The Walter Sisulu University (WSU) student who this week shot to infamy by mistakenly receiving an estimated R14-million student allowance from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) is not the only one in academic circles who might have received an unexpected windfall.
Earlier this year, in a parliamentary response to DA shadow minister of higher education and training Prof Belinda Bozzoli, Minister of Higher Education Dr Blade Nzimande revealed that “for damages caused by protesting students in the 2015 academic year, an amount of R40.496 million was budgeted”.
From this amount, the University of Zululand (Unizulu) was allocated R4.5 million.
Astonishingly, in the recently published Unizulu annual report, the institution admits that despite pocketing the money and failing to account for how it was spent, it was the only varsity in the country where Fees Must Fall protests neither occurred nor caused substantial damage.
The 2016 Chairperson Report states: “The University of Zululand did not experience any protests related to the #FeesMustFall campaign, which can be attributed to the proactive approach used by management and Council towards effective student communication and consultation,” chairperson CV Gamede wrote.
The same fact is reiterated by Prof Xoliswa Mtose in her 2015 vice-chancellor report: “UNIZULU did not experience any student protests that caused damage to the institution in 2015.”
But more bizarrely, the institution may have, like the Eastern Cape student who threw parties and bought an expensive cellphone that she kindly posted on her social media account, Unizulu itself failed to account for the money in its 2016 audited annual financial statements.
The university has been hogging media headlines for less than flattering reasons for the past two years. After initially being placed under administration almost five years ago, it was poised for recovery with moral support from both the department of higher education and training as well as a R500-million infrastructure development grant from the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA).
In September 2016 Nzimande threatened to send an independent assessor, a first step towards placing the university under administration, citing several incidents of maladministration, declining academic standards, financial impropriety and strained labour relations between university management, employees and students on campus.
It later emerged that the vice-chancellor and her executive management team have been comfortably moved to an upmarket seaside residential complex that cost about R20 million, with Mtose alleged to have furnished her house for more than R500 000 using university funds despite availability of accommodation in KwaDlangweza.
The Citizen is waiting a response from both the university and the department of higher education on these matters.