News24

Move to terminate Free State council queried

2012-07-19 19:29

Bloemfontein - The council of the Central University of Technology (CUT) in Bloemfontein was not validly terminated, the Free State High Court in Bloemfontein heard on Thursday.

The court was hearing argument in a legal battle between the CUT council and rector Thandwa Mthembu - and Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande, his director general Gwebinkundla Qonde and administrator Prof Stanley Ridge.

The CUT council approached the court for an order to declare invalid the minister’s decision to replace it with the administrator.

Nzimande, Qonde and Ridge also filed papers asking the court to uphold the decision.

Legal counsel for CUT Jeremy Gauntlet said Nzimande gave no reasons for his drastic decision to dissolve the council.

"You have to distil what your reasons are," said Gauntlet.

Nzimande appointed an assessor, Prof Julian Smith, to look into the affairs of the CUT after protracted appeals and complaints from personnel and others at CUT.

This followed an anonymous letter a group of CUT personnel sent Nzimande last February, alleging serious management irregularities.

Gauntlet submitted that the argument that Nzimande did not have to give more reasons than the findings in Smith’s report were wrong.

"If you make a drastic step of dissolving, you have to carefully weigh up all aspects."

Referring to the report, Gauntlet argued that Smith had not kept his eye on the ball.

He took High Court Judge Johann Daffue step by step through the report, which supported an intervention, and described it from time to time as "very foggy", "vague in language", and "simply wacky".

Gauntlet said the reasons given in the report were weak and failed the test for the drastic decision by the minister to dissolve the CUT council.

He told the court the CUT council held the view that it was still in charge of the institution.

Paul Kennedy, for the minister, will argue Nzimande’s case on Friday.

Daffue adjourned proceedings.