The king, as 'a concerned parent', offers to help end UniZulu stand-off

Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini is “deeply concerned” about unrest at the beleaguered University of Zululand. (Rogan Ward/Reuters)

Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini is “deeply concerned” about unrest at the beleaguered University of Zululand. (Rogan Ward/Reuters)

Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini is “deeply concerned” about unrest at the beleaguered University of Zululand.

Unlike most other campuses, which have been disrupted by demands for fee-free education, the university has been at a standstill since August 15 because of staff disputes over low pay.

The king’s spokesperson, Prince Thulani Zulu, said Zwelithini was prepared to assist the university at any time.

“It’s very difficult to say how far the king can go if the relevant parties are not prepared to come forward. It’s up to those people that need help to come to the king and say how he can help.

“Apart from being a king, he’s a parent and no parent is not concerned about what is happening. It’s even worse when the management [of the university] is not coming forward.
They are the people who should be coming forward.”

Members of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu), who include a large number of academics, have been barred from entering the university’s KwaDlangezwa campus since Tuesday, after the institution was granted an order by the Labour Court.

On Wednesday, disgruntled Nehawu members picketed outside the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre in Durban where President Jacob Zuma addressed delegates attending the World Federation of Trade Unions’ congress.

A former academic of the university, Professor Musa Xulu, said senior professors and members of the Senate decided last week “to stand up against what is appearing to be gross mismanagement of academic processes by some in university top management”.

“There seems to be concerns about a style of management characterised by many staff members as being vindictive, arrogant and abusive and leaning towards corrupt tendencies.

“The University of Zululand seems to be a lone ranger, unable to solve small local-level issues of labour relations, which have been solved by its peers. This may be defined as gross incompetence.”

In a statement issued by the convocation’s executive committee, the deputy president, Themba Khumalo, said the “pride, integrity and credibility” of former graduates such as Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, former chief justice Sandile Ngcobo and Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande were being threatened by recent scandals.

Among those reported in this newspaper were marks being awarded to a student despite him failing several modules.

“It is unfortunate that, even under the political leadership of [Nzimande], the ministry of higher education and training has turned a blind eye to the challenges the university has been facing over the years,” Khumalo said.

“What we normally refer to as historically disadvantaged institutions continue to be the ground for incompetent managers and council members who take advantage of weak systems to benefit themselves at the expense of both the legacy of institutions and services expected by students,” he added.

Last week, the university confirmed that a local chief paid the vice-chancellor, Professor Xoliswa Mtose, a courtesy visit to discuss the unrest on campus, among other things.

“It was part of ongoing stakeholder engagement sessions since the university is located in the tribal authority jurisdiction,” said Gcina Nhleko, the university’s director of communications and marketing.

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