What happening at the North West University’s Potchefstroom campus?

The Potchefstroom campus of the North West University continues to be rocked by scandalous allegations following ongoing reports about several controversial issues at the campus situated in the Tlokwe Local Municipality.
Firstly, the university has in the past been accused of racial discrimination said to be existing within the student body, its management and university council.

Secondly, Mahikeng Mail last week carried a report in which the Higher Education Transformation Network (HETN) accused the institution of refusing to pay the Makhoang family fair compensation for the death of their son, Thabang Makhoang.

Thabang, a former student at the university died under mysterious circumstances after “drowning” in the university swimming pool during a “fruit festival”. His lifeless body was found at the bottom of the pool. After numerous commissions of inquiry, no one has to date been found guilty for the death of the student.

Allegations against the NWU included their preventing a key witness about the drowning, Mr Nicholas Mbaliso, a security guard from testify; submitting false information to the police about the incident; stage- managed the “official investigation” conducted by Advocates Vusi Pikoli and L de Koning; declining to investigate the matter by both the South African Human Rights Council and the Public Protector and refusal to accept a statement about Thabang’s drowning from Mbaliso .

The NWU had offered Thabang’s mother employment but later dismissed her for “laziness” and had built a substandard, dilapidated and cracked RDP house for the family. The Makhoang family even went to court to claim compensation for their son’s death but due to continued postponements of the case, they lost all their money and have seemingly given up hope to fight the gigantic NWU and so they have lost both their son and their last cent.
And now thirdly, the NWU seems to have won yet another round. Former Vice Chancellor, Dr Theuns Eloff was last Friday cleared by the university council of any wrong doing after “donating” R10 million to the North West Higher Education Trust (NWHET).

The council found and decided that Dr Eloff had no ulterior motives when he “donated” the money to the trust.
Council Chairperson Johan Kruger said in a statement after the Friday meeting that they “accepted the fact that no evidence existed to suggest that Dr Eloff had any improper motives when “donating” the R10m to the trust.”
And although he (Dr Eloff) had consulted widely with “responsible officials” at the NWU regarding the viability and feasibility of the initiative, council found it necessary to terminate with immediate effect all purported projects linked to or evolving from the trust.

Also interestingly, the university has committed to have the money returned to its coffers and council has also agreed to recover the full amount from the trust or any other entity which may be in possession thereof or with which the monies had been invested.

And now, in its lone battle against the mighty NWU, its management and council at Potchefstroom, HETN has come out with extreme outrage and strongly condemned the “unfortunate” resolution of the university council to condone the “illegal and unauthorised transfer of R10m worth of state funds at the NWU by Prof Johan Rost, its former Chief Financial Officer (CFO) as a “donation” to the trust by Dr Eloff on November 5 in 2013.

We don’t believe that the HETN could still pursue a legal case against Dr Eloff as he has according to the council undertook to return the money to the university.

However, it will be interesting to see whether the SAPS will further investigate formal criminal charges of fraud against Dr Eloff, Prof Johan Rost and Mr Bartholomeus Jooste in terms of Section 34(1)(b) of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act of 2004 (as amended).

Comment by Bobby Saul of 13 Martin Street, Galleria Arcade, Mafikeng.