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Court orders Nzimande to rescind his decision to place Unisa under administration

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Johnathan Paoli

THE North Gauteng high court has ordered Higher Education Minister
Blade Nzimande to immediately retract his decision to place the University of
SA under administration.

The judgement was handed down by the Pretoria High Court on Wednesday
morning following an urgent application brought by the university.

The court’s decision comes a few days after Nzimande’s announcement last
Friday that he is placing the institution under administration for 24 months
and appointed former University of Johannesburg Vice-Chancellor Professor Ihron
Rensburg as the administrator.

This is not Nzimande’s first attempt at wrestling the reins from the current
Unisa leadership.

Earlier last month the Minister was interdicted from placing the university
under administration after issuing a notice of administration following a
damning assessment report by Professor Themba Mosia which allegedly found
several incidents of mismanagement, financial irregularities and poor student
services at the institution.

The management of the university said that the Minister’s decision was not
only insensitive but also ill-timed as students were in the middle of their
exams.

The Unisa Council and its VC, Prof Puleng Lenkabula, previously challenged
the report and the suitability of Mosia as the legitimate person to compile the
report, adding that the minister’s decision is “premature in light of pending
matters before the courts”.

The university maintained that the minister was acting in contempt of the
previous judgement interdicting his decision.

“The same Order reaffirms the earlier Order of Justice Adams of 24
August 2023, which ordered the minister not to take any decision pending the
finalisation of the interdict application by Unisa (Case Number 2023-082535)
and the minister’s undertaking not to take any decision until the application
to review and set aside the Independent Assessor’s report would have been
heard. This matter has not been finalised and is still before the court,”
Lenkabula said.

The latest North Gauteng High Court judgement found that Nzimande’s actions
to disregard the interdict was blatantly unlawful, and he was ordered to
immediately retract the government gazette placing Unisa under administration.

The Minister’s actions after the report of mismanagement have been met with
mixed responses with DA Shadow Minister of Higher Education, Chantel King,
saying the decision was long overdue.

“Noting the court interdict to hold off on placing Unisa under
administration until the outcome of court proceedings, we believe that the
institution cannot be left hanging, waiting for a dragged-out court case.

“The academic programme in preparation for the 2024 academic year should not
be in disarray due to the in-fighting of Unisa executives (or what is left of
the executive) and staff,” King said.

At the time of publication, the Department of Higher Education and the
Minister had not responded, and it is not confirmed whether the judgement will
be appealed in the Supreme Court.

INSIDE EDUCATION

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