Vaal Tech council broke the rules over chairperson, warns SACP

The South African Communist Party (SACP) in the Vaal district wants the council chair at Vaal University of Technology (VUT), Mahole Simon Mofokeng, to step down because he was “wrongfully elected” into the position.

The secretary of SACP Vaal, Sello Maetso, said this week that the party raised the issue with the university not as an attack on Mofokeng but on principle and to ensure good governance.

VUT, one of South Africa’s 26 universities, has been mired in allegations of mismanagement since 2012. That year the university was placed under administration after an independent assessor, appointed by Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande, found that the VUT council was implicated in financial mismanagement.

Mofokeng was elected as the deputy chair after the university came out of administration in 2013.

This is the same council that controversially extended outgoing vice-chancellor Professor Irene Moutlana’s contract even though she had been found guilty of financial maladministration. Her term was supposed to have ended in December 2013 but was extended by three years and she will leave office only at the end of June 2017.

Mofokeng joined the university council when he was executive mayor of Sedibeng district, in Vanderbijlpark, south of Johannesburg.

Mofokeng became chair of the council in September last year.

But in 2015 he was redeployed to become the executive mayor of Emfuleni local municipality. Once this happened, he was no longer empowered by the university’s statute to sit on the council. The statute allows only for a district representative to sit in council. It is for this reason that the SACP Vaal wants Mofokeng to step down as he is no longer a district mayor.

In a letter the party wrote to the council and the new vice-chancellor, Professor Gordon Zide, it said it was disappointed in “the manner institutional affairs are handled in the university as per the council statute and institutional rules”.

“The current VUT council chairperson is illegitimate and has no mandate to serve and represent any stakeholder in council in terms of his capacity as the executive mayor of the Emfuleni local municipality,” the letter reads.

“The SACP believes that there was deliberate intention and undermining by the executive mayor of Emfuleni local municipality, councillor Mahole Mofokeng, to disregard the council statute.”

Maetso also questioned why other council members elected Mofokeng as chairperson even though the rules are clear.

“VUT is our institution and does not belong to anybody and we will be involved in its affairs and we will jealously guard it,” said Maetso.

Asked why the party had waited eight months to raise the issue, Maetso said they had thought the institution and those that deployed Mofokeng would pick up the error, but when they did not, the party stepped in to alert VUT.

He added that the SACP would await the outcome of a council meeting in which the issue would be discussed.

The spokesperson of the VUT, Mike Khuboni, confirmed that the university had received the letter from the SACP and that the matter would be discussed at a council meeting on June 23, even though council was initially going to be sitting for normal business.

“However, because of the urgency and sensitivity of the matter, the registrar [Dan Mokoena], in his capacity as the secretary of council, will put this matter before council for its deliberation and interrogation,” said Khuboni.

Mofokeng could not be reached for comment and did not respond to an SMS sent to him.

The higher education department had not responded to a request for comment by the time of publication.

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Bongekile Macupe
Bongekile Macupe is an education reporter at the Mail & Guardian.

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