Communications Minister Faith Muthambi has has requested for a public apology from Tshwane University of Technology vice-chancellor Prof Lourens van Staden for saying she bulldozed her way into a journalism master’s class (MTech).
The minister’s demand for public apology follows comments by the university’s Vice Chancellor that she managed to find herself in the MTech class which she did not qualify for after the institution’s management denied her entrance twice.
City Press reported the institution saying it had on February 8 and 27 respectively, told the minister that she was not qualified to take up the course. The media was also informed that Muthambi attended classes on February 4 and then on February 25.
But in a letter to TUT’s Van Standen, Minister Muthambi claimed she never received any letter from the institution on February 8 and that by the the time the institution sent her the second letter, she had already stopped attending the classes.
These are the contents of Muthambi’s letter to Van Staden:
Dear Professor van Staden
Re: Handling of my application to study at TUT
The following serves as reference
My application to study at TUT
Your letter 27th February 2017
Media Reports in particular the News24 article titled Muthambi’s TUT bulldoze and the City Press article titled Muthambi fails Journalism MA entry requirements
I am writing to you as an aggrieved person. I am of the opinion that TUT has violated my rights in the manner in which it has handled my application. I had hoped that my application will be treated as that of any other student. And there is nothing in my conduct that suggested otherwise.
Instead a simple application to study seems to have triggered a litany of irregularities and violations of my rights.
Under normal circumstances, a desire to study would be celebrated. In my case, this desire has turned out to be a source of condemnation, derision and impugning of my integrity.
Before pointing out a series of irregular conduct attendant to my application, let me briefly spell out why I chose to study at TUT for an M Tech in journalism.
I hold a 4-year degree in law and several postgraduate certificates. I have been a member of Parliament since 2009. I had the privilege of serving as a whip of the portfolio committee in communication 2011 until 2014.
I was subsequently appointed a minister of communications. In this capacity, I work closely with journalists and communicators. To complement this experiential knowledge, I thought it would be in my interest to study for an M Tech in Journalism.
I put these facts to indicate that the decision to do an M Tech in Journalism was not something out of the blue. Let me now spell out the various violations, irregularities and infractions that are a source of concern.
The relationship between the university and the student is confidential, and is considered sacrosanct. TUT has violated my rights by disclosing its interactions with me to the public.
TUT colluded in giving an impression that I used my position as Minister of Communications to earn a place at the university.
My application, the personal email and personal postal addresses all point to the contrary.
When I applied, I was given the impression that both my qualifications and experience would suffice for me to receive a favourable consideration.
As a result, I was given the student number. I understood that since I did not have a degree in Journalism, I would be expected to undergo the process of recognition of prior learning (RPL).
To this end, I submitted the required documentation. I was informed that the assessment of the RPL portfolio may take up to six months. I was advised by the department to attend classes in the meantime while my application was being considered.
Strangely, the process to assess my application was seemingly concluded in three days. The interview aspect of the process was not conducted.
In advising me of the outcome of my application, TUT indicated that without work experience in media or journalism industry, the RPL process was not a viable option.
The letter went on to state that “based on your current three-year qualification, you will still be required to apply via the RPL process”.
This is not true as I hold a four-year bachelor’s degree. I have been in the media space for the last seven years at the very least.
In furnishing my contact details, I scrupulously ensured that I used my personal address and personal email address.
I had also expected that the business of registration is a matter normally handled by the university’s registrar.
To my great surprise, the letter informing me of the outcome of my application was sent to my work address.
Even perplexing was that it was signed by the vice chancellor and principal.
To crown it all, I was surprised that the matter that should normally be a matter between a student and the university has become breaking news as if I have engaged in some unforgivable conduct.
A combination of the above raises a number of questions which leaves one with an impression that there is more to this than meets the eye.
I appreciate the spirit of your letter and TUT’s offer in suggesting that I could be considered for another programme at a masters level.
However, given the reputational damage this has caused, I will appreciate it very much if TUT could write a public apology regarding how this matter has been handled.
I will appreciate it also if TUT could correct the impression created that I “bulldozed” my application and forced myself into the classes of the university.
The letter should correct the impression that I applied twice and was twice rejected. I need to point out that I did not receive the purported letter of the February 8 that you referred to in your letter of the February 27. I will appreciate it very much if your office could furnish me with a copy and proof of it having been sent.
Finally, I need to point out that following your letter of February 27, I did not attend any of the classes of the university. I have a lot on my plate to contemplate forcing myself into anything.
I will appreciate it very much if I could receive your response by end of business, March 17.
Ms Faith Muthambi
Meanwhile, TUT spokesperson Willa de Ruyter confirmed that Van Staden had received the letter from Muthambi on Wednesday. He said the vice-chancellor responded to the minister by end of business on Thursday and that the university registrar will engage with her soon.