Nine months, and counting, is the period that Dr Prins Nevhutalu, the vice-chancellor of the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT), has been on suspension. During this time he has been paid almost R2-million to sit at home.
The university did not answer detailed questions sent to it or say why the disciplinary process was taking so long to be concluded. Spokesperson Lauren Kansley said the CPUT was not at liberty to comment. Nevhutalu also said he would not comment on the case while it was ongoing.
But the Mail & Guardian understands that it is Nevhutalu who has been dragging his feet.
“When he has to appear for a hearing, he postpones,” said an insider with knowledge of the case. “The guy is being paid, so he has nothing to lose.”
The CPUT’s latest annual report shows that Nevhutalu is paid about R2.6-million a year or about R217 000 a month.
The person who signed Nevhutalu’s suspension letter, former chairperson of the university’s council Mbulelo Bikwani, has since resigned without the case being concluded.
The M&G has seen a letter written by Bikwani, addressed to Nevhutalu on October 18 2016, advising him that the council – the university’s highest decision-making body – intended to place him on special leave.
The charges against Nevhutalu are: gross dereliction of duty, gross insubordination, gross negligence, breach of trust and incompatibility.
The gross dereliction charge relates to an incident in which the vice-chancellor allegedly lost about R2.6-million for the university, because he failed to participate in the negotiation of a departure agreement with a former executive director of finance.
He is also charged with failing to implement a new remuneration scale for employees, which resulted in a go-slow. This forced the university to bring in an external service provider at a cost of R150 000. The council also saw it as gross insubordination on Nevhutalu’s part for failing to comply with its lawful and reasonable instructions.
Nevhutalu’s failure to implement the new remuneration scale affected the relationship between the university and trade unions, and “compromised the trust which has been established amongst the parties”, according to the letter.
Unions at the CPUT started calling for the resignation of Nevhutalu as early as February last year.
Sello Nkwana, deputy chairperson of the National Health Education and Allied Workers’ Union at the CPUT, said the union did not know what was happening with the case. “He failed CPUT. The suspension process must be concluded and council must let him go. The system will collapse if he comes back. He is arrogant and unprincipled.”
Nevhutalu was appointed vice-chancellor in 2013. Political analyst Professor Sipho Seepe, who was shortlisted for the job, withdrew from the process a few days before the council made its announcement.
Seepe doubted Nevhutalu’s credibility to lead the university and called the process a “sham”. He accused the CPUT of incompetence and not taking its own minimum requirements seriously for short-listing a person who had last published an academic article 20 years ago.
Dr John Volmink, the chairperson of Umalusi, the Council for Quality Assurance in General and Further Education and Training, is the acting vice-chancellor.