TUT’s Professor Ogude was ‘pushed out’

Professor Nthabiseng Ogude, outgoing vice-chancellor of the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT), did not resign voluntarily, but was pushed out by the institution’s council.  

The Mail & Guardian has learnt that council, which is the university’s highest governing body, asked Ogude in a special meeting held two weeks ago to resign. 

“Council took a decision to ask her to resign,” said a council member who did not want to be named. “She was not fired, but also she did not resign voluntarily.”

The source said Ogude’s removal was carried out on a principle that an “employer can ask an employee to resign. It did not come to a point where she resisted and risk being fired. It was mutually agreed that she resigns”. 

Another council member said: “It was a very easy, simple decision. It was unanimous in the council. There was no voting. We resolved the matter in a day.”

This is contrary to a council statement this week that Ogude asked for termination of her five-year contract upon “indicat[ing] the desire to pursue other career options”. 

Council’s statement thanked Ogude “for her service since her appointment on 1 August 2012 and wishes her all the best in her future endeavours”.

An accomplished senior academic who had held the position of vice-principal responsible for teaching and learning and student affairs at the University of Pretoria, Ogude became TUT’s first woman vice-chancellor. 

She is leaving TUT at the end of November. Lourens van Staden, who returned to the institution some months ago after serving as administrator at the Walter Sisulu University on request of higher education and training minister Blade Nzimande, will act as vice-chancellor.  

Broken working relationship
Insiders said council felt it was necessary Ogude leaves owing to a broken working relationship in executive management. “The institution is facing many challenges. We felt we should bring in someone who can unite management,” said a council source. 

The allegedly toxic working relationship among senior executives had led to inefficiencies. This included failure to resolve the students’ funding strike that hit TUT’s campuses in September.

The strike, which lasted two weeks, culminated in restive students torching 18 cars belonging to the university at the Soshanguve campus. Students were protesting a shortage of funds from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme at the institution. 

An indicator of management inefficiency was that the students were “approved for funding [in January] and only told by SMS later in the year that there were no funds”. 

“Council felt she failed to provide leadership. Engagement with the students was not handled properly,” an insider said. 

But a “major issue” that finally influenced council’s decision –– and which was central to breakdown of workmanship in management – was the “lack of co-operation between the vice-chancellor and registrar”, Steward Mothata. 

Newspaper reports emerged in May that the pair had been warring since early 2013. A special mediation by TUT former administrator Themba Mosia meant to squash what he termed “disappointing petty squabbles” in a report failed. 

Mothata took his complaints to council, which in turn investigated Ogude. Reached over phone after many attempts, Mothata would not say if Ogude’s exit was what he expected. 

“It’s difficult to say I’m satisfied. I reported the matter to council and council deliberated. I don’t know what was considered. I can’t say I’m satisfied as if I wanted her to leave. If it went this route, well so be it. I guess this is how it ended.” 

Ogude could not be reached for comment after many attempts. She also did not respond to an emailed request for comment. 

She is the third successive vice-chancellor at the troubled TUT to vacate the position before the end of contract.

Errol Tyobeka was shown the door in 2010 after five years at the helm. The university’s then council cited a breakdown of relationship with Tyobeka and advertised his job.

But the office faced its biggest scandal in 2011 when the council appointed Johnny Molefe, who had a fake doctorate. 

Van Staden, apparently favoured by some council members to take over as vice-chancellor, will act “until the position is filled”, according to the structure. – Additional reporting by Verashni Pillay

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Bongani Nkosi
Bongani is an education reporter at the Mail & Guardian.

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