Suspended University of SA (Unisa) executive director for legal services Advocate Modidima Mannya is taking the university to court, to challenge his suspension which he says is unlawful.
Mannya, who was suspended on April 8, claims that he is being targeted after several investigations he carried out last year implicated members of the council and some executives. He said he rejected Unisa’s proposal for a mediation on unsubstantiated allegations and was suspended after refusing to go on paid leave.
In a loaded announcement on Friday, Mannya described this as an “abuse of power against his legal rights” by Unisa. He told reporters that the newly appointed Unisa principal and vice chancellor Puleng LenkaBula acted after he rejected her proposal for a mediation.
LenkaBula’s proposal was a follow up to a letter he had received from Unisa’s human resources executive director Zweli Dlamini last year. Dlamini had allegedly indicated that he had observed there were issues between Mannya and some “stakeholders”.
“I made it clear to Dlamini that I am appointed by the university and not his unnamed stakeholders. The principal and vice-chancellor, among others, raised the fact that I referred disputes I have with the university and a dispute of unfair discrimination to the Commission of Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration.
“The dispute relates to her own conduct and actions towards me. She placed me on paid leave. I rejected this decision on two points. Firstly, there is no university policy which authorises an employee to be placed on paid leave and secondly I cannot participate in an arrangement where I get paid for doing nothing and mislead the public,” Mannya said.
“I found such a proposition bordering on a possible contravention of the Prevention and Combatting of Corrupt Activities Act as it seems calculated to be a gratification and an inducement [for me] to participate in an otherwise unlawful act.”
Mannya said in terms of his contract, he was entitled to refer any dispute he had with Unisa. “The attempt to punish me for exercising my legal rights borders on abuse of power and is unconstitutional.”
Mannya alleged that LenkaBula had accused him of impacting on the academic project and that his presence was not in Unisa’s interest.
“She has not provided a factual basis for her assertion which I reject with the contempt it deserves. I have decided to challenge her decision in court. I will not hesitate to take further corrective legal action on other matters. The upholding of human rights, good governance and accountability remain the core of the constitutional values I shall always uphold without fear or favour. Those exercising public power are not immune from being held accountable,” he said.
Unisa council must act
Mannya said he had reported LenkaBula’s alleged conduct to the Unisa council, which said it would investigate. “I hope that the council will, in the interest of good governance, ensure that the investigation is initiated and concluded promptly.
“I also call on members of council to exercise their fiduciary duties and ensure that decisive action is taken against the so-called stakeholders and the executives involved in maleficence. Failing which I will have no option but to initiate legal proceedings for appropriate relief.”
Mannya said he was appointed on the basis that he resented corruption. “I openly informed the interviewing panel not to recommend me if they wished to appoint a pliable chief legal adviser. I reiterate that position, and throughout my tenure have stood firm on this principle.
“The idea that so-called stakeholders, some of whom are central to the malfeasance at the university, will determine my fate is a false start. I will not leave Unisa at the pleasure of those who have reduced a national university into a personal fiefdom and undermine good governance. As a compliance officer, I have a legal responsibility to report on malfeasance and have done so without fear or favour. I owe it to this nation and not those who advance self-interest,” he said.
Call to make LenkaBula’s appointment report public
He claimed that several investigations, including a recent probe he had overseen with Unisa’s chief audit executive, had revealed “serious evidence of malfeasance involving some of the so-called stakeholders and senior executives”.
“It therefore comes as no surprise to me that I can be placed on paid leave on the recommendation and demand of those implicated. I have also reported to the council the conduct of the former chairperson of council. It is significant that this report was not processed, and he was allowed to leave ‘gracefully’,” Mannya said.
He said attempts to silence him started last year after he had allegedly refused to carry out an unlawful instruction.
“Immediately thereafter, I was subjected to an unlawful investigation which took about seven months. When this investigation did not produce the desired results, an attempt was made to suspend me. This also failed. My current suspension comes as no surprise and not wholly unexpected,” he claimed.
“I remain resolute that my life and career will not be determined by those who advance self-interest at the public expense. I challenge the university to make public all reports of investigations conducted into the malfeasance so that the public can gain a better understanding of who these stakeholders are and what their role in this is.
“I also challenge the university to make public the report on the process of the appointment of the principal and vice-chancellor. The university must also make public the reasons two of the applicants withdrew as well as why two selection committee members withdrew from the process.”
He added that it was important for “the public be taken into full confidence on whether this process was fair and legitimate and whether the outcomes thereof can stand legal muster”.
“I will not be intimidated and participate in undermining our constitutional imperatives of good and clean governance because I want to be liked. I will not fold my arms in the face of abuse of power and will not be intimidated by those invoking blackness and gender to cover their otherwise wrongful acts.”
A spokesperson for Unisa said it would respond once it had gone through Mannya’s allegations.