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VUT head investigated over appointment of unqualified female director

2019-05-02 16:44

Professor Gordon Ndodomzi Zide, vice-chancellor and principal of Vaal University of Technology, is embroiled in controversy over the appointment of a female director in his office.

The employee, whose name is known to City Press, is a former sector support officer and admin assistant to the director of operations and support at Universities South Africa, an organisation representing the country’s 26 vice-chancellors.

She was appointed to the post in April last year earning more than R1 million a year. At Universities South Africa, she earned R374 565 a year.

City Press has reliably learnt that the allegations relating to her appointment and the university’s poor governance and administration have been reported to the department of higher education and training.

Minister Naledi Pandor has referred them to the university council for investigation.

Questions were sent to Zide, the employee and the university in March.

Vaal University of Technology spokesperson Mike Khuboni, who also responded to those questions on their behalf, said he was of the view that the employee’s appointment was not irregular but confirmed that the allegations had been reported to Pandor, who referred them to the university council.

Khuboni made his comments after City Press learnt that:

  • Zide didn’t disclose in his declaration form ahead of interviews in February 2018 that he knew the employee. City Press has seen a testimonial Zide wrote on September 8 2017, before Vaal University of Technology advertised the position of director: office of the vice-chancellor and principal in November that year. In it, Zide detailed how he had known the employee from 2008 when Universities South Africa was still known as the Higher Education SA and praised her abilities to potential employers. Zide wrote in the testimonial that when the employee joined Higher Education SA, she performed duties as a sector support officer, a position which helped her to interact with a number of senior managers and executive management members from different universities. He said the employee “is a very well-mannered young lady who takes her work seriously and is well organised”.
  • Zide said it was always a pleasure working with her when he was the chairperson of the Transformation Managers Forum (TMF), a body which was established to help universities drive their different transformation agendas. “[S]he is an organiser who pays attention to detail. This was evidenced by the manner in which she organised the meetings of the TMF (at least this is an area where I came to know her better), as I was the Chairperson of this body,” Zide said in the testimonial;
  • City Press has also seen a screengrab of an email, which the employee sent to Zide’s private email in September 2017, from her Universities South Africa’s email. According to the screengrab, the subject of the email was “CV (2017)” and wrote a sentence on the email “My updated one”; and
  • Zide was among interview panelists and that the employee was competing for the position with a candidate who has a PhD qualification in international politics obtained from the University of KwaZulu-Natal. The PhD candidate did not get the post despite also having experience in senior management in a tertiary environment, which was an “absolute requirement” for the post. But, according to the employee’s CV, she had not occupied any senior management position (only that of sector support officer at Universities South Africa) or had any international relations qualification.

Khuboni said shortlisting and interviews were held by expert panel members.

“I want to believe and assume that each panel member did as normally would have been expected, to score each individual candidate based on his or her performance and also considered other important critical factors. I am also of the view and believe that the decision taken was based on the total scores from each panel member present,” Khuboni said.

He said Zide was certainly not the sole participant in the whole process. “I do not believe he would have taken a unilateral decision on her appointment in particular. Secondly, I have been reliably informed that Professor Zide made an open verbal declaration before the interviews and I am told this is on record.”

Khuboni confirmed that Zide wrote the testimonial at the request of the employee “long before but this had absolutely nothing to do with the post at Vaal University of Technology”.

He also confirmed that the employee sent her CV to Zide.

“Prof Zide informed me that her CV was certainly not for this position,” Khuboni said.

Vaal University of Technology council chairperson Tebogo Hlapolose said that the council was aware of the subject “although not to the extent of full information and documents as you may have.”

When asked whether the council was satisfied with her appointment or was doing something about the allegations, Hlapolose had not responded to these follow up questions, which were sent on April 24.

City Press also learnt this morning that a movement, #SaveVUT, issued a statement calling for council members to resign amid allegations that it did not quorate due to resignations and that it had taken illegal decisions, which could constitute fraud and fruitless expenditure.

A response had not been received from the university and its council relating to allegations made in the statement issued by #SaveVUT.

This story will be updated once responses have been received.

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November 10 2019