DUT ‘may have to kiss this year goodbye’: vice-chancellor

22 February 2018 - 15:49
By Suthentira Govender
Professor Thandwa Mthembu of the Durban University of Technology.
Image: JACKIE CLAUSEN Professor Thandwa Mthembu of the Durban University of Technology.

The vice-chancellor of the troubled Durban University of Technology has warned that the institution “may have to kiss this year goodbye” if the impasse over staff salaries is not resolved soon.

While students and staff protested outside his office on Thursday‚ Professor Thandwa Mthembu told media that the university “simply does not have the money being required by the staff”.

“If we accede to 10%‚ a R400 housing allowance and a R9‚000 once-off bonus‚ R62-million would be required to meet the demand.

”As we speak the 6.5% that was presented as council’s last offer‚ already puts us in the red by R12-million‚” said Mthembu.

He said despite calls from students to resume lectures‚ the university had no “contingency plans because unfortunately the highly qualified academic staff that we have‚ who conduct the lectures‚ can’t be easily replaced by anybody you meet in street. That is the big challenge.

“If the impasse is not resolved‚ we may well lose the whole of this quarter‚ that’s the reality now. At which point the university would have to seriously consider whether it would be possible for us to make up for the quarter. If it’s not possible to make up for the quarter‚ we may lose the year. ... we may have to kiss this year goodbye‚” he added.

Mthembu said the institution wanted the unions to suspend their strike and get back to the negotiating table.

“But‚ if management’s hand is forced to close the university‚ indefinitely‚ we will not hesitate to do so‚” he added.

He said while staff had the right to strike‚ the current dispute was “ultimately affecting our students and compromising the academic programme”.

Earlier‚ striking staff - who had been served with a ’lock-out’ notice to be effected on Friday - gathered on the campus to plot the way forward.

Milton Estrice‚ a crisis committee spokesman‚ told staff: “We run this place‚ we will always be here. We have a plan of action. We remain united and focused.”

They were joined by students when they presented a memorandum to a heavily-guarded Mthembu‚ calling for his resignation.