Committee to monitor UniZulu ‘until it is fully functional’

The Portfolio Committee on Higher Education has committed itself to closely oversee the running of the University of Zululand (UniZulu), in Richards Bay, “until it is fully functional”.

Committee chairperson Connie September on Wednesday said MPs had committed to enhancing the committee’s oversight responsibility on the university until the institution was functioning normally.

There was a need to move with speed on the matter, said September in a statement.

“The department must intervene immediately. We cannot have a situation where UniZulu is spiralling downwards. When we come back for the next term we will decide how we move forward with regard to the institution,” she said.

Thirty-two students were arrested at the university on Thursday during a violent protest over meal allowances.

Police said a building and two police vehicles were torched during the protest.

Students expected to return to class

Thirteen students were released on R1 000 bail each last Friday.

Nineteen other students were still in police custody.

SRC deputy president Ndumiso Ntshangase told News24 on Monday that they were still fighting for those students to be released on bail.

“But this could take up to seven days as police investigate,” he said.

He said students were expected to return to class next week as the matter of meal allowances had been resolved.

According to the institution’s website, meal and transport allowances had been paid to “qualifying and approved NSFAS and bursary-holding students for February and March”.

However, management said the university’s KwaDlangezwa campus remained closed to students until further notice.

Progress at Fort Hare

“The Council on Higher Education (CHE) came to brief the committee on matters regarding the University of Zululand including governance challenges, matters pertaining to the vice-chancellor, the council, and the sale of degrees,” said September.

She said the CHE told the committee that something “at a higher level needed to be done so that students are not denied education and that there had to be a forensic investigation to address those things the CHE lacked capacity to deal with”.

September also said the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) had also conducted an investigation into the sector.

The committee would consider inviting the SAHRC to get a briefing on its findings, she said.

She also voiced her satisfaction with the progress made at the University of Fort Hare in the Eastern Cape since the committee’s oversight visit in January.

She said the committee was however concerned about the reported mismanagement of finances at the Tshwane College and that it supported calls for investigations.

“Where transgressions have occurred, the law enforcement agencies should deal with that. Students’ preoccupation should be learning and not parties. There are still issues with student accommodation at many institutions, but we are excited with the progress. But also, the reported thievery at some institutions should be dealt with,” she said. — News24

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