Follow the money

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After four months and three meetings behind closed doors on how to use a R90-million donation, the selection committee is not yet open to publically discussing the specifics of proposals for how to spend the money.

A gift of R100-million was given to Wits by an anonymous donor late last year who asked the university to use the money for enhancing teaching, learning and research activities.


Unspecific statements surround R90-million

Wits Art Museum immediately received R10-million of the donation while a decision on how to spend the remaining R90-million was assigned to a committee appointed by Vice Chancellor Prof Adam Habib.

The committee is made up of Wits staff members from across all faculties. Proposals on how to spend the money have also come from every faculty.

When the committee met last Friday they narrowed down the 72 applications to just 10. According to the committee the 10 finalists are strong proposals that have long-term sustainability and academic requirements.

However, though the committee has issued regular, unspecific statements about its proceedings, it has not yet given information about the individual proposals it is considering.

Deputy Vice Chancellor Prof Zeblon Vilakazi told Wits Vuvuzela that he does not have the authority to discuss the individual proposals publically. He referred questions about the proposals to the committee’s chair, Prof Thokozani Majozi.

Wits Vuvuzela has attempted several times to contact Majozi for more than a week. As of press time, he had not yet responded to queries about how the R90-million will be spent.

But Vilakazi could give some information on the guidelines for spending the money: “The wishes of the donor was that the money must not be for infrastructure and that the committee must look for projects and ideas that will help the university in reaching its vision for 2020,” Vilakazi told Wits Vuvuzela.

“The wishes of the donor was that the money must not be for infrastructure.”

The 10 current applications are now on the second phase of the process and the project owners will have to motivate reasons to fund their projects. They will be narrowed down to two or three outstanding proposals depending on the amount of funding each project requires.

Donation can’t solve NSFAS crisis

Some have asked that the money be loaned to students who were in need of funding after being rejected by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme. However, according to Vilakazi this does not fall within the mandate given by the donor.

Staff members hoping for a better increase to their salaries are also out of luck.

“It is not for salaries, it’s not for bursaries. It has to be a self-sustaining project and must be able to generate extra income in the long term … The money is not to solve short-term problems it’s to strategically position the university at a level that is better than it is in now,” Vilakazi said.

Vilakazi added that the money does not belong to the committee or Wits University but to the donor. He suggested that if the students have a proposal on how to spend the money they should approach the university.

“So if students have a better idea of what should be done with the money they must approach the vice chancellor,” Vilakazi said.