Higher Education Minister Naledi Pandor has appealed for University of Fort Hare stakeholders to give the newly-appointed administrator Professor Loyiso Nongxa a chance to do his work.
This after the president of the convocation Solomzi Tshona wrote a letter, which was also copied to Pandor, to the university community warning that the convocation and alumni could not support Nongxa if Pandor failed to respond to their concerns over the legality of her decision to appoint the administrator without consulting stakeholders.
READ: Fort Hare: Pandor faces challenge over appointment of administrator
City Press understands that Tshona met with Nongxa on Tuesday.
This newspaper has also seen a letter dated April 28 addressed to Pandor bearing letterheads of both unions – the National Tertiary Education Union and the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union – questioning Pandor’s decision to appoint Nongxa and dissolve council but not the executive management.
Pandor’s spokesperson Lunga Ngqengelele said the minister appeals for stakeholders to allow Nongxa to do his work and return the university to normality.
The department’s director-general Gwebinkundla Qonde, Ngqengelele said, had met with all the stakeholders, including the labour unions, and explained Pandor’s rationale and this explanation was accepted by all stakeholders.
Pandor’s rationale was that Section 49(B)(1A) of the Higher Education Act, requires that, before appointing an administrator, the minister must:
* give written notice to the council of her intention to make such an appointment;
* provide the council with the reasons for the appointment;
* give the council a reasonable opportunity to make written representations; and
* consider such representations.
But the reasons for her not consulting stakeholders before Nongxa’s appointment were due to the urgency of the situation at Fort Hare.
Ngqengelele, in his response, detailed Pandor’s rationale:
“Notwithstanding the above provisions, given the urgency of the situation, within the context of Section 3(4)(a) and (b) of the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act, No 3 of 2000, which gives effect to the provisions of Section 33 of the Constitution, the conditions, circumstances and the state of governance at the institution is such that it is reasonable and justifiable to depart from the provisions of providing a notice, receiving and considering the representations in that:
*although the objective of Section 49(B)(1A) is to provide notice, it is not feasible in this case, since members of the council in question, have admitted that they have had difficulties in convening meetings and conducting its business effectively;
*the nature and purpose of the administrative action is to stabilise the institution immediately and to ensure that efficiency, good governance and a conducive academic environment is in place, including ensuring that the institution as an organ of state is able to comply with the provisions of Section 217 of the Constitution, inter alia, in relation to procurement processes in that it must act in accordance with a system which is fair, equitable, transparent, competitive and cost-effective;
*the anticipated effect of the appointment of the administrator would be to stabilise the institution, promote good governance, efficient administration, as such outcomes are in the public interest; and
*taking into account such circumstances and threats against the security of employees of the institution, and the collapse of governance at the university, it is desirable that the matter is treated with urgency. In this regard, it is vital to waive the requirement of a notice, receipt of written representation and consideration of same”.
Tshona said at the meeting with Nongxa, it was agreed that the university needs to start over with regards to the statute “as it has so many irregularities and that the sections do not speak to one another”.
“Our agreement is that, based on his terms of reference, the statute must be reviewed before his 12 months period ends. One of his other top priorities is that he must continue to consult with everyone in the Fort Hare community to get to [a thorough] understanding of what the problem is.”