MAHIKENG MAIL – MAHIKENG – Indeed, it was set to happen. That is the public spat between Professor Dan Kgwadi and his predecessor, Dr Theuns Eloff from whom Prof Kgwadi took over the reins of the North West University as Vice Chancellor when the former went on “forced” retirement about two years ago.
The feud between the two academics has been simmering even way before Dr Eloff decided to thrown in the towel because of the then reports that the so-called amalgamation between the Potchefstroom University headed by Dr Eloff and the Mafikeng campus of the North West University in the care of Prof Kgwadi was in fact a total “take over” of the latter institution by the former.
Despite efforts by the two leaders to “bury the hatched” and suppress feelings of animosity between staff and students at the two campuses over the years, the domination of Potchefstroom over Mafikeng has never “went away”. And when Dr Eloff reportedly “reluctantly” handed the Potchefstroom institution to Prof Kgwadi, hope was that things would be normalised. Alas, it never happened.
And thereafter, Dr Eloff who had allegedly facilitated the establishment of what he called the North West Higher Education Trust (NWHET) had on November 5 2013 took funds from the NWU coffers and “donated” R10 million rand to the trust. That decision opened up a totally new can of worms.
The “donation” was met with condemnation and opposition from various parties in and outside the university including the department of higher education and the Higher Education Transformation Network (HETN) who called for a forensic investigation into the “donation” which the Network argued was illegal, irregular, corrupt and fraudulent.
And even after the outcome of the forensic probe conducted by Gobodo Forensic and Investigative Accounting into the grounds for the “donation”, the forensic report was never made public.
“All this time”, according to Professor Kgwadi‘s close associates, “he had decided to remain calm”.
What made matters even worse, was the fact that after months of waiting for the report to be released, the university council suddenly cleared Dr Eloff of any wrongdoing in the “donation” of the R10m to the trust.
That really did it.
The leaders last week went head-to-head in open letters obviously directed at each other with Dr Eloff reportedly arguing that “ the subsequent withdrawal of the R10m from the Fund was “ a tragedy” and that somebody should be held accountable” for the NWU having lost hundreds of millions in income .
According to a report in The New Age newspaper, Prof Kgwadi told Dr Ellof, to stop “running the institution from the grave” while arguing that the “donation” was wrong as it was meant to be the carrot and stick Eloff wanted to use as a lever in controlling him (Prof Kgwadi).
He reportedly said Eloff wanted the illegally extend his tenure by two years , that the use of the R10m “donation” had not received university tender approval and had not been approved by several university council committees and that “I still believe that the findings of the forensic audit are in the public interest”.
“Still, all things considered, he did a great job and left behind a good university”, Prof Kgwadi was quoted as having told The New Age.
Comment by Bobby Saul of 13 Martin Street, Galleria Arcade, Mafikeng.