‘Proper steps followed in suspensions’

2017-02-17 10:48
UKZN five to be disciplined over their claims.

UKZN five to be disciplined over their claims. (File)

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The University of KwaZulu-Natal has emphasised that the decision to suspend five of its top executives followed proper procedures and protocol by the institution’s council.

On Monday, five of the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s (UKZN) top executives were suspended by the UKZN council following recommendations by a board of inquiry.

UKZN vice-chairperson of council Dr Letticia Moja said the council appointed a board of inquiry to look into allegations that had been made by five of their executives of misconduct and/or incapacity against UKZN vice-chancellor Dr Albert van Jaarsveld.

Moja said the board’s findings exonerated Van Jaarsveld and recommended that disciplinary action be taken against the five who made the allegations.

“Council has deliberated on the recommendations at great length,” explained Moja.

“It has agreed that a compelling case against the complainants existed and that there is sufficient evidence and cause to suspend the remaining five members of the executive.”

She said the executives were given letters of suspension with immediate effect on Monday pending a disciplinary process, “as per the university policies”.

She said the university would be identifying “suitable candidates” to act in the positions of those suspended to minimise the disruption of operations at the institution.

“Council is aware of the differing positions by various stakeholders and urges them to allow council to deal with this matter,” said Moja.

“We … assure all stakeholders that the interest of the institution is council’s prime focus and that we will work within our policies to protect the university …”

A UKZN lecturer who could not be named said the suspensions meant that the university could continue focusing on building the institution to be “truly transformative and excellent”.

The lecturer said the actions of those who were suspended were individualistic and not in the interests of the students and the university.

The lecturer said the institution could now start to move forward and focus on the students and train the country’s future leaders.

National Tertiary Education Union general secretary Grant Abbott said the union was pleased UKZN had acted on the board’s recommendations and had not ignored the report’s findings.

Abbott said the union was “glad the process is in play”.

However, he added that the union would be watching the procedure closely to ensure everything was done fairly and within the institution’s policies.

KZN ANC provincial spokesperson Mdumiseni Ntuli said the suspensions were a cause for concern for the party.

Ntuli said UKZN had been a successful merger in its transformation from the University of Natal and the University of Durban-Westville, to represent the new South Africa.

He said there was concern that the suspensions might lead to instability and negatively impact on the society where each of the UKZN campuses are located.

He said while they were not close to the process, there was “grave concern” that it might not be handled correctly and the disruption could lead to “a failed university”.

The DA’s Nicole Graham said although she was not involved in the “day-to-day operations of the university,” it was important to note that there was an “open, ethical and accountable governance” at UKZN.

Graham said it was known that over the years, a number of senior staff and students had been lost due to concerns over the management of UKZN.

Graham hoped Van Jaarsveld would continue with the institution’s open and ethical policies. “We hope that this issue will settle down and they can focus on reviving the reputation of UKZN as a centre of learning and excellence in the province.”

Attempts to get comment from the IFP were unsuccessful on Thursday.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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