Ranjeni Munusamy is out. The long-time ally of Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande will leave the department by this weekend, a joint statement on Thursday by Munusamy and acting director general Gwebs Qonde said.
Qonde’s new status in the department of higher education and training itself follows a related development this week. On Monday the department announced that director general Mary Metcalfe, whose ousting had by then been widely reported, had asked “to go on leave for a few weeks”. The department had previously said — in a joint statement between the alleged wielder of the axe, Nzimande, and the recipient of its blade — that Metcalfe would leave “before the end of April 2011”.
Following Metcalfe’s subsequent desire for a break from the office Nzimande had appointed Qonde acting director general, the Monday statement said. Qonde was previously the minister’s special adviser.
The Mail & Guardian reported last week that Munusamy would be, after Metcalfe, the next prominent victim of unexplained ministerial wrath. It also reported the perceptions of multiple sources that tension in the department had suddenly escalated about a month ago after simmering for even longer and that Nzimande appeared to be purging the department of anyone who questioned him.
In Munusamy’s case the point of friction appeared to be her outspoken opposition to her boss’s advocacy of a statutory media tribunal.
In Metcalfe’s case it was reported to be her suggestion that the department’s funds should not be used for a South African Communist Party-related trip to Cuba that Nzimande wanted to go on, that earned her the minister’s displeasure. It has also been suggested that Nzimande objected to the way she exercised some of her statutory and departmental management duties.
Thursday’s statement followed the template set by Nzimande’s and Metcalfe’s utterance the week before. This time Qonde and Munusamy joined hands saying her departure was by mutual consent “to pursue other interests” and was “not under any compulsion”.
The department “thanks her for her good performance” and she will “leave the employ” of the department by the end of October. Munusamy declined to comment.