Parliament probe into vice-chancellor fails to get answers

The parliamentary inquiry into the appointment of Peter Mbati as the vice-chancellor of Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University got off to a rocky start this week. 

The inquiry by the portfolio committee on higher education wants to establish whether Mbati’s appointment in June followed procedure. 

It will also deal with matters relating to the period from 2008 to 2018 when he was vice-chancellor of the University of Venda. These are:

l Sexual harassment allegations dating back to when Mbati was the vice-chancellor of the University of Venda (Univen);

l Whether the university followed its sexual harassment policy at the time; and


l Allegations of financial maladministration and mismanagement against him and Univen.

The first day of the inquiry achieved little. Most of the questions the committee had in relation to Mbati’s time at Univen could not be answered because two former chairpersons of council during Mbati’s tenure pulled out of the process. 

The committee decided the two would be subpoenaed because they had played a “critical role” in some of the decisions that had been taken. 

Some of the unanswered questions included allegations that Mbati had tried to change the Univen statute to allow for the extension of his contract for a third time; that he had links to a company that had been appointed to implement Univen’s infrastructure projects; and the council’s rationale for clearing him of the sexual harassment allegations. 

Univen’s council cleared Mbati of the sexual allegations in 2016. The National Prosecuting Authority also found there were no reasonable prospects of a successful prosecution. 

Last year, Mbati told the Mail & Guardian that he was ready to clear his name. He is scheduled to appear before the parliamentary enquiry at a date that is yet to be announced.

Univen’s council chairperson, Juneas Lekgetha, made it clear to the committee that he had held the position for only a year and did not have detailed answers about what had transpired during Mbati’s time. 

He said he had asked the acting director of legal services, Eric Nemekula, to provide detailed answers, but he failed to do so. 

The chairperson of the committee, Philemon Mapulane, dismissed Nemukula as an “ill-prepared witness” who answered questions generally or defensively. For instance, he noted, Nemukula said an investigation by Univen had found that Mbati had no links with the company appointed by the university to carry out its infrastructure projects. 

When Nemukula was asked to provide the names of the directors of the company and the investigation that the university had conducted, he could not do so. 

Univen’s registrar, Edward Lambani, who was the director of legal services during Mbati’s tenure. was also unable to respond to many of the questions because he had no knowledge of some of the decisions that had been taken at council level. 

In the end, Mapulane conceded that many of the questions the members had asked were not answered. “I think [we will] make sure that the relevant persons come to respond to these questions,” he said. 

“And, of course, if questions that we have are not satisfactorily responded to, we, as the portfolio committee, have a right to make our own conclusions at the end of this inquiry.” 

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

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

Related stories

Advertising

Subscribers only

Come what may, the UIF will pay

The fund – the main safety net for unemployed workers – will run at an almost R20-billion deficit

‘Terrorised’ family shines a light on traditional leadership for vulnerable...

The ambiguity between traditional and constitutional leadership has been exposed by the violent banishment of an Eastern Cape family

More top stories

Concourt to hear Zondo commission’s application for contempt order against...

The former president has been one week to file answering papers in the application that also seeks a prison sentence imposed on him

Koko maintains he had no idea he was exchanging emails...

In his four turn on the witness stand, the former Eskom CEO maintains he was tricked into sharing company information with a third party

Zuma foundation claims ex-president was prepared to testify, but Zondo...

Zuma’s namesake organisation twists facts and the law – he told Zondo he would answer questions but only in private to the deputy chief justice

Property developers slap Jo’burg environmentalist and conservancy with R197m lawsuit

Century Property Developments and Riversands Developments are suing for income they have allegedly lost because of objections raised
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…