“When you took over as the Vice Chancellor of our University in 2008, the institution looked like a glorified high school with very few amenities. With your dedication, commitment and unequalled love for the University, you transformed this University from humble beginnings to one of the most recognised academic institutions of our beloved country,” said the Chairperson of Council, Mr Serobi Maja. Mr Maja uttered these words during the farewell function of Univen Vice Chancellor and Principal, Prof Peter Mbati. The emotional farewell function took place on 23 November 2017 at 2Ten Hotel, Sibasa.
Mr Maja further expressed that Prof Mbati has spearheaded the much needed construction of modern lecture halls, office spaces, student residences and other infrastructure projects that compete with the best in the country and on the continent. “We remain the proud beneficiaries of your efforts to lift the University from the quagmire of hopeless into sunlit pathways of hope and fulfilment. The many academic and student exchange programmes that we have witnessed over the past years is testimony to your relentless efforts to make our institution not only a University of choice but an institution that will stand ground among other universities of the world.”
He said as Council members, they salute Prof Mbati for the role he played to ensure that the Univen produces high quality graduates that will become assets and not liabilities of the country. Mr Maja concluded by telling Prof Mbati that his name and his personality will remain indelible in their minds for years to come.
In his response, Prof Mbati thanked Mr Serobi Maja, together with the previous Chairpersons that he has worked with, including Mrs Shirley Mabusela and Judge Yvonne Mokgoro. He said during his tenure, he never at any point doubted their indulgence whenever he needed their advice and wisdom, particularly when confronted with enormous challenges. Prof Mbati further thanked Chairpersons of Council for giving him an opportunity to successfully complete his two tenures.
He did not dwell much on what Univen was ten years ago but he highlighted that the details about the time he spent at Univen will in near future become part of a book that he hopes to write about leadership and governance of higher education institutions. Prof Mbati also thanked everyone who worked with him including Univen Chair of NEHAWU, Mr Alfred Mutoti who has consistently fought for the rights of Univen Employees, by robustly engaging with management. Among those who worked with him he thanked his Executive Assistant Mrs. Esther Munano whose tireless commitment and strong work ethic was a strong enabler in the execution of his responsibility. He concluded by thanking all Univen staff members individually and collectively for their support.
Mrs Malehu Maluleke, Univen Academic Staff representative on Council, in her farewell message said that it was a very emotional evening to bid farewell to the most profound, visionary Vice Chancellor that the University ever had in its history. She said Prof Mbati came in handy at a time when the morale of Univen staff members was very low and his appointment reversed the then status quo, she said it has brought a huge relief and hope to the entire University.
“You took Univen from the bottom of the ladder to where it is today. Today we are able to hold our heads high and pride ourselves about Univen. We are no longer ashamed to engage in robust debates with academics from other institutions, not only in the Southern African region but world wide and to proudly say the name of the University.” She denoted Prof Mbati as an excellent leader who is always approachable and as a leader who is always calm under any circumstances, even when put under pressure.
Former Chairperson of Council, Mrs Shirley Mabusela, said she has witnessed the work that Prof Mbati has achieved at Univen. She added that when she joined Univen, the condition of Univen was a mess and incredible. “Lecture halls were too small to accommodate all students but today, we are speaking a different language.” She continued to explain that students used to attend lectures while standing outside because the venue couldn’t accommodate all of them. She expressed that Prof Mbati transformed the intolerable condition of Univen into the institution of choice. “This shows that Prof Mbati is a good leader. I was always amazed because regardless of the amount of pressure, he was able to produce quality work. Today as we speak, I can proudly stand up and talk about Univen without any doubts.” She said today Univen produces quality education because of him and she appreciated immense achievements under the leadership of Prof Mbati. She concluded by wishing him well in his future endeavors.
Dr Ndanduleni Bernard Nthambeleni as a University Council member said he is privileged to have worked closely with Prof Peter Mbati over the past nine years and also as the Executive Director at the National Research Foundation (NRF) South Africa. Dr Nthambeleni alluded Prof Mbati as a great, well-spoken leader who express his thoughts and ideas eloquently. He said during his tenure in the office, Prof Mbati attained a lot of achievements and those achievements have put Univen on the map today. He added that, under his leadership, the University of Venda has among other achievements experienced increased percentage of publications; Univen’s graduation rate has improved enormously; the University has improved its external funding for research; the number of NRF rated researchers has increased from two (2) in 2009 to twenty six (26) in 2017; the University staff members with doctoral qualifications have increased to 40 percent which is above the national average of 32 percent and the number of PhD graduates has increased from six (6) in 2007 to thirty seven (37) in 2017.
“When Prof Mbati joined Univen, this University was like an RDP house … it was more like a village …. We had no proper governing system, infrastructure, and we were like lost sheep without a shepherd,” said the former Student Representative Council (SRC) President, Mr Mafulo Stanley Mudau.
The former SRC President further highlighted that the infrastructure including residences, classrooms, laboratories, offices and many departments were struggling. He said “today we are proud to post pictures on Facebook, Twitter and other social media tools, bragging about our institution. We salute the old man.”
“During his term in the office, he encouraged us to excel academically and to be leaders who provide solutions not to be part of the problem. The man also fought fraud and corruption as well as insubordination with distinction and that led to many dismissals from students and staff like one family from Student Affairs. So we do not want fraudsters ….”
Former Univen SRC President, Ms Mashudu Nthulane told Prof Mbati that it was through his leadership that made sure that Univen is where it is today. She alluded Prof Mbati as the epitome of great leadership. “You had an open door policy to all staff members and students. You have imparted knowledge and skills to most of us.” Ms Nthulane further expressed that they might have had disagreements in the past but she has learned a lot from Prof Mbati and not only as the Vice Chancellor and Principal but also as a father. She concluded by wishing Prof Mbati well in his future endeavors.
Mr Alfred Mutoti as NEHAWU Univen Chairperson said he is proud to allude Prof Mbati as a giant leader with great leadership skills that cannot be compared with anyone’s skills. “He is a selfless leader. His doors were always open for negotiations.” He said Prof Mbati is a critical thinker who always preferred to do things in the right way. “He has put Univen on the map.” Mr Mutoti further added that although there were challenges throughout, but he is glad that they were able to overcome them.
When proposing vote thanks, the Chairperson of Human Resources Committee, Mr Kennedy Maimela said without cohesion, we are going nowhere. He encouraged people to speak peace and prosperity because that encourages people to perform at their level best. “It is unusual to find unions talking good about employers, this means Prof Mbati is really a good leader and a selfless person. Prof Mbati, wherever you go, please always remember that you can always remain an ambassador of Univen.”
Mrs Shirley Mabusela and Prof Peter Mbati displaying a present given to Prof Mbati to the audience
Mr Serobi Maja (left) and Mrs Shirley Mabusela congratulating Prof Peter Mbati for the a splendid job that he has done and handing a present of appreciation to him
Department of Communications & Marketing
University of Venda
Tel: (015) 962 8525
Date: 28 November 2017