NTEU has taken note of the letter by the HR Director, Dr Paul Tladi on 18 January 2024 informing the Fort Hare University community of the summary dismissal of Mr Isaac Plaatjies – the currently incarcerated Director of Investigation and Vetting. 

While we welcome this development, as we’ve always maintained that such a position in an institution of higher learning is bizarre to say the least, we cannot but be aggrieved by yet another violation of policy adherence. 

On 7 September 2020, the Union wrote to the Vice-Chancellor informing him of our concerns about the appointment of Mr Plaatjies reporting directly into the office of VC.  No due process was followed in terms of the recruitment and selection policy – in other words the post was not advertised, and no interview was done.  In the same letter we pointed out that Mr Plaatjies was somehow already on the university’s payroll since 2019 without any substantive post (other than, allegedly working in the HR Department). 

The VC delegated the response of our letter back then to the HR Director, Dr Tladi.  The response we received, on 20 October 2020 was that our concerns had no basis in law. 

The same HR Director who issued yesterday’s notice of summary dismissal states fraudulent representation in his resume as the reason for the dismissal.  This notice also goes on to state that the University instituted a high-level audit into qualifications in 2023 to ensure the integrity of university staff appointments.

Asked about this developed, NTEU’s General Secretary, Grant Abbott said, “It would appear that the university is trying to colonize some moral high ground it doesn’t own by mentioning this so-called “high level audit”, which would no-doubt come with a high-level price tag.  Such audits are unnecessary if you get the basics right.  A proper recruitment and selection process with a properly constituted interview panel could have easily uncovered any alleged maleficence by Mr Plaatjies.” 

Mr Abbott added that while NTEU is happy to see the back of him, the union is concerned that it would appear as though another process has been flouted – that of a disciplinary hearing.  “How would the university have tested the veracity of the allegation of misrepresentation on his resume if Mr Plaatjies has been sitting in jail for the past two months?  NTEU stands for fairness in the workplace and the only way we can ensure fairness is ensuring equal application of policies and procedures for all staff irrespective of their background, affiliations and/or allegiances.” 

NTEU has consistently raised grave concerns about how the university has been managed over the past number of years.  “This entire embarrassment could have been easily avoided had the VC and HR Director given some consideration to our concerns raised back in 2020.  Instead, arrogance prevailed,” said Abbott. 

In the circumstance, NTEU calls for an independent investigation into the conduct of the Vice-Chancellor and the HR Director for colluding to appoint a person in a highly influential position in the university who was clearly not fit for the job.  Furthermore, if proven to be true, the union demands that the VC, the HR Director and the now former Investigation and Vetting Director be held jointly and severally liable for any financial losses incurred in the appointment, including that Mr Plaatjies be held liable for being unjustifiably enriched as a result of his alleged fraudulent representations. 

“We expect the Council of Fort Hare to drive this process and do its governance and fiduciary duties in holding management accountable for such egregious violation of policy.”


Issued By:

Jako Nel

NTEU Brand & Communications Manager

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