Last week, Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande announced his intention to place the University of South Africa (Unisa) under administration. However, the Minister did not put the institution under administration after the Pretoria High Court ordered him to withdraw his notice.
Nzimande intended to put the country’s largest university under administration after studying the findings of a scathing 300-page report that detailed the alarming state of affairs at Unisa. The independent report raised concerns about maladministration, poor financial management, and an inept administration that disregards procurement processes.
Unisa welcomed the High Court Order that interdicted Minister Nzimande from placing the university under administration. The university has maintained its stance that the independent report was fundamentally flawed.
The Minister is concerned about how the South African court system is being used to limit his executive authority, as outlined in the Higher Education Act.
He [Nzimande] hopes that this should not be one of those instances in which this important Constitutional principle is violated.
Nzimande further expresses concerns regarding the pace at which the court is handling the Unisa matter.
They argued that despite the urgency emphasized in the court order issued by Justice Adams on 24 August 2023, more than a month has passed, and the court has not yet addressed the matter.
It is now more than a month that has transpired, and the matter has not yet been heard by the court. However, the court is able to hear an urgent application by Unisa. To me, this resembles an inconsistency in the application of the principle of 'urgency' or prioritization of issues by the court.”
Unisa Welcomes Court Decision
Unisa expressed satisfaction with the high court’s decision to interdict Nzimande from placing the institution under administration. They argue that the independent report is flawed and call its recommendations misplaced.
The university, therefore, initiated legal proceedings to challenge the report and have it set aside. They add that their side of the story has not been properly heard despite being afforded the opportunity to make representations to the minister.
Until the university's side is properly heard in a legal review, in a court of law, the university believes that it is premature for the Minister to implement the recommendations of the Independent Assessor. Unisa also believes that the institution of an Administration is not necessary and may only serve to harm the university.
What This Means For Unisa Students
Unisa wants to assure the public that the academic program of the university remains intact, and its finances are healthy. They point to the Council on Higher Education (CHE) Institutional Audit Report to substantiate their sentiment.
The Council on Higher Education (CHE) issued its Institutional Audit Report, affirming that Unisa’s academic program and quality assurance systems are largely intact and governed according to norms and standards of the sector.
The university says they hope its students can concentrate on their ongoing final examinations without any anxiety or disruption.