23 March 2022: The role of internal stakeholders during the appointment of Dr Bismark Tyobeka
23 March 2022
In addition to the announcement by the North-West University on 20 March 2022 (see below) on the process followed in accordance with the relevant prescripts that led to the appointment Dr Bismark Tyobeka as principal and vice-chancellor, we now wish to provide information on the role of structures involved in the process to ensure the relevant participation and opportunity for input.
- In accordance with the Rules for the Appointment of Office Bearers, Council must establish a selection panel to make a recommendation to Council on a candidate for appointment.
This panel was duly established by Council on 9 February 2022 and consisted of members of Council, Senate and the Institutional Forum. As indicated on 20 March 2022, at this time Dr Tyobeka had already recused himself from all Council and Council Committees engagements.
- The Rules prescribe that the University Management Committee (UMC) must advise on the formulation of the minimum requirements and the position profile of the position of vice-chancellor.
During the first meeting of UMC on 19 January 2022, the management committee had the opportunity to consider the minimum requirements and the position profile, and to formulate its advice.
At the constituting meeting of the selection panel held on 11 February 2022, the panel considered the advice from UMC.
The panel largely agreed with the advice of the UMC but considered it prudent that the vice-chancellor fulfils the role of chief executive and therefore would need to display the necessary business acumen. Against this background, the panel indicated as minimum requirement a proven track record in professional leadership in regard of which business experience and exposure to higher education would be an advantage.
The panel approved the agreed-upon minimum requirements and position profile and instructed the placement of the advertisement on relevant platforms.
- The professional fit for this position was determined after consideration of the profile, psychometric assessments, the interview, transformation, the response to a case study, and the presentation made by the candidates on the following topic “Taking into consideration where the NWU is currently, how would you take it to the next level?”
In terms of the NWU Statute and the Rules, the Senate and the Institutional Forum are required to express an opinion on the suitability of shortlisted candidates for appointment. The opinions so expressed form only one part of the total selection process. The opinions expressed by these structures on the suitability for appointment of Dr Tyobeka were as follows: the Institutional Forum (a broad and representative structure involving various stakeholders) indicated an 80% suitability for appointment, while the Senate (an academic governance structure mainly comprising academics) indicated a 40% suitability for appointment.
Rule 3.1.14 prescribes that the selection panel recommends the appointment of a suitable candidate to Council. After due and thorough consideration of all the relevant factors, the selection panel by means of consensus, resolved on 14 March 2022 to recommend the candidature of Dr Bismark Tyobeka as Vice-Chancellor to Council for consideration and approval.
- On 17 March 2022, Council was fully apprised of all the relevant facts in accordance with the Statute and the Rules, in order to consider an appointment.
The Council was also fully apprised of the opinions expressed by Senate and the Institutional Forum. Focus was placed on the importance of the prescript of para 42(1) of the Statute indicating the role that the VC has to fulfil as chief executive and accounting officer of the university and responsible for its management and administration.
Among others, Council was advised that 20% of the position profile relates to academic matters while the rest of the profile relates to sustainability, infrastructure and financial management, enhancing strategic relations, the management of the student- and staff value propositions, community engagement as well as leadership, transformation, governance and compliance.
Council was also made fully aware of the disclosure of Dr Tyobeka during the interview in providing the context to a media article published in 2015 in Mail & Guardian. It is important to emphasise that Dr Tyobeka has been a member of Council since 2014 and this issue was not raised as a concern before, even when he was elected as chairperson in 2017 and again in 2020.
In accordance with the NWU Statute, Council must appoint the vice-chancellor by a two-third majority by means of a secret ballot process. The outcome of the voting was 78% in favour of the appointment of Dr Tyobeka.
The NWU is confident that the required process had been concluded in accordance with all prescripts and that the input of all relevant stakeholders had been duly taken into account.
The university looks forward to being managed through the leadership of Dr Bismark Tyobeka.
Issued by Corporate Relations and Marketing
20 March 2022: Process followed in the appointment of a new principal and vice-chancellor
20 March 2022
Following media enquiries regarding the process that led to the appointment of Dr Bismark Tyobeka as principal and vice-chancellor of the North-West University (NWU), we wish to provide the following information to stakeholders:
- The process of selection and appointment had been managed in strict accordance with the relevant rules (the NWU Statute as well as the Rules for the appointment of office bearers).
Among others, the Rules for the appointment of office bearers prescribe that any person who is a candidate for appointment is required to recuse him-/herself from all preparatory and decision-making procedures.
This rule had been applied consistently in regard to all internal members who had been candidates for the position.
- When the Council process for the appointment of the VC commenced on 3 February, 2022, Dr Tyobeka declared a possible conflict in regard of the vacant position. Since then he had been recused from all Council and Council-committee activities. He resigned as member of Council on 17 March after he was informed of his appointment as vice-chancellor.
The Council and its selection panel were aware of a possible conflict of interest that may arise during the process and accordingly decided to source independent legal advice. The legal advice indicated that, taking into account the prescripts of the abovementioned rules and labour laws, excluding Dr Tyobeka from applying for the position, would not be permissible and would constitute unfair discrimination.
Therefore, to require Dr Tyobeka to first resign as chairperson of council before applying for the vacancy of vice-chancellor had no legal basis or justification, and that the recusal from the process of recruitment and appointment had been in accordance with all relevant prescripts.
- On 9 February 2022, the Exco of Council established a selection panel in terms of the mentioned rules, consisting of members of Council, Senate and the Institutional forum. The position was advertised internally and externally on 15 February 2022.
- Upon completion of the prescribed process, the selection panel recommended a candidate to Council during its meeting on 17 March 2022. Following thorough discussion, consideration of a range of relevant matters and a vote by secret ballot, Council voted in excess of the required two-third majority in favour of the appointment of Dr Tyobeka.
In accordance with our governing Statute, Council will elect a new chairperson at its next meeting on 23 June 2022. Until such time, Mr Bert Sorgdrager, deputy chairperson of Council, will act as chairperson.
Dr Tyobeka is a seasoned scholar and executive manager with international recognition and the university looks forward to him leading the NWU.
Issued by Corporate Relations and Marketing
11 March 2022: Update: Latest developments within the NWU
11 March 2022
Dear NWU stakeholder
The University Management has been in discussions with student leaders since the beginning of the academic year, regarding the issues that affect some students and prospective students. These issues include registration, funding, accommodation, and infrastructure.
The University Management appreciates the way the student leaders, especially the SRC and the SCCs have registered their concerns and offered proposals regarding some of the matters.
On Tuesday, 8 March, some student formations at the Mahikeng Campus have chosen to block entry into the campus and making it impossible for the staff to service students, and other students to continue with their academic programme. The law enforcement agencies are dealing with matters of public violence, and we hope that the situation will be under control soon to enable the academic programme to continue. We remain concerned about the safety of our staff and students; thus, staff are encouraged to continue to work from home, and students to continue to study remotely. We know that some of you have connectivity problems when working off campus, and we’ll try to assist where possible. Students with connectivity problems are encouraged to liaise with their faculties. Staff can contact their managers regarding practical arrangements.
The University Management met with the student leaders and various formations on 9, 10 and 11 of March 2022. Regrettably, the meetings could not resolve the substantive matters because the student leaders felt management does not take their issues seriously. The acting vice-chancellor attended the meeting of 10 March physically in Mahikeng. The meeting of today, 11 March collapsed because the students walked out of the meeting, partly because they demanded the physical presence of the acting vice-chancellor who was attending a ministerial meeting in Pretoria. This meeting was scheduled as a hybrid meeting and all delegates accepted the appointment as such. Despite the failure to share the solutions with student leaders, management can respond with a number of solutions.
Below is a summary of the issues raised and management’s actions and resolutions to date:
The enrolment plan determines the number of students the university can register. The enrolment plan is an agreement/contract that all public universities in South Africa sign with the Department of Higher Education and Training regarding the number of students each university is allowed to register in a specific year. In terms of our enrolment plan for 2022, we are expected to register 12 256 first time entering (FTEN) students. To date we have registered 12 610 contact and distance FTEN students which still falls within the stretched target, but we cannot exceed any further.
The University Management notes the concerns from the student leaders regarding the learners/applicants who have received acceptance/admission letters but could not register. We must emphasise that the letters of acceptance that are sent to all qualifying applicants also contain conditions that must be met for registration. Considering the importance of this matter, the University Management has resolved to attend to the students who have received the admission letters and are conditionally registered. These students will be required to meet the criteria for the programmes for which they have applied and satisfy the registration requirements such as requisite fees. This matter must be concluded by Tuesday, 15 March 2022.
Overall, our total registration figures for 2022 are as follows:
First-year’s conditionally registered – awaiting NSFAS clearance
No access due to POPIA
All undergraduate students - contact
All undergraduate students - distance
Conditionally registered senior students – awaiting NSFAS clearance
No access due to POPIA
The university acknowledges the economic hardships that many of our stakeholders are experiencing, especially due to the pandemic. These hardships also affect higher education institutions across the world. Despite the problems and uncertainties, we have advanced payments for NSFAS qualifying students to cover their registration and allowances. We urge students to update their banking details to enable us to pay their allowances. We know that there are students who have applied for NSFAS funding and others who have submitted their appeals. These students are still awaiting feedback, and regrettably there is absolutely nothing the university can do to fast-track the processes and update the students regarding the status of their applications and/or appeals. The university does not have access to NSFAS systems.
Self-paying or cash-paying students on the Mahikeng Campus, can make financial arrangements by completing a student request form available online and submit the form together with all supporting documents to firstname.lastname@example.org. The Financial Registration committee (FRC) governed by the terms of reference (as approved) reviews all the submissions, approve or reject with reasons. The outcome of each individual case will be communicated in writing to the student.
Regarding the allowances, the NWU will only receive the first payment from NSFAS at the end of April 2022. In the meantime, the university carries the full cash-flow burden to pay the allowances upfront for February until April to ensure that the students can commence with their studies.
There are students whose studies at the NWU and who have been terminated due to poor academic performance. In terms of the General Rule A1.18, these students may apply to the Registrar for re-admission to the university. Each appeal must be considered on its own merits, and the university cannot merely deviate from the approved rules to accommodate certain students.
Infrastructure and accommodation:
There are requests by some student formations for the university to reopen the residence accreditation process to enable owners to acquire accreditation numbers. The university’s position is that owners or llandlords who do not have accreditation numbers have either:
- Not applied for accreditation by the closing date for applications or
- They have applied, and did not comply with the accreditation rules.
Accreditation is NOT simply granted to every service provider that applies. The accreditation department needs to receive all the required documentation where after all such documents are verified and only after that, will an accreditation number be issued. To adhere to the time frames of NSFAS submissions of allowances, all lease agreements with accredited service providers must be uploaded in good time to be able to submit the claims to NSFAS. The due date for lease agreements has passed on 11 March to enable the timeous payment of allowances.
Regarding the accredited residences that do not maintain their facilities, the accreditation office will be undertaking regular unannounced oversight visits. The facilities that are not maintained or no longer meet the accreditation criteria will be put on terms and subsequently de-accredited if they do not improve. It must be emphasised that NSFAS rules are clear that universities must only allow students to consider private accommodation if university residences are already full or in instances where the university does not have student residential facilities.
The regular ESKOM power outages have a negative impact on our operations. The university has back-up generators that assist whenever there are power blackouts, and these have been very helpful. However, one of the generators on the Vanderbijlpark Campus is undergoing repairs and is affecting our power-supply contingency plans. The procurement of repair parts is delayed due to supply-chain backlog as a result of Covid-19. We know this is affecting some of our students negatively and hope the repairs will be concluded very soon.
In line with Covid-19 national guidelines, the NWU has adopted a pro-vaccination position and encourages students and staff to be vaccinated. The revision of the Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment (HIRA) that guides the vaccination requirements emanating from the Institutional Rules on Vaccinations will commence once the DHET Guidelines have been published. The processing of personal information related to Covid-19 by the NWU had been pronounced by the Information Regulator as lawful.
The University Management and all staff members are working hard to ensure a successful completion of the first term. Notwithstanding all the efforts, the university cannot guarantee that all conditionally registered students will be registered due to factors beyond our control. We need the cooperation of all our stakeholders to ensure a successful 2022 academic year. We look forward to the recess period that is scheduled for Tuesday, 22 March until 25 March 2022, which is also the last date for finalisation of registration.
Our sincere appreciation to all staff and students who are constructively engaged in teaching and learning activities. Like Gregory Williams said: “On the other side of a storm is the strength that comes from having navigated through it. Raise your sail and begin.”