/ 12 May 2020

Changing of the guard at three universities

The University of Fort Hare.
The University of Fort Hare.

Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University in Pretoria North has appointed a former University of Venda (Univen) vice-chancellor as its new head.

Professor Peter Mbati, who is currently the deputy vice-chancellor at Botho University in Botswana, will take over at Sefako Makgatho University (SMU) from June 1, the university announced this week.

Last year Mbati was also shortlisted for the position of vice-chancellor at University of KwaZulu-Natal, but Professor Nana Poku was appointed as head of the institution.

Mbati served two terms at Univen, from 2008 to 2018. His time at the institution was not without its scandals. The then dean of the School of Education, Professor Thidziambi Phendla, accused Mbati of demanding sex from her.

The university council cleared Mbati of the charges after an investigation into the allegations. In 2017 Mbati instituted a R10-million lawsuit against Phendla.  

In its statement the SMU chairperson, Maria Rambauli, said the university had settled on appointing Mbati “after a rigorous and thorough process”.

“SMU is fortunate to have attracted the services of the calibre of Professor Mbati, who comes with the requisite strategic leadership and management experience in, and sound knowledge of, the higher education sector, having already previously served two terms as a vice-chancellor,” she said.

Last year SMU placed its first vice-chancellor, Professor Chris de Beer, on special leave after unspecified allegations against him. He had been with the university since 2015 as interim vice-chancellor and was appointed as vice-chancellor in 2017. In September SMU said in a statement that it had agreed with De Beer that he takes “early leave from the university with immediate effect”. Professor Lekan Ayo-Yusuf was appointed acting vice-chancellor.

Fort Hare

Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande has appointed Nhlanganiso Dladla as the new administrator at Fort Hare University. Dladla replaces Professor Loyiso Nongxa, who was appointed by former higher education minister Naledi Pandor in the position in April last year for the period of 12 months.

Nongxa, who was previously vice-chancellor at the University of the Witwatersrand, took over the responsibilities of Fort Hare’s council and restored governance at the institution.

Nzimande announced  the appointment of Dladla, the chief executive of the Eastern Cape Rural Development Agency, in the Government Gazette on Thursday, May 7.

“Professor Nongxa has performed the work as per the terms of reference, and reported to me on a quarterly basis. The outstanding task is the constitution of the council in terms of the newly developed statute,” said Nzimande.

Dladla’s role will be to carry the role of council for a period of six months.

The Mail & Guardian reported last year that an assessor’s report into the affairs of Fort Hare revealed that some people use the institution as a “cash cow”, and that students had inadequate learning facilities and student residences.

Mangosuthu University of Technology

Last month the Mangosuthu University of Technology’s (MUT’s) vice-chancellor, Enoch Malaza, and its council chairperson, Morailane Morailane were suspended over allegations of procurement irregularities.

They will remain suspended while a forensic investigation is carried out. A preliminary report is due for release at the end of May.

Professor Marcus Ramogale has been appointed acting vice-chancellor.

In 2018 the M&G reported that a report by former Unisa vice-chancellor, Professor Barney Pityana, had uncovered that MUT had been unstable for about 10 years. Pityana was appointed by Pandor as an independent assessor to look into the university’s problems and the state of its governance.

In his report Pityana said Malaza had inherited a “deeply divided institution” where systems of management were not functioning and where staff are “demoralised and uninspired”.

Last week, we erroneously said in 2016 the South Gauteng high court had ordered the University of Venda to take disciplinary action against Mbati. Mbati was in fact cleared of the sexual allegations against him by an independent investigation by the institution which we made mention of in the story. We regret this error.