The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union [NEHAWU] congratulates the University of South Africa [UNISA] for its historic milestone of 150 years since its formation in 1873. The 150 years is marked under the theme “Reclaiming Africa’s Intellectual Futures”.

As NEHAWU, we join the university community and millions of our people in celebrating this historic milestone of an institution that has contributed significantly in shaping the landscape of our education system in Africa and indeed, the institution has played a tremendous role in the growth and development of higher education.

This historic milestone however occurs within a context of a cauldron of pervasive instability characterised by an endemic culture of fear, intimidation, bullying and chronic management failures that have besieged this institution. UNISA is facing unprecedented crisis of governance and management which has led to instability due to amongst others the management style of the Vice-Chancellor [VC] and the poor leadership of the Council. 

We have witnessed collapse of governance in the institution as a result of high-handed management by the VC which has led to mismanagement, collapse of cordial relations, maladministration, refusal to respect collective bargaining, complete disregarding of labour laws and authoritarian management including union bashing, victimisation, harassment, intimidation of employees and violation of recruitment policies as confirmed by the Independent Assessor report recently gazetted by the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation.

Equally, as the institution marks this milestone, it does so against the background of a damning report as mentioned above that has exposed the decay and rot in the institution which is characterised by maladministration, financial irregularities, human resources failures, fragile and troubled ICT environment, poor student services, academic malpractices, culture of fear, intimidation and bullying, questionable Management and Council decisions, amongst others.

As NEHAWU, we reiterate our call to the Minister of Higher Education, Dr. Blade Nzimande to fully implement all the recommendations of the report by the Independent Assessor by immediately dissolving the council and removing the Vice-Chancellor and put in place an administrator to build systems, undo the wrongs and build confidence of all stakeholders for the stability of the institution.

Since the release of the Independent Assessor report, we have witnessed resignation of (4) four external members of the Council which by law affects the quorum in terms of composition of the council as set out in the Higher Education Act as amended and the Institutional Statute on 60% threshold. The Minister and the institution are therefore legally bound to comply with both Higher Education Act and Institutional Statute. 

Furthermore, the findings of the independent assessor are consistent with the findings of the Ministerial Task Team report. For the 2023 academic year, the institution received 958,517 applications and only 226,786 students were admitted. Thus, saw UNISA missing enrolment target by roughly 40 000 students. Lately, we have noted that Auditor-General is considering pulling out CTA students from UNISA. It is a common cause that the institution has experienced exodus of academics who are citing toxic work environment and bullying work culture as reasons for their resignations. The institution has lost the culture of a student-centred institution.

The culture of victimisation of staff continues even post the assessor report and this is evident with suspension of the Registrar and other executives. The unprecedented suspensions are indicative of an institution characterised by a cauldron of instability, like the summarily dismissal of five branch office bearers of NEHAWU in 2022. This is the context within which the celebrations of the 150 years are taking place – a cauldron of pervasive instability characterised by an endemic culture of fear, intimidation, bullying, and chronic management failures.

Lastly, as we mark this historic milestone of 150 years, we reiterate that as NEHAWU, we will not rest until there is proper governance, administration and management in UNISA. We will continue championing the interest of our members, workers and students at the institution.


Issued by NEHAWU Secretariat

Zola Saphetha (General Secretary) at 082 558 5968; December Mavuso (Deputy General Secretary) at 082 558 5969; Lwazi Nkolonzi (NEHAWU National Spokesperson) at 081 558 2335 or email: