South Africa’s Public Protector visits VUT
South Africa’s Public Protector visits VUT
SA’s Public Protector, Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane addressing the VUT community
In a programme directed by the Public Protector’s Gauteng’s Provincial Representative, Winnie Manyathela, the Public Protector (PP), Advocate (adv) Busisiwe Mkhwebane held a stakeholder roadshow meeting at the Vaal University of Technology’s (VUT) Desmond Tutu Great Hall on 28 September.
The roadshow was mainly focused on complaint resolution, the seventh of eight pillars that the PP has as her vision towards 2023. This pillar encourages organs of state to establish their own effective complaints’ resolution units or sector-specific ombudsman institutions.
“We are moving in a way that would prefer every institution to handle its own complaints,” said Ms Manyathela.
The visit also aimed to highlight to the VUT and Vaal region communities what the public protector’s office is, how it assists society in terms of the kind of complaints and conduct it investigates, how one lays a complaint, issues of confidentiality and redress as well as advice on issues within VUT.
It is the PP’s vision to create an empowered public at grassroots level that is well informed of its rights and freedoms and how to exact accountability on state functionaries by the time she leaves office.
“If we want to reach a future together, we should stand together, be proactive in ways of doing things for future coming generations,” said VUT Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Gordon Zide in his welcoming speech which commended Advocate Mkhwebane for her efforts.
From Left: Professor Raymond Mabusa, Executive Dean: Faculty of Computer Sciences; Councillor Busisiwe Modisakeng: Executive Mayor for the Sedibeng District Municipality; Professor Gordon Zide: Vice- Chancellor and Principal of VUT; SA’s Public Protector: Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane; Mr Michael Khuboni: Executive Director of Corprate Affairs and Ms Linda Moleleko from PPSA
Granting a message of support, Councillor Busisiwe Modisakeng, who is the Executive Mayor of the Sedibeng District Municipality, requested that a moment of silence be observed for the late Minister of Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa who contributed immensely to the e-waste community enterprise project launched early this year at the VUT Southern Gauteng Science Park.
“The meeting reminds me that we have to consult, serve our rich and poor, black and white, educated or uneducated and particularly our young people,” she said, highlighting that many issues affecting the Sedibeng region society have been resolved. Asking the students to fully participate in the meeting she said they are aware of the challenges faced by students and are taking initiatives to resolve them.
Ms Tamara Mathebula, the Commissioner of Gender Equality, who works with the PP’s office, gave a brief overview of what her office does. They look at policies in organs of state to check whether they are gender sensitive and also look for the best mechanisms to handle gender-based complaints. She also encouraged the students to participate in all decision-making forums, even to form groups so as to have an influence in local, national and provincial levels of their municipalities.
Many issues were raised by the people in attendance, namely: infrastructure issues in the region such as sewerage and leakages, water and electricity; accusations of the South African Police Services (SAPS) not playing its role; health issues in hospitals; nepotism; the Vaal Dam; corruption; the Boipatong museum; library and sports grounds issues.
Pertaining to VUT specifically, some of the issues that were brought forward were: the insourcing of the security members, intervention of the PP in investigations conducted by the university surrounding rape and other cases, intervention in the residence tender article published by the Star newspaper, request of speed humps on the Bedworth Park side, intervention on safety of students, corruption in the university, issues in residences especially ones in Vereeniging, NSFAS issues, private accommodation issues, intervention of the PP in cases of staff members suspended still on the university’s pay roll as well as the scrapping of cases of students who participated in the #feesmustfall movement
Each departmental stakeholder and the VC were given an opportunity to address the issues raised. Prof Zide said he invites everyone to help fight corruption and in this regard takes it upon himself to inform the VUT community of resolutions taken at Council meetings, such as the report of forensic investigations.
With regard the alleged fraud reported in the press, he said that a full explanation with figures was prepared by VUT, but the journalist concerned ignored this and decided to publish the story in the way he saw fit and which had little truth in it.
A task team has been established to fast-track resolution of these issues.
He would not be drawn on the issue of suspended officials saying: “One is presumed innocent until proven guilty.”
He said the acting administrator of NSFAS has sent a letter asking to visit the institution to see how best to resolve the problems faced by the students. He also answered students about the Grananda accommodation and assured everyone that the University is working on moving students who live in Vereeniging residences.
Adv Mkhwebane emphasised that with her visit she aims to build partnerships, engage and listen. She is happy that people voiced their complaints and tackled each and every one of the issues that were brought forward. She also advised on measures to best resolve them, assured the community that she will personally look into some of them and asked for more information to be sent to her office relating to matters of abuse of power, improper conduct, undue delay and any other cause brought about or decisions taken by the authorities that fall within her jurisdiction.
The services of the PP are free of charge.