Strike looms at UKZN over delay in suspending five senior officials after inquiry
University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) staff have threatened to go on strike‚ saying the institution’s council is delaying the suspension of five senior executives.
Three weeks ago‚ deputy vice-chancellors John Mubangizi‚ Renuka Vithal‚ Deogratius Jaganyi and Cheryl Potgieter‚ and director of corporate communications Lesiba Seshoka were issued with letters of intention to suspend them.
The five had accused the university’s vice-chancellor‚ Prof Albert van Jaarsveld‚ of incompetency and racism in 2015.
Following an inquiry into the allegations‚ a report was sent to the university’s council and one of the recommendations was to suspend the five executives.
On Monday‚ a letter was sent to UKZN’s executive director of human resources‚ Avril Williamson‚ on behalf of three unions — the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu)‚ the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) and the UKZN Staff Union (UKSU) — of members threatening to embark on industrial action on Thursday.
In the letter it states that the unions conducted ballots among their members, who were overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action.
"This action is regarding the delay by the council of the university in carrying out the recommendations of the board of inquiry and also in carrying out the suspension of the remaining five 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 council is treating these five staff compared to lower level staff and the members are not prepared to tolerate this. Further‚ the chair of council and yourself are aware of the allegations submitted by the unions against these self-same executive members." It also said union members would be conducting pickets for the purposes of demonstrating peacefully.
However‚ Nehawu’s regional secretary, Ayanda Zulu, said its members had no intention of going on strike.
"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‚" said Abbott.
He said the plan is to have a peaceful demonstration.
Council chair Dr Ayanda Ntsaluba said the body was aware of the letter.
"Council cannot do anything if staff want to strike. Council is following a process. To them council is delaying with 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.
Ntsaluba said it was not a matter of speed.
"Council had to seek legal advice on the appropriate thing to do and we are going through those steps‚" said Ntsaluba.
Student Representative Council (SRC) president Noxolo Bhengu said he heard rumours of a strike‚ but nothing had been officially reported to the student body.
"As student leadership we are busy with registration and will not be joining it. We are not for the suspension. We don’t agree with the suspension. Our wish is for the whole executive committee work together and bring stability to the institution.
"What is happening currently and what is going to happen after the suspension is going to cause a lot of instability and that will have a negative effect on the student body‚" said Bhengu.