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NRF deputy CEO resigns after investigation


Foundation confirms Clifford Nxomani’s departure while second deputy remains “on leave”

South Africa’s National Research Foundation announced on Monday the resignation of Clifford Nxomani, its deputy chief executive officer of National Research Infrastructure Platforms. 

The announcement follows investigations by the NRF into allegations of improper conduct against Nxomani and Eugene Lottering, the foundation’s deputy CEO of research and innovation support and advancement, Research Professional News understands. 

On 30 October, NRF CEO Fulufhelo Nelwamondo sent an email to NRF staff stating: “I confirm to you that the NRF has accepted the resignation of Dr Clifford Nxomani, deputy CEO: NRIP, effective from 31 October 2023.” 

In August, the NRF emailed staff saying Nxomani and Lottering were “out of office for an indefinite period”. At the time, the NRF refused to comment on the reason for this, “for confidentiality purposes”. 

Investigations underway

Earlier this month, NRF board chair Mosa Moshabela told a parliamentary hearing that both Nxomani and Lottering had been put on leave and were under investigation. 

“We are allowing the space for the investigations that are happening in relation to the DCEOs to be finalised,” Moshabela told MPs on the parliamentary portfolio committee on science, innovation and higher education on 20 October. 

“We expect that the first matter will be concluded by [the] end of this month, and soon after the second matter will be concluded as well,” he said. 

Research Professional News understands that the investigations relate to allegations made about the professional conduct of the two deputies: Nxomani in relation to his time in post and Lottering in relation to his own appointment. The NRF, Nxomani and Lottering have been contacted for comment.

NRF ‘not in crisis’

Lottering and Nxomani made up half of the NRF CEO’s four-strong executive team. Since August, Nxomani’s role has been covered by Angus Paterson, managing director of the NRF’s South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity. Paterson will stay in the role until a new deputy CEO is appointed, Nelwamondo said this week. 

Lottering’s role is being covered by Gugu Moche, who joined the NRF in 2020 after serving as deputy vice-chancellor for teaching, learning, community engagement and student support at the University of South Africa.

The NRF’s comments in parliament came in response to Wynand Boshoff from the Freedom Front Plus party seeking reassurance that the foundation’s executive shake-up was not affecting its operations. 

Moshabela said in response that the matter of the two DCEOs had caused his board “much distress”. But he added that the issue “does not reflect a crisis in the NRF”. 

“The NRF is a machine that is working well,” he said, and a full report on the issues will be brought “to the various authorities” to “put the matter to rest”.