Nzimande confident police will nab suspects in Fort Hare killings

The Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Dr Blade Nzimande, says he remains confident that the police will arrest those behind the suspected assassination attempt on the University of Fort Hare Vice-Chancellor, Sakhela Buhlungu.

This comes after Buhlungu’s Executive Protection Officer, Mboneni Vesele, was shot and killed over the weekend.

Nzimande visited the University of Fort Hare on Wednesday following a pattern of assassinations and threats on staff at the university.

In March 2022, a number of attacks also took place at the homes of the Vice-Chancellor and two other senior officials from the university.

“I remain outraged by this inhumane act of disdain and strongly condemn it. I however remain more confident that the law enforcement agencies, led by the Minister of Police, Bheki Cele have already begun with investigations into this outrageous act to find and hold those responsible accountable,” Nzimande said.

Nzimande further appealed to the community to provide any meaningful information that will assist SAPS in this regard.

“This pertains to both information related to the killings of Investigation Mr Vesele’s and Mr Peter Roets who was the university’s fleet and transport manager who lost his life in May 2022.

“It is also important that I emphasise that their attack is not only an attack on the University of Fort Hare but also an attack on the entire Post School Education and Training sector,” he said.

Fight against corruption, maladministration and capture of institutions

Nzimande said his team is determined to fight any acts of corruption, maladministration and institutional capture everywhere it emerges in all Post-School Education and Training institutions, including at the University of Fort Hare.

The Minister said this includes putting appropriate safety and security measures to protect both employees and staff.

“I also once more encourage all the Vice Chancellors (VC) and TVET College Principals to engage with my department on all security related issues to enable us to engage with the Cabinet Security Cluster, particularly on security concerns that have an impact on the institutions’ ability to perform their duties,” he said.

Nzimande said that part of the interventions include working together with the sector stakeholders - namely, former administrators, researchers, university registrars, representatives from the Council on Higher Education (CHE) and Universities South Africa (USAf).

He said the aim is to develop the Guidelines for Good Governance Practice and Governance Indicators for Councils of South African Public Higher Education Institutions in order to develop governance indicators and monitor governance practices of universities.

On the attempted assassination on the VC, Nzimande said that in terms of their own assessments, these events are most likely linked to the work of the Special Investigating Unit (SIU), which has been underway since the Presidential Proclamation of 5 August 2022 (Gazette 47199).

The proclamation followed a request from the University in 2020 to the SIU and the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the University and the SIU in June 2020.

The terms of reference of the SIU are outlined in the gazette and include investigating corrupt and unlawful activities over a ten-year period from 2012 to 2022.

The schedule also specific focus on procurement irregularities in cleaning and gardening services (between 2012 and 2019); leasing of student accommodation since 2013; appointment of a service provider for maintenance and repair of air conditioning systems (2018); and collusion of officials and suppliers or service providers.

The schedule also focuses on alleged maladministration in the affairs of the University’s Faculty of Public Administration in the awarding of honours degrees; mismanagement of funds and sourcing of public servants to study in various programmes for individual financial gain.

“These allegations are also linked to the University’s suspension of Professor Edwin Ijeoma, who was Head of Department, and who subsequently resigned in February 2021. The disciplinary processes continued following his resignation and he was found guilty on all charges.

“There were reports of how deep maladministration was entrenched in the institution, which Professor Buhlungu had reportedly been actively rooting out since he assumed office. These endeavours saw several senior managers and staff members suspended, some resigning and others dismissed,” Nzimande said.

Source: South African Government News Agency