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SAFTU LACKS CONFIDENCE IN MINISTER BLADE NZIMANDE TO DEAL WITH THE SITUATION AT FORT HARE UNIVERSITY

Elaborating on the lack of confidence we have in the Minister of Higher Education to resolve the life-threatening situation at Fort Hare University on eNCA earlier today, SAFTU’s General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi erroneously attributed the example he used to the University of Pretoria (UP) instead of Tshwane South College (TSC). 

We wish to correct this. The issue SAFTU took of maladministration, corruption and the subsequent harassment and dismissal of whistle blowers was not at the University of Pretoria but at Tshwane South TVET College. 

Profoundly, we regret this error and profusely apologise to the University of Pretoria. 

In 2017, SAFTU was invited by members of its affiliate, Vision Integrated Workers Union (VIWU), to intervene in a matter of corruption involving the principal of TSC. This matter had already been elevated to the Public Protector, who had already issued a report which recommended remedial actions calling on the Minister of Higher Education to amongst others: 

  • • conduct an inquiry to review the dismissals and disciplinary actions taken against the members of the TSC Forum. 
  • • ensure the inquiry explores the possibility of compensating members of the TSC Forum that suffered prejudice as a result of the dismissals and disciplinary actions if it is found that they have suffered occupational detriment as a result of the protected disclosure. 
  • • consider instituting disciplinary actions against the Principal, Mr. Chiloane, in terms of section 16A (2) of the Public Service Act for failing to take necessary 
  • disciplinary action against Acting Principal Mr. Kraft, Ms Bouwer and Ms Jonker, by not terminating the GMZ Consulting contract timeously and for conflict of interest in that he participated in the disciplinary hearings of employees in which he was the subject matter. 
  • • establish mechanisms to effect the protection of employees who make protected disclosures at TSC. 

The TSC forum (Tshwane South College forum) was a forum made of staff (mostly members of VIWU) dedicated to clean administration and who fought corruption within the TSC. Members of this forum were prejudiced, harassed and dismissed from the college for blowing whistle on the said corruption. To this day, they are languishing in unemployment and poverty due to such dismissals. 

SAFTU intervened by a telephonic call to the Minister of Higher Education, followed up by two written submissions, and a letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa. In these correspondences, we requested them to implement the remedial actions of the Public Protector report. In his response to the first letter we wrote in 2017, the Minister gave excuse not to implement the remedial actions by saying he is taking the report on review. 

To the best of our knowledge, no outcome of such review was published (unless we have not seen it). This suggests that the Minister of Higher Education never took the report on review and therefore, has failed to implement the remedial actions that the department was supposed to have taken. Put differently, he is protecting the principal and those implicated in the allegations of corruption at TSC, whilst upholding the continued prejudice of the whistle blowers and trade unions fighters. 

Given this experience, SAFTU is to doubt the willingness and determination of the Minister of Higher Education to clean corruption in the higher education sector and to protect those whose lives are endangered for daring to fight corruption. 

Corruption has festered throughout the higher education sector. Universities and colleges are no longer simple institutions in which learning and research took place, but sites for accumulation of the parasitic petty bourgeoisie. The attempts to murder Prof Sakhela Buhlungu are by products and logical consequences of such rot and corruption. 

People who accumulate their riches through corruption in the higher education sector and beyond will necessarily resort to kill those fighting corruption for fear of prosecution and to defend their sources of looting and personal enrichment. But with the Minister and President not actively intervening to protect whistle blowers and those fighting corruption, efforts to fight corruption fail and good people die in the process.