Independent assessor throws new light on ‘deeply divided’ MUT

The Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT) has been unstable for about 10 years, according to an independent assessor’s report looking into the problems faced by the institution and the state of its governance.

The report was commissioned in May by the higher education and training minister, Naledi Pandor, who appointed former Unisa vice-chancellor Professor Barney Pityana to investigate.

Pandor released Pityana’s report two weeks ago. It found that governance and management have long been a contentious issue and recommended disbanding the council — the university’s highest decision-making body.

Things reached a “crisis point” at MUT when the executive committee of council suspended six members of the executive management, including former vice-chancellor Professor Mashupye Kgaphola in 2016, said the report.

“At issue was the plain fact that council appeared to have lost confidence in the vice-chancellor and in the executive management. Executive management had become decimated by suspensions and the institution was crippled in its operations.”

But it appeared that council had never discussed its dissatisfaction with Kgaphola, said Pityana. Instead, a forensic report by Ubuntu Business Advisory Consulting was used by the council to suspend the executives and Kgaphola.

Pityana raised concerns about the appointment of the consulting company, saying it appeared to have been irregular. He also highlighted that its quality and findings were questionable as “none of the suspects were interviewed by the investigators”.

In submissions that Kgaphola made to Pityana, which the Mail & Guardian has seen, he called the forensic report a sham, which was used “unlawfully” to suspend him and the other executives. 

READ MORE: MUT head’s lavish life slammed

Kgaphola this week declined to comment, saying he was considering his legal options after the M&G reported the findings of the forensic report in July without obtaining his comment. 

The forensic report placed him at the centre of mismanagement at the university. Pityana’s investigation also found that governance systems at the university were “in danger of total breakdown unless trust between council and management is built all over again”.

The new vice-chancellor, Dr Duma Malaza, had inherited a “deeply divided institution” where systems of management are not functioning and where staff are “demoralised and uninspired”.

The spokesperson for the department of higher education and training, Lunga Ngqengelele, said Pandor would only decide how to act once she had met the council — probably next year, he said.

In a statement, the university said it welcomed the report.

“The report will allow the university to break with the past, create a space for good governance and develop a new vision and strategy going forward.”

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

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