It is Tuesday morning 10 October 2017, just before 10am at MUT. The rain is pouring and the wind is blowing at an unprecedented speed. The world seems to have come to a standstill for MUT. No one dares to go outside. An alarmed Prof Nokwethemba Ndlazi rushes to MarComms: “Please can we tell staff not to leave until it is safe to do so?” she pleads. That is done within seconds via SMS. As soon as the storm is over, all hell breaks loose at Umlazi. Surrounding schools are out; little children are let out of school. ‘Go home and be safe’, must have been the instruction from schools. Teachers from across Umlazi are in their cars, MUT staff are in their cars. There is utter chaos on the roads as everyone wants to get into and out of Umlazi as soon as possible. At MUT, it is even more difficult to exit through the gate. Traffic congestion is unbearable on Mangosuthu Highway. Every driver has thrown etiquette out of the window. The down pour continues. At the rate it is raining and the traffic is moving, staff will not get out of campus. Big-ups to Sandile Security! In the absence of traffic cops, the team is deployed by Mr Sizwe Nkabinde, Head of Protection Services. Accidents are avoided, children and pedestrians could cross the road safely in what has become utter disregard of the law by selfish motorists. Now MUT staff can squeeze into their different directions with ease.
Under such circumstances, MUT students who reside in town are still waiting for the busses – seven hours later. The gridlock around the city does not allow public transport in and out of Umlazi. The students are hungry, tired and cold. It’s 7pm now. Prof Ndlazi is with the students, assuring them buses will be coming. It is still 11pm, the Operations Department is still working. The drivers, under the stewardship of Mr Shandu are ferrying students to external residences, supplementing the buses from the
service provider. Food is organised on the spot. Xolani Mkhonde from Maintanance, driving the University van, helps locate a shop that is still trading – since the Kwa- Mnyandu Mall had closed earlier in the day and the Mega City is inaccessible. “This young gentleman showed great commitment to the course of the University”, says Prof Ndlazi.
The new SRC rises to the occasion. They are keeping the student body calm amidst the extremely dire conditions. “Ultimately we managed to get students seated in very wet lecture rooms in the FNS Campus. This ensured that students are not in the rain and are also not exposed to danger from the storm”, says Prof Ndlazi.
The next day, staff and students arrive to a ghost campus. Even big trees that dominated MUT landscape for years have been toppled. MUT has been transformed! Team Operations starts. It is a tall order indeed, but when ‘Two-Minutes’ is there, consider the job done. He does it with vigour and all smiles, and say, “We will be done soon”. Somewhere at Student Affairs, Thembi Kweyama, Acting Dean of Students, is motivating for students to get a prepared meal. It is not much, but a much needed relief to students who have lost so much.
And we save the best for last.
Amid all the uncertainty; we got paid! Our IT&N and Finance staff have been working tirelessly from the SRC offices, so staff can be paid. Some of these teams were working the wee hours of the morning on two consecutive days after the storm was over. We are grateful. Some staff are paid even before 12pm, saving all of us from the wrath of the banks. You know those debit orders, don’t you?
Other big ups to team MUT! Vice-Chancellor Prof Ramogale, said on this day: “It is critical that basic services are undertaken and that staff get their salaries against all odds”. In a climate of uncertainty and fear, without strong and visionary leadership, people panic.” Patrick Dodson. IMG
Yet another feather in the cap for MUT’s leadership.