The Pretoria High Court has rejected an application for leave to appeal submitted by Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande. The minister had sought to appeal the decision of Judge Harshila Kooverjie, which had prevented him from placing the University of South Africa (Unisa) under administration.
Unisa has welcomed the court's decision, marking the fourth consecutive ruling in favour of the university in response to the minister's attempts to place South Africa's largest university under administration.
This was the fourth consecutive decision in favour of Unisa on whether the university can be placed under administration by the Minister.
The legal dispute stemmed from an agreement between the Minister and Unisa, to not to appoint an Administrator for Unisa while the court reviewed the report of the Independent Assessor, Professor Themba Mosia. This agreement was subsequently elevated to a court order, solidifying its legal standing.
Following a thorough consideration of arguments presented by both parties, Judge Kooverjie dismissed the Minister's application for leave to appeal the judgement issued on 6 October 2023 and imposed costs on the Minister. The judge cited a lack of prospects for success among other reasons for her decision.
After listening to both parties, Judge Kooverjie dismissed the application by Minister Nzimande for leave to appeal her judgement of 6 October 2023, with costs because the Minister’s application had no prospects of success, among other reasons.
Last week, the Minister announced his decision to announce the appointment of an administrator. Nzimande announcing the appointment of administrator:
After reviewing the reports prepared by the Independent Assessor, Professor Themba Mosia, and the findings of the Ministerial Task Team led by Dr Vincent Maphai, I have appointed Professor Ihron Rensburg as the Administrator for the University of South Africa (UNISA)
The university strongly criticised this announcement deeming it ill-considered and insensitive, especially considering that Unisa students are presently in the midst of their examinations.
Unisa added that the Minister's announcement also disregards the Court Order dated 6 October 2023, by Justice Kooverjie, which had prevented him from initiating the administration.
Unisa firmly stands behind the court's ruling on Wednesday, which mandated Nzimande to rescind his appointment as an administrator.
They believe that this decision is justifiable because the matter revolves around the ongoing review of the Independent Assessor Report, which substantially underpinned the Minister's original decision. This review is still pending in the court and has yet to reach a conclusion.
Unisa maintains that despite the ongoing legal battles and disputes surrounding the independent report, their relationship with Minister Nzimande remains cordial.
Minister Nzimande announced his intention to place Unisa under administration, explaining that this decision was the result of careful consideration of findings from the Independent Assessor report by Professor Themba Mosia and the Ministerial Task Team (MTT) report.
Both reports highlighted severe concerns about Unisa's administration, governance, quality, and sustainability, attributing these issues to management failures within key support systems and the actions of the council as a root cause.
However, the Minister has been prevented by the courts from placing the institution under administration.