News / South Africa

Gosebo Mathope
4 minute read
7 Sep 2017
12:48 pm

How Unizulu boss embellished her academic achievements into top post

Gosebo Mathope

After turning down six professors who currently hold similar positions, Unizulu approached 20 sitting vice-chancellors to apply for the post.

University of Zululand

It is alleged that a number of key people were deliberately excluded from the selection panel (SP) that settled on Prof Xoliswa Mtose as head of University of Zululand (Unizulu).

These people include a former deputy vice-chancellor, a union shop steward as well as a department of higher education and training ex-officio member of council, according to handful of former employees, including those who were axed or resigned. At least five high-profile academics were excluded from consideration.

The selection committee minutes of May 8 2015 in Durban, some 160km away from the Unizulu main campus in Kwa-Dlangweza, show the statutory meeting flouted the institution’s own policies.

In terms of the institution’s own policy and procedure for the appointment of the vice-chancellor, the selection panel shall consist of “the chairperson and deputy chairperson of the council and five further members of the council, representing at least (if not already represented through the chairperson and deputy chairperson) the department of higher education and training (DHET)”.

READ MORE: Prof Xoliswa Mtose ‘illegally appointed’ as Unizulu vice-chancellor

According to the minutes, the deputy director-general at the DHET Dr Diane Parker wrote an email, not attached to the minutes pack, saying she was withdrawing because the DHET was not a “constituency of council”. If this is accurate, it would have contravened both the Higher Education Act and the university’s own policies.

“The panel further resolved that the Policy and Procedures on the Appointment of the Vice-Chancellor should be reviewed since DHET’s representative withdrew as the Panel member,” the minutes continue.

When approached on why Dr Parker opted not to attend, departmental spokesperson Madikoe Mabotha indicated he was working on the information and would revert to The Citizen with the required information at a later stage.

The procedure also requires that there be representatives of “management, the Senate, SRC and employees”, and “at least two external experts in higher education with appropriate stature and knowledge”.

However, the minutes show that both the DHET and SRC were not represented and Mtose should not have formed part of the panel, even though she did. The sources claim not only was she clearly conflicted, but she allegedly suspended Prof Rob Midgley to ensure he was not allowed to sit on the panel.

The sources claimed the same panel later interviewed Mtose.

Criminal case opened against the vice-chancellor for submission of ‘fraudulent CV’

A former lecturer opened a criminal case against chairperson of council Cyril Gamede and Mtose at the Mtunzini police station. One of the charges in the affidavit The Citizen was given access to is that Mtose “misrepresented facts and provided the panel with a fraudulent CV”. The Citizen has since established that four articles Mtose claimed to have solely authored that appeared in international journals were in fact co-authored with a fellow academic who is now her subordinate.

It is not clear if the panel was aware of the allegations when it interviewed Mtose in early 2016. What The Citizen was able to establish is that after the panel disqualified candidates who have since secured similar positions in other institutions, it approached 20 current and ex-vice-chancellors and deputies to “invite” them to apply for the post.

It is unclear why the Unizulu council opted to attempt to attract these academics, most of whom were in the middle of their five-year tenures at the height of the #FeesMustFall campaign. A higher education expert pointed out it was probably a stratagem: the turnover of vice-chancellors and their deputies in the country is low. Only two academics responded positively: they were Mtose herself and another deputy vice-chancellor at a nearby institution who has since relocated to the UK.

Among those who were emailed but did not respond to the correspondence sent by a head-hunting firm include Dr Max Price (UCT); Prof Dan Kgwadi (North West); Prof Wim de Villiers (Stellenbosch); Prof Adam Habib (Wits); Prof Barney Pityana (who was no longer at Unisa); and Prof Sizwe Mabizela (Rhodes). Prof Tyrone Pretorius of UWC’s email was read “by Secretary – she will bring email to his attention”, but there has been no response to date.

Those who rejected the invitation outrightly include Prof Francis Petersen (UCT); Dr Ahmed Bawa (DUT); Dr Mvuyo Tom (Fort Hare); Prof Jonathan Jansen (then of Free State); Prof Ihron Rensburg (UJ); Dr Albert van Jaarsveld (UKZN); Prof Derick Swartz (Nelson Mandela); Dr Cheryl de la Rey (Pretoria) and Prof Frans Swanepoel (UWC).

The Citizen tried calling Mtose several times but her phone rang unanswered. Cyril Gamede, the chairperson of Council, as well as Gcina Nhleko, the university spokesperson, were sent emailed questions. Their answers will published as soon if and when they are received.


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