Parliament slams CPUT vice-chancellor and council for no-show
Parliament's portfolio committee on higher education and training on Thursday accused the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) council and vice-chancellor Chris Nhlapo of being arrogant for missing a meeting last week amid ongoing issues at the institution.
Students had earlier marched to parliament seeking intervention about suspensions, the use of private security during protests, labour disputes and calls for university officials to be suspended.
CPUT's management and council appeared before the committee on Thursday and members did not mince their words about them missing last week's meeting.
ANC MP Tebogo Letsie slammed the university's decision not to attend that meeting, citing short notice.
“We decided to reconvene because the university almost literally showed us the middle finger when they were supposed to come here. This is not the first time that they are behaving in this manner. They are doing this, in my view, because people don’t want to account.
“The last engagement we had with this university painted a picture that is not good. Some stakeholders accused the university council [of being] micromanaged by the vice-chancellor, some of them went to the point of saying the university council behaves like a substructure of the VC's office,” said Letsie.
Nhlapo apologised for the no-show and denied that he was arrogant and refused to be held to account.
“One is not perfect, one actually has blind spots and I am the person willing to accept if people are saying but this is a weakness. I can only be a better person. I am not someone who says I know it all. I am a humble person and I believe that I can be made a better person.”
The meeting took place despite parliament being in recess.
Committee chairperson Philemon Mapulane expressed similar sentiments, saying the university's relationship with stakeholders was at its lowest. He instructed management to effectively resolve issues.
“The university must attend to all the matters that are being raised by the stakeholders, not attend to them in an artificial way but attend to them in a much more substantive way so that there can be conditions existing for a very good and mutually beneficial relationship by the stakeholders on campus,” said Mapulane.
Nonele Ganyele, secretary-general of the student representative council (SRC), said issues at the institution had worsened with no willingness from management to attend to them. This despite management's invitation to a meeting, two days before the parliamentary meeting was scheduled.
“We believe that we were indirectly undermined because management has already sat and taken resolutions about whatever they would be presenting before the committee. This we know because it has been the modus operandi where management would sit and take decisions and when we go to meetings we are informed of the decisions which have been taken and they claim that they had a meeting with us.”
Yiza Mapukata, a trade union representative, echoed these sentiments and warned that yet another shutdown was on the cards.
“Workers are going to take to the streets soon on the salary negotiations. As labour, we had given them all the time [to address concerns]. Just recently they came back with nothing.
“We are saying on record that we are going to stop everything at CPUT because things are worse. Organised labour has made an application for a legal strike already,” said Mapukata.
Chairperson of the university council advocate Zuko Mapoma apologised to the committee for failing to attend the earlier meeting. He said the council needed sufficient time to adequately prepare because they took the committee “very seriously”.
“At no stage as council did we have discourtesy of not honouring the invitation to the meeting. The anxiety that was expressed largely by council was that there needs to be proper preparation to present to the committee because we take the portfolio committee very seriously and we can't be coming here with presentations that are wanting.
“We apologise if we came across as arrogant and I can assure the committee that there's nothing anywhere near arrogance on the part of the council of the university in engaging with the committee,” said Mapoma.
The university welcomed the committee's recommendations which included holding further engagements with stakeholders, to respond to some of the issues in writing and to submit a detailed report in three months.
“We will reflect and have a programme of action so that a picture is different from what it is right now,” said Mapoma.