Three weeks ago, deputy vice-chancellors John Mubangizi, Renuka Vithal, Deogratius Jaganyi and Cheryl Potgieter, and director of corporate communications Lesiba Seshoka, were given notice of the university’s intention to suspend them. The five had accused their vice-chancellor, Albert van Jaarsveld, of incompetence and racism in 2015.
Following an inquiry into the allegations, a report was sent to the university’s council and one of its recommendations was that the five be suspended on the grounds that their allegations against Van Jaarsveld were unfounded.
On Monday a letter was sent to the university’s executive director of human resources, Avril Williamson, by three unions – the National Education Health and Allied Workers Union, the National Tertiary Education Union, and the university’s staff union.
The unions said their members had threatened to strike today.
“This action is regarding the delay by the council of the university in carrying out the recommendations of the board of inquiry, and in carrying out the suspension of the remaining five (members) of the executive management committee, who raised the (what were to be shown to be) unsubstantiated allegations against the vice-chancellor,” said the letter.
“There is no consistency in how the council is treating these five staff compared to lower-level staff, and the [unions’] members are not prepared to tolerate this.
“Further, the chair of the council and yourself are aware of the allegations submitted by the unions against these self-same executive members.”
However, Nehawu’s regional secretary, Ayanda Zulu, said its members had no intention of striking.
“We have made our position clear. We want UKZN to function normally. And we don’t want the executives to be suspended. That letter was sent without consultation with Nehawu,” said Zulu.
NTEU general secretary Grant Abbott confirmed that its members were in support of a strike action.
“We will be embarking on action because of the administrative inefficiencies and delays in the suspension process and council’s conduct in carrying out the recommendations in the report,” he said.
Council chair Dr Ayanda Ntsaluba said it was aware of the letter.
“Council cannot do anything if staff want to strike. Council is following a process. To them council is delaying the matter. In every step of the way we demonstrated that council acted properly. The issue is complex. Our focus is to do things the correct way,” said Ntsaluba.
“Council had to seek legal advice on the appropriate thing to do and we are going through those steps,” said Ntsaluba.
SRC president Noxolo Bhengu said she had heard rumours of a strike action, but nothing had been officially reported to the student body.
“We don’t agree with the suspension. Our wish is for the whole executive committee to work together and bring stability to the institution,” said Bhengu.