Racism, nepotism, saucy office romances and financial maladministration at the embattled University of KwaZulu-Natal
De Wet Potgieter
A special investigation by The New Age this week has exposed a legacy of dirty tricks, racism, nepotism, saucy office romances and financial maladministration at the embattled University of KwaZulu-Natal, and a pressure group of more than 200 academics, medical doctors and lawyers have called for an independent investigation at the institution.
The Concerned Citizens Group of UKZN (a coalition of academics, doctors and lawyers) also insist that an independent body be appointed to investigate the perjury charges against its vice-chancellor, Professor William Makgoba, and that he be suspended pending the outcome.
Details of Makgoba’s alleged perjury were exposed recently by the former financial manager at the university, Kanthan Pillay, who has laid criminal charges with the police’s commercial crimes unit in Durban.
The high-powered pressure group is preparing to go to the high court to remedy what they describe as the “extremely explosive” situation at the university. They have compiled an extensive dossier for the public protector, Thuli Madonsela.
They say maladministration and a culture of intolerant autocracy involving claims of corruption, nepotism and sexual shenanigans are smearing the good name and international standing of the university , which is regarded as one of Africa’s leading higher education institutions.
Makgoba is also accused of embarking on “ethnic cleansing” along racial lines since 2005, sources at the university told The New Age this week.
More than 200 medical practitioners belonging to the KZN coastal branch of the South African Medical Association and the KwaZulu-Natal Managed Care Coalition, including some prominent medical professors, have called for the investigation at UKZN in the light of the high turnover of academic staff, the level of discontent and the low morale, sources told The New Age this week in Durban and Johannesburg.
“Members were particularly concerned about the inequitable handling of allegations against senior academic staff compared to Makgoba who has allegations of perjury levelled against him.
“A number of senior staff have been suspended or have resigned and this has long term implications for the standard of education at the university. Numerous heads of department positions in health sciences have been vacant for many years.”
Our sources raised a number of issues of maladministration and poor governance at UKZN and a general concern about the poor standards of education and outcomes, particularly at the medical school.
They also requested Minister for Higher Education, Blade Nzimande to intervene and investigate the “ethnic cleansing” at the university, and the exclusion of Indian staff from the “designated groups” in job adverts and recruitment processes, which is contrary to the BEE policy of the university.
Makgoba declined to comment on the allegations and alleged that there was a conspiracy against him.
Our sources cite the large number of high profile Indian staff who have been the target of investigations and disciplinary action in the past three years and the role of Makgoba in perpetuating racial discord and mobilising student unrest.
Nzimande said yesterday there is no need for him to appoint an independent assessor to investigate at UKZN.
“I have all the confidence in the university council to handle this matter,” he told The New Age at the Soweto campus of the University of Johannesburg.
“It would be wrong to micro manage the situation. The council is the governing body and must deal with it.”
The chairman of the UKZN council, Mac Mia, reiterated that his council - “the highest decision-making structure of the university” - is dealing with this matter and is committed to a speedy but “thorough process”.
Spokesperson for the Public Protector, Oupa Segalwe, confirmed that the complaint was received.
“She will be assessing it for jurisdiction to establish if there is merit to the claims. Only after this process will she decide whether to investigate or not,” he said.
To read full story see page 10 in The New Age newspaper