an order declaring invalid Nzimande's decision to replace it with an administrator.

The court dismissed a counter application by Nzimande, departmental director general Gwebinkundla Qonde, and the administrator Stanley Ridge

Afterwards, people hugged each other, loudly approved and called Daffue's judgment a victory for the university community.

Nzimande appointed an assessor to look into the affairs of the CUT after protracted appeals and complaints by personnel and others at the university.

These included an anonymous letter sent to Nzimande by a group of CUT personnel, alleging serious financial and management irregularities.

Daffue found that the council, and not the minister, was responsible for the appointment of senior personnel, such as the rector.

Autonomy


The minister, or the department, did not have the powers to terminate the employment of university staff, such as the rector.
"Neither the minister or officials have the right to discipline the personnel of an institution [of higher learning]."

The court also held that Nzimande had no power to dissolve the CUT council and that he had exceeded his powers in this regard.

"The minister must accept the autonomy of the university. The step taken by minister was drastic," Daffue said.

The court held that allegations in the anonymous letter of violations at CUT by unnamed personnel were vague.

There was no clear evidence of alleged financial misconduct and other mismanagement, because of the lack of supporting documents.

There was also no indication of how many people there were in the group.

Daffue ruled that under the circumstances no reasonable decision-maker could have reached the decision made by Nzimande.

Management duties


The court found the minister pre-judged the CUT situation in deciding to appoint an administrator.

Daffue said it was accepted that there would always be people who were not happy when a big institution went through a restructuring process.

Nevertheless, he said, there was no justification for aspects, such as low personnel morale, and that this had to be dealt with by management.

The judge also held that tactics used by the CUT after the administrator was appointed could not be condoned.

Elated


In reaction, CUT rector Thandwa Mthembu said the judgment was a victory for the autonomy of higher education institutions and academic freedom. "We are very relieved".

The truth had also triumphed in the matter.

Mthembu said the council was back in business and would continue doing its work as before.

He said that despite the litigation the council had continued its work as usual and that management had tried hard to keep staff and students as calm as possible. "We had a good case."

Mthembu said the matter was sensitive and had great potential for getting out of hand and leading to students going on the rampage.

He admitted that not all was rosy at CUT, as was indicated by Daffue, in terms of staff morale, but said management would deal with this.

- SAPA
Read more on:    blade nzimande  |  bloemfontein  |  education
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