Unisa, Africa’s largest open-distance learning institution, remains embroiled in a legal struggle with the Minister of Higher Education, Dr. Blade Nzimande. On Friday, the minister placed Unisa under administration, putting Prof Ihron Rensburg in charge for the next 24 months. This move has sparked the threat of further legal action, stemming from a previous Pretoria High Court order that instructed Nzimande not to interfere with the university’s management.
The ongoing dispute between the minister and Unisa has lasted for about a year. Rensburg, who was previously the Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Johannesburg, will now lead Unisa and report to the minister or their delegated official.
The findings and recommendations informed Nzimande’s decision to place Unisa under the administration of an independent assessor, Prof Themba Mosia, and the government’s responsibility to protect the public interest. According to Mosia, Unisa suffered from chronic management failures in various key support systems, with the council being identified as the root cause of the university’s problems.
The administrator’s role will involve:
- Taking over the council’s powers, functions, and duties for 24 months related to governance.
- Addressing management issues.
- Developing a turnaround plan.
- Initiating an external investigation into financial control weaknesses.
- Ensuring the constitution of a new council in due time.
Unisa has disagreed with the minister’s announcement, citing that it is premature and in contempt of the court order issued on October 6. While the university is not directly opposing the minister, it is currently pursuing legal processes to challenge his latest decision.
Jurisprudence lecturer Mametlwe Sebei has suggested that Nzimande may be in contempt of court due to his actions.
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Photo: Supplied by Citizen