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Unisa Governance Struggle: Nzimande Confronts 4 Court Challenges



Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister Blade Nzimande.

The protracted battle for the governance of Unisa (University of South Africa) continues with no resolution in sight.

The Unisa council has launched four distinct legal challenges against Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande as it vehemently opposes the move towards its disbandment as reported by News 24.

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Ishmael Mnisi, the spokesperson for higher education, confirmed to News24 the department’s involvement in these four legal cases, illustrating the ongoing conflict between the department and the council of this large tertiary institution with 450,000 students.

Unisa’s legal team is optimistic that the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria will grant the draft order they have prepared. This order aims to halt Nzimande’s plans to dismantle the existing council and place Unisa under administrative control. The court’s decision is anticipated to be influenced by the outcome of a pending review application.


The decision to appoint an administrator is based on an independent assessor’s report, which investigated alleged malfeasance within Unisa.

Chairperson Mashukudu James Maboa expressed the Unisa council’s desire to scrutinize and annul Nzimande’s recent decision. In a letter dated 4 August, the minister outlined Unisa’s alleged financial and administrative mismanagement. Notably, he cited a substantial wage bill of R176 million, which accounted for 78% of the institution’s overall expenditure. Nzimande also criticized the council for financial irregularities and a perceived lack of understanding of higher education dynamics.

Contrasting this, Maboa contended that the council is acting following the Higher Education Act’s mandate, asserting that its primary objective is to safeguard the institutional integrity of the university. Maboa highlighted the Act’s provisions for tertiary institutions to maintain autonomy within the public accountability framework in his founding affidavit. He further argued that Nzimande’s intent to execute the assessor’s recommendation to dissolve the council needs to be revised.

Maboa stated, “The council has instituted an application…for the review and setting aside of the report of the [independent] assessor.”

This is not the first instance where an institution has contested Nzimande’s move to impose administration. In 2012, the Central University of Technology, led by Professor Thandwa Mthembu, took legal action against Nzimande and emerged victorious.


Mnisi, in his statement to News24, acknowledged the department’s involvement in four ongoing cases concerning Unisa. However, he refrained from divulging the specifics of these cases.

Regarding the ongoing review application of the assessor’s report, Mnisi stated, “I can’t share any information on this case for now as we are yet to appear in court on it.”

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Photo: Facebook / @Dr Blade Nzimande

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