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How University of Limpopo re-elected its council chairperson ‘for a third term’ against statute’s two-term limit

How University of Limpopo re-elected its council chairperson ‘for a third term’ against statute’s two-term limit
Left: University of Limpopo vice-chancellor Professor Mahlo Makgalong's term was also extended for two years in 2023 after Pandelani Nefolovhodwe's council decided not to go through with the recruitment process for the new vice-chancellor. At the time, Makgalong was 70 and his age was among concerns raised by insiders. Right: University of Limpopo council chairperson Pandelani Nefolovhodwe (70) has been re-elected for a third term. He has been chairperson since 2016. The university statutes doesn't allow for chairperson to be elected for two consecutive terms. The student representative council also objected to his re-election, citing his old age. (Photos: University of Limpopo Facebook page)

The University of Limpopo has defended Pandelani Nefolovhodwe’s re-election for a third term as council chairperson, initially citing the wrong section of the university’s statute before saying his first term didn’t count.

Controversy has emerged following the re-election of University of Limpopo council chairperson Pandelani Nefolovhodwe. Daily Maverick understands that Nefolovhodwe, who has been at the helm of the university’s council since 2016, was re-elected at an extraordinary council meeting on 27 February 2024.

The university maintains that he has been re-elected for a second term but documents seen by Daily Maverick, which include the institution’s 2017 statute, indicate that this re-election takes him into a third term.

A clause in the 2017 statute prohibits council chairpersons from sitting for a third consecutive term. The university indicated to Daily Maverick that a term lasts four years.

Read more in Daily Maverick: University of Limpopo suspends council member for ‘campaign against vice-chancellor’

Last year, Nefolovhodwe’s council extended the term of vice-chancellor Professor Mahlo Makgalong, who was 70 at the time, for two years. At the time, the council opted not to continue with the shortlisting process for the vice-chancellor post.

Two-term limit

University of Limpopo spokesperson Victor Kgomoeswana confirmed on Tuesday, 12 March that Nefolovhodwe had been re-elected to serve as chairperson – until December 2027.

Kgomoeswana said section 24(5) of the institutional statute states: “Members of Council whose term of office have expired may be re-elected or reappointed, provided that member, excluding ex officio members, may not serve more than three consecutive terms.”

He said this section applies to Nefolovhodwe.

“The Chairperson holds Office for a period of four years (can hold the position for a maximum of three terms),” Kgomoeswana said.

But 24(5) refers to “members of council” rather than the chairperson.

Section 26(8) of the statute, which was signed by Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande on 3 February 2017, states: “A Chairperson of the Council is eligible for re-election but may not serve for more than two (2) consecutive terms.”

When Daily Maverick confronted Kgomoeswana with this section, he changed his tune and claimed that Nefolovhodwe’s 2016-to-2019 term didn’t count because during that term he headed a separate legal entity.

Kgomoeswana said the 2017 statute came into effect after the university’s de-merger with the Medical University of Southern Africa (Medunsa), which was finalised in 2015. 

According to the university’s website, the University of the North merged with Medunsa to form the University of Limpopo in 2005. A decade later these institutions de-merged, with the Turfloop campus retaining the University of Limpopo status, while the Medunsa campus was renamed Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University.

Kgomoeswana explained that the de-merged University of Limpopo officially became a separate legal entity when the 2017 statute was signed, meaning Nefolovhodwe was elected as council chairperson of a different entity in 2016.

“The implication of this is that the current Statute (University of Limpopo) only applies to the term of office of the Chairperson of Council from 2019. That was his first four-year term – as Chair of the post-demerger University of Limpopo Council – in terms of the new Institutional Statute. He has just been re-elected for his second consecutive term of four years,” Kgomoeswana said.

“From 2019, therefore, he was Chairman of a new legal entity, the University of Limpopo post-demerger. In other words, he served 2016 to 2019 as Chairman of the Council of a different legal entity from the one he was Chairperson of from 2019.

“The entity does not mean that the University changed in form, but that the introduction of a de-merged university introduced a different entity, legally speaking.”

‘Emperor is naked’

Section 24(6) of the university’s previous statute, from 2010, also limits the council chairperson to two terms. 

If the 2017 statute effectively meant the University of Limpopo became a new legal entity, it appears unclear why a new chairperson wasn’t elected and why Nefolovhodwe served his four-year term from 2016 to 2019.

Kgomoeswana said the university could not leave a vacuum between 2017 and 2019 so Nefolovhodwe stayed on as chairperson during the transition.

An insider said Kgomoeswana was defending lies.

“In 2020, [Nefolovhodwe] started his second term, which ended on 31 December 2023. Then, 1 January 2024 to 31 December 2027 would be his third term,” an insider said.

He said the university was cornered. 

“The 2016 Annual Report says his term ended in December 2019. Counting back from 2019 will take you to 2016. Expose them. The emperor is naked. Their explanation is betrayed by documents,” he said.

Nefolovhodwe’s performance

Nefolovhodwe did not respond to questions sent to him personally regarding his re-election or performance as chairperson.

Speaking on behalf of the chairperson, the university’s Kgomoeswana said any officer or office bearer gets re-elected on the basis of good performance.

When asked for details in relation to Nefolovhodwe’s performance during his terms as council chairperson, Kgomoeswana said: “A council of any university is like the board of directors of any company. Performance management of any chairman is based on these standards, which apply everywhere in the world. I do not think we should discuss them in detail.”

Daily Maverick checked the annual reports for 2019 and 2021, which are the only reports available on the university’s website under Nefolovhodwe’s terms.

According to the 2019 annual report, Nefolovhodwe stated that the council “effectively” performed its duties by ensuring that the university has a five-year strategic plan and annual performance plan.

“In 2019, the University achieved 83% of its ministerial approved [enrolment] targets and 68% of its predetermined objectives [that are set out in the annual performance plan],” the report reads.

In the 2021 report, Nefolovhodwe stated that the university achieved 55% of the ministerial targets, while 24% were partially achieved. He stated that 64% of the university’s predetermined objectives were achieved.

SRC stance

In the February council meeting, two insiders, who have knowledge of council operations but asked not to be named fearing victimisation, said the student representative council (SRC) allegedly objected to Nefolovhodwe’s re-election, citing his old age – he is 70 – and that there were younger council members who should take over.

Kgomoeswana declined to comment on allegations that the SRC objected to Nefolovhodwe’s re-election. He said the council made a decision that the university will not discuss those with the media.

SRC president Lekau Khutso Mamabolo said they understand that the council decision-making process involves various considerations and perspectives, and “we respect the authority of the council to make such decisions”.

Mamabolo said it is important to note that the individual views of SRC members, including whether they voted for or against the decision, are immaterial in this regard. 

“As disciplined members of the university council, the SRC respects the decisions of the council, whether or not they have gone in our favour. We understand that the council’s decision is based on the best interests of the university and its stakeholders, and we will continue to work collaboratively with the council to achieve our shared goals,” he said. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • James Webster says:

    Sub-Saharan African culture appears to have a serious problem with adhering to rules. So often in SA we hear of crimes such as the theft of copper tubing which pipes oxygen to ICUs and operating theatres, or the stoning and burning alive of dogs, or cadres leaving hundreds of cows to starve, or the theft of money earmarked f0r senior citizens, or paramedics refusing to treat dying victims out of laziness, or taxis refusing to move aside for emergency vehicles, or protestors attacking doctors, or people stealing from a truck while the driver lies dying, or judges berating lawyers about their race. Actions so primitive they violate the most sacrosanct injunctions of the social contract. The western world views rules as paramount, but Africans ignore them with impunity. This is why Africans demand recognition without achievement, wealth without work, are always victims and remain mired in corruption, poverty and misrule. This article shows South Africans breaking the rules, yet again. Clearly the missionaries who attempted to inculcate Judeo-Christian morality into local cultures failed miserably, so SA is left with a dominant culture that sees rules as inconveniences to be subverted willy-nilly, without any understanding of how breaking rules leads to the collapse of society. This is why, until such a culture is reformed or abandoned, SA will continue its slide into a failed, non-functional, crime-plagued, poverty stricken, autocratic banana republic.

    • ST ST says:

      You make some valid points for example about social contracts. But then you start to drift to racist overgeneralisations. Yes culture is an generalisation because it only point to ‘what normally happens’. But it’s fairer to give context and perspective so that an Alien from Mars doesn’t read you post and think ALL Africans/SubSaharans are what you describe. And ALL Westerners are exemplary humans. Examples of South Africans that don’t fit your description:

      De Klerk, Mandela, Sooliman, Kolisi, Tutu, Noah, Biko, Erasmus, Slovo, Zondo, Madonsela, de Ruyter

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