Former UKZN Maritzburg SRC president sets the record straight

2020-02-05 15:24
The UKZN Pietermaritzburg campus.

The UKZN Pietermaritzburg campus. (Supplied)

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To: The-Editor-in-Chief, News24

I am writing this letter in response to an article published by News24 dated 15/06/2016, herein is the link to the article: UKZN Maritzburg SRC president suspended over fraud

The purpose of this letter is to clarify some misinformation contained in the aforementioned article. It is important that I do so, regardless of the fact that it has been more than three years since its publication.

I will also clarify the rationale behind this late response, and I hope that it will make sense.

Background to the article:

The article was published by News24 on the 15th of June 2016 following an SRC meeting that sat on the 13th of June 2016.

I can confirm that the said meeting occurred, however, no one was suspended in that meeting.

The meeting was chaired by me as the President of the SRC, therefore, I can confirm this without fear of any contradiction.

I can also confirm that the meeting was not collegial due to an altercation that ensued between myself and Arron Ndlovu, who is cited in the article.

The root of the altercation was that Arron wanted to video-record a constitutional seating of the structure, for reasons unknown.

While we were debating the issue of recording and not recording the meeting, he insulted me and I retaliated, which he began recording the incident.

After the meeting, a video of that SRC meeting which only shows my responses to him was shared on Facebook, together with the allegations that I had been suspended.

On the 15th of June 2016, I received a call from a person by the name of Amanda Khoza, who introduced themselves as a journalist working for the News24.

During that call, she asked me about the allegations that I had been suspended due to fraud and corruption, to which I responded by stating that: "I am yet to hear what is it that I have done. The people who are making the allegations must provide evidence to their allegations in line with the principle that 'he who alleges must prove'. If they fail to provide evidence - which I know they do not have because their allegations are unfounded - I will sue them for defamation of character."

However, some parts of my response were omitted.

On the same day, I was alerted by a friend that there is an article about me and they sent me the link because I had been advised to deactivate Facebook due to the insults I was receiving from students as a result of the allegations, which were first circulated on that platform before News24.

On the content of the article:

The article alleges that I stole R400 000 from the University.

To clarify some misinformation: The SRC in UKZN operates through the procurement process. There is no cent that goes directly to any SRC official, including the President.

If the SRC requires any services, the structure sends a request to the Student Governance and Leadership Department (SGLD) for approval, who then send the request to the Finance Department, provided that the request has been approved.

Due to this process, it is practically impossible for the SRC to have direct access to any funds of the structure.

In addition, the Pietermaritzburg SRC had a budget of R570 000 for the year of 2015/16. As a university rule, 25% of that budget is allocated to student Clubs and Societies, and another 25% is set aside for the upcoming SRC in order for it to function prior to budget allocation, which is normally done in April of each year.

Therefore, the SRC was left with 50% of the budget.

Simple mathematics proves that the accessible budget for 2015/16 Pietermaritzburg was R285 000. Therefore, the amount of R400 000 does not make any mathematical sense, discounting the operational costs of the structure, which may include daily trips to Durban to attend University meetings, and at that time the university charged R3.50 per kilometre.

In addition to those transport costs, there is a telephone bill, which increased drastically and was a constant source of in-fighting within the SRC as some believed that they could use the SRC phones for their personal calls.

Why am I writing this letter now?

The News24 article has been a great source of shame for me, more especially because it portrays a total contradiction of the person that I am. It remains the first thing that appears in my Google search, even though it has been three years since publication.

I have suffered a lot physically, emotionally and psychologically due to that article and the Facebook posts that were circulated prior to it.

As a result, I do not have Facebook until this day, though I do not miss it.

After the article and the Facebook posts, I suffered a series of personal attacks, some of which were physical and by some of the SRC members and their friends.

The room I stayed in at the time was broken into a couple of times. I was almost "necklaced" (an old method of dealing with "sellouts" by burning them using a tyre) by a group of students who believed the content of the article.

For a long period of time I lived in fear for my life and had to sleep at other people’s places outside campus. This is just a summary of the things that transpired after the publication of that article.

Professionally, I have suffered as some organisations use Google search to get information about potential employees or clients.

Owing to this, I developed a PTSD and had to attend psychotherapy, which I am still attending to this day.

This has negatively affected my interpersonal relationships and I have become more guarded when interacting with people, something that is foreign to me. I have lived in an emotional and psychological cage due to those events.

I have recovered in many respects, but the shame is persistent because the Google search is a constant reminder.

What am I asking you to do?

I acknowledge and respect media freedom as a fundamental part of our democracy. However, media may be used for sinister agendas and character assassination.

For this reason, I am requesting that you publish this letter as a response to the article so that my side of the story can be heard in order to provide a balanced view.


I hope that this letter has provided a detailed response to the article and a comprehensive account of everything that unfolded.

Siphelele Nguse

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