Vaal University of Technology marred by chaos and corruption, union says

23 February 2019 - 16:08 By KATHARINE CHILD
VUT Vaal University of Technology
VUT Vaal University of Technology
Image: Google Maps

The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union [NEHAWU] has called for authorities and the minister of education to conduct investigations into allegations of fraud, death threats, corruption and nepotistic hiring practices at the Vaal University of Technology (VUT).

VUT, headquartered in Vanderbijlpark, is one of the largest technical universities in SA, with almost 20,000 students and four campuses.

TimesLIVE's sister site, Times Select, has previously reported on conflicts at VUT – between the vice-chancellor, Gordon Zide, and director in his office, Mpho Diago, and the registrar over alleged corruption.

Times Select has also reported on how both Zide and his detractors, including Diago, have made claims in university council meetings of death threats and intimidation linked to a desire to root out fraud at the university.

This week the union Nehawu, representing Diago, called for minister of higher education Naledi Pandor’s involvement in the university.

In a statement it said: "The national union strongly believes that the Minister of Higher Education and Training must immediately intervene at the university as it is on the brink of a collapse due to alleged looting of financial resources of the institution. 

"The management has been accused of gross corruption and in our eyes these are very serious allegations that must be investigated as a matter of urgency."

The union said it was preparing a report on fraud at the university for the Hawks, the public protector, the auditor general and the minister and portfolio committee.

It said it would also brief the ANC, Cosatu and the SA Communist Party on what it had learned, saying it had proof of "financial impropriety" at the university.

Diago last year wrote to the university council saying the minister must get involved because of financial irregularities and even problems with academic integrity at the university, a letter in TimesLIVE's possession shows.

The union revealed that Diago had resigned resigned this week after "being pushed". 

"Our member and former director in the office of the Vice Chancellor, Mpho Diago, has been victimised and intimidated for raising issues of corruption and fraud at the university. Diago has received numerous death threats that resulted him leaving his employment for fear of his safety."

Diago reached a settlement with the university this week but refused to withdraw his allegations of corruption and mismanagement by the vice-chancellor and the university's council, according to Khaya Xaba, a spokesman for Nehawu.

Xaba said: “We have proof that his life is at risk and we have someone who is prepared to testify to this effect, however we are protecting the name our witness at this stage.”

In questions sent to the university, the union claimed that the vice-chancellor was not corrupt but was leading the charge to wipe out fraud and mismanagement and faced opposition. 

Head of the university Zide claims he invited a forensic firm to investigate multiple departments including his own. 

In January, the vice-chancellor handed over the forensic findings to the minister of higher education, spokesman for the university Mike Khuboni said.

Khuboni said Zide was followed home from work by a black Mercedes Benz and had reported this to the police as he feared for his safety.