Unisa denies not following procedure in appointment of dean

Vice-chancellor says white professor’s appointment to top post was not dropped in favour of black colleague

22 February 2018 - 17:33 By Sipho Mabena
Unisa VC Mandla Makhanya.
Unisa VC Mandla Makhanya.

The vice-chancellor of the University of South Africa has refuted claims by a white professor that her appointment as acting executive dean in the College of Law was dropped in favour of her black counterpart.

Professor Mandla Makhanya on Thursday explained to the SA Human Rights Commission panel investigating allegations of racism‚ unfair discrimination and harassment in the faculty that he did not appoint the former deputy dean‚ Professor Melodie Labuschaigne‚ to the position of dean.

He said he interacted with the staff of the college on June 30 last year‚ on the eve of the lapsing of the contract of the then executive dean‚ Professor Rushiella Songca‚ to get nominations for the position to avert a crisis because they would not have a dean come the following day.

Makhanya told the three-member panel that the only name that came from the floor during the staff assembly was that of the then director of the School of Law‚ Professor Omphemetse Sibanda.

“As things stand‚ her name (Labuschaigne) had not been presented…to say her name was dropped is problematic…wherein I did not have her name in the first place‚” he said.

Kelly-Anne Cleophas directed Makhanya to the email of July 11 2017 that Labuschaigne sent to him‚ in which she complained that Sibanda’s appointment was contrary to university policy and that she had signed relevant forms to ascend to the position.

But Makhanya said he was “flabbergasted that she had signed the form”‚ saying signing the form from human resources department did not mean she had been appointed.

He said Labushchaigne was raising this issue because she had already signed the form.

“At the meeting of June 30 I was open and transparent‚ I said make proposals for my attention and the only name raised was that of Sibanda. That was my answer‚ that the fact that you have signed the form does not mean you have been appointed‚” he told the inquiry.

Asked by Cleophas what the staff reasoning was for raising only Sibanda’s name‚ Makhanya said: “They said…for as long as we will be subjected to a white leadership it will present a challenge for the college.”

Makhanya said there was no recording of the meeting and that if there were any recordings‚ he was not privy to any as he was only privy to his own recollections.

He also refuted Labuschaigne’s claim that a number of academics were so shocked by the decision to appoint Sibanda that they left the meeting‚ saying the meeting ended with a sizeable number of members of staff.

Sibanda‚ who is leaving the employ of the university‚ has detailed in an email to the university’s legal services how he had been threatened to step down from the position if he valued his life.

Makhanya asked the commission to intervene in December last year following a complaint from Labuschaigne that she was harassed and that her black colleagues were blocking her appointment as dean of the faculty because she was white.

The hearing has been adjourned to March 12.

- SowetanLIVE