An independent investigator has been appointed by the University of South Africa (Unisa) council to probe allegations of misconduct against principal and vice-chancellor Professor Mandla Makhanya.
This was Unisa’s response to questions sent by City Press late last month following allegations from sources that the university’s council had failed to institute an investigation into Makhanya’s alleged misconduct, relating to the irregular repeal of university policies to accede to demands of unionists and students.
This after a whistle-blower, whose name was unknown to City Press until it was identified by Unisa spokesperson Martin Ramotshela as the registrar Dr Faroon Goolam, filed a complaint in April and a grievance in May about Makhanya’s alleged conduct.
“Considering that the context of the complaint and the issues council is attending to involve and affect senior executives and other stakeholders of the university, it resolved to initiate an independent process to enquire into and deal with this matter. All the affected persons and stakeholders have been made aware of this process and are kept abreast of developments at all material times,” Ramotshela said.
He said that an independent process was needed to address the issues.
“For this reason, and as stated above, council has already appointed an independent person to enquire into the issues. It would therefore be inappropriate for council and/or the vice-chancellor to make any comments regarding this matter, including commenting on it in the media domain, as that would impact on the integrity of the process. Council and the vice-chancellor have been advised not to comment and/or act in any manner which will impact adversely on the process outlined above. However, the vice-chancellor reserves his rights on any defamatory allegations made against him,” he said.
In the complaint to council seen by City Press, the complainant alleged that Makhanya “kowtowed” to the demands of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) that he (Goolam) be removed from the university in April.
“There were no written reasons afforded for such a demand and at the time [I was placed on special leave] no submission had materialised in writing,” he said in the complaint.
What was surprising about Makhanya’s decision to place him on special leave, Goolam said, was that there were student disruptions in January 2019 and they were summarily paused as a result of an interdict.
“While similar recourse was certainly in the repertoire of solutions available at the time, the vice-chancellor chose to capitulate to the whims of Nehawu,” he said.
In so doing, Goolam said his integrity had been compromised because employees continued to speculate on the reasons for such special leave.
“In taking such a decision, the vice-chancellor has floated a cardinal rule of adherence to policy that he had acted on the basis of demands that emerged from an unprotected strike,” he said.
It was unequivocal that his placement on special leave, Goolam said, was Makhanya’s decision, not the leadership of the university’s.
“The sad reality of the decision is that [I] was informed by email about the same thing at 4.13pm on April 9 but the decision had been communicated by the vice-chancellor [without advising Goolam of the same in advance] to Nehawu at lunch time on the even date,” he said.
Other allegations included that Makhanya:
? Cancelled disciplinary hearings against four students after a student representative council leader from KwaZulu-Natal region arrived “en masse” and were supported by Nehawu in a quest to dissolve hearings against the four;
? Bowed to Economic Freedom Fighters Student Command and in March the student command was allowed, “in an unprecedented way”, to make representations at the management committee meeting and demanded that exams be moved in April to June; and
? Flouted rules pertaining to re-admissions when he allegedly sent a text message to Goolam instructing him to readmit students who had been excluded in 2019 due to poor results but after Goolam indicated that he would also copy another official in the instruction, Makhanya allegedly backtracked from his initial instruction.
Goolam has returned to the university amid ongoing investigations.