Last week, Minister of Higher Education Science and Innovation Blade Nzimande retracted Government Notice No. 4015, which was published in Government Gazette No. 49582 Vol 700 on 27 October 2023. The notice had initially announced the appointment of an Administrator for the University of South Africa (Unisa).
Unisa expressed approval for the minister's decision to withdraw the intent to place the university under administration. This development followed a ruling by the Pretoria High Court on 6 October 2023, which rejected the Minister's application for leave to appeal a previous judgement that prevented the administration.
Unisa views Minister Nzimande's withdrawal as a positive step, emphasising the importance of the courts and the rule of law. The decision came after four consecutive court rulings in favour of Unisa, reinforcing the university's legal standing against the Minister's efforts to administer it.
Earlier in the year, Minister Nzimande had announced the appointment of Professor Ihron Rensburg as the Administrator for Unisa, a move strongly criticised by the university as ill-considered and insensitive, especially during the ongoing examinations for Unisa students.
Minister Nzimande expressed serious concerns about Unisa's administration, governance, quality, and sustainability, citing reports by Professor Themba Mosia and the Ministerial Task Team. These concerns were linked to management deficiencies in crucial support systems and actions taken by the university's council.
A legal dispute arose when the agreement between the Minister and Unisa not to appoint an Administrator during the court's review of the report was broken. This agreement was later elevated to a court order, giving it legal weight.
In November, the Pretoria High Court rejected Nzimande's application for leave to appeal, attempting to overturn Judge Harshila Kooverjie's decision that prevented the placement of Unisa under administration. Judge Kooverjie dismissed the application, citing a lack of prospects for success among other reasons, and imposed costs on the Minister.
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.
Unisa remains committed to providing quality education and will navigate these legal challenges while upholding its status as South Africa's largest university.