UKZN continue clean-out process

2008-03-10 00:00

The University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) will confront its controversial former financial head, Kanthan Pillay, at the CCMA this week and trade union head Professor Ivan Mantzaris has finally been formally charged for “bringing the university into disrepute”, nearly a year after he was suspended on full pay and barred from all campuses.

In addition, sources close to the university report that at least nine people have been retrenched from the finance division following the findings of a task team that investigated irregularities after Pillay was fired.

The task team is believed to have identified a number of employees who are not qualified to do their jobs. Counter claims are that the investigators were tasked with weeding out those who supported Pillay.

Pillay’s CCMA hearing, aimed at deciding whether the university could sack him on the basis of a “breakdown in trust” between him and vice chancellor Malegapuru Makgoba, could be the final battle in a war that broke out in January 2007. Makgoba and chairman of the university’s executive, Dr Vincent Maphai, were temporarily suspended after a senior academic, Dr Pumela Msweli-Mbanga, accused them of sexual harassment.

During this scandal, it emerged that there were a number of irregularities in the awarding of a Masters degree to Pillay, whose thesis was supervised by Msweli-Mbanga.

There were also allegations that Pillay and Msweli-Mbanga were having an affair. The degree was cancelled, Pillay was disciplined and then fired.

Two other academics involved, deputy dean Dev Tewari, head of the school of accounting, and taxation lecturer Dilip Garach, faced disciplinary action. They have been suspended on full pay for over a year, which has reportedly cost the university more than R1 million. A decision on their fates is still pending.

UKZN was also forced to pay out an undisclosed sum to Msweli-Mbanga. She resigned prior to the eruption of the scandal, but revoked her resignation.

Following the release of the findings of the Magid Tribunal, which identified irregularities in the awarding of Pillay’s degree, UKZN announced that it would process her initial resignation.

Msweli-Mbanga referred her case to the CCMA, which found in her favour and the university paid up.

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