WITS University might have to fork out R12 million to refurbish the official residence used by the vice chancellor.
Deputy Vice Chancellor of Finance and Operation Prof Tawana Kupe said the house is in “bad shape”.
The house is owned by the Bernard Price family trust and is made available to the Wits vice chancellor as a residence.
However, as part of the agreement, Wits must pay for the upkeep of the house.
Kupe said the agreement also stipulates that the vice chancellor of Wits must reside in house or the property will be returned to the Price family.
Kupe said Wits wants to reduce the refurbishment costs to R9 million by conducting the renovations at one time, rather than going stage-by-stage which would be more expensive.
He added that the University council was also uncomfortable paying R12 million in refurbishments to a property Wits did not own.
“We were also worried to spend R12 million renovating when we have other needs. We consulted Wits university stakeholders and they all said ‘no’ to spending R12 million on the house. We had to negotiate renovation prices down,” he said.
Incoming Vice Chancellor Prof Adam Habib told Wits Vuvuzela that he also asked for renovations amount to be reduced.
Kupe said that the university was seeking to purchase the property outright from the trust, as this would make the house an asset and justify the expense of refurbishments.
“The university can afford it as it is budgeted for, as we are getting an asset. There will be long term reduction costs in future for the university,” Kupe said.
Kupe said that in addition to being used as a residence, the house can be used for university functions and allow Wits to avoid the expense of booking an outside venue.
He said the university was planning on purchasing the house should it have to pay millions for the refurbishments.
“The family said we can give you the house only if you repair it to its original state,” he said.
Kupe said university management was in talks with the Price family to sell the house to Wits.
Outgoing Vice Chancellor Prof Loyiso Nongxa has vacated the house and renovations will begin next year.
Incoming Vice Chancellor Prof Adam Habib will not live at the official residence while the renovations are taking place.
Published in Wits Vuvuzela, 6th Edition, March 15.