For seven years I was required to work with the man everyone in the Free State would call by the shorthand name “Premier”, minus the definite article. Premier says this, Premier says that. I had no choice but to work with the man who later became the secretary-general of the ANC, Ace Magashule.

As vice-chancellor of a university with a medical school, the relationship between the premier and the rector is absolutely critical. Medical school staff are hired on what are called “joint appointments”, which means the doctors are appointed for their academic duties by the university but appointed also by the provincial government for their professional obligations in the public hospitals.

This arrangement is extremely demanding for the leadership of a university hosting a medical school; in a province like the Free State it was an absolute nightmare.

I easily spent 30% of my management time doing nothing else but dealing with the political, financial and accreditation threats facing the University of the Free State (UFS) medical school.  Here is one example of how trouble comes about. If “the province” does not advertise for and appoint academic doctors because of a lack of funds (the most common reason in this region), a political spat about a “white” appointment or simple bureaucratic ineptness, the training platform for trainee doctors is immediately in jeopardy and the accreditation of the MBChB  (the basic medical degree) comes under threat of withdrawal. If accreditation lapsed, the consequences for the university were very serious. For this reason it was vital that I kept an open line to the premier’s office to press for the urgent release of funds or the timely appointment of academic doctors. It was a daily battle. What I can say is that I had the fullest co-operation of the premier at all times. He always struck me as ...

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