Row over new Unisa vice-chancellor

2010-06-20 15:45

The University of South Africa’s (Unisa) council has caused a stir by appointing Professor

Mandla Makhanya as its new principal and vice-chancellor.

Makhanya was selected ahead of popular choice Professor ­David

Mosoma to replace outgoing vice-chancellor Professor Barney Pityana.

Labour and academic sources said there was a perception that

Makhanya was Pityana’s puppet.

The appointment has also not gone down well with both the National

Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) and the SA Students Congress


Nehawu has criticised the Unisa

council for lack of accountability, saying the problems that characterised

Pityana’s term would continue.

Nehawu spokesperson Sizwe Pamla said: “Our expectation was that

they would appoint ­Mosoma. The selection committee and the senate recommended

him but council decided to take the matter to a vote despite consensus from the

two statutory bodies.”

He said Makhanya would not overhaul the institution because he was

not an independent thinker but an “old boy” of Unisa.

Sasco president Mbulelo Manzana said they preferred Professor Sipho

Seepe but he did not apply. He said Seepe was “a progressive thinker and strong

personality who would have rooted out a system that continued to fail black

students at Unisa”.

He said: “The national executive committee of Sasco does not know

enough background about Makhanya to judge him or ­declare confidence in him.”

So brutal was the contest for the vice-chancellor position that

Pityana was prompted to call for calm and dignity during a senate sitting on

June 2.

Manzana said: “There are some people at this university who are no

longer attending to their duties, some of them rather senior academics, but are

spending an inordinate amount of time in caucuses.”

Council chairperson and ANC treasurer Mathews Phosa acknowledged

that the university was split down the middle but said Makhanya had received

support far exceeding the 51% of votes required to get the post.

“Makhanya will have to ­reconcile staff and stakeholders and lead.

He must be very decisive and he has the backing of council,” he said.

Makhanya said he was aware of divisions and accusations that he was

Pityana’s puppet.

“There will always be detractors,” he said. “When you work with a

leader there’s no way you can contradict that leader. The only way to succeed is

to work in unison. But my first task is to unite all the stakeholders of the


Mosoma said he would ­support Makhanya.

“Council has made a decision and I will respect it,” he said.

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