FeesMustFall movement in the post-apartheid era: legitimacy battle for leaders

Linda du Plessis, Hong T.M. Bui

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    1 Citation (SciVal)


    Purpose Underpinned by institutional legitimacy, this study explores how South African public university senior managers struggled to maintain legitimacy during an unplanned radical change process. Design/methodology/approach Gioia's grounded theory analysis approach is employed to analyse interviews with 37 senior managers of public-funded universities in South Africa. Findings This study's findings show that a change without proper planning severely damages institutions in all aspects of leadership's normative, empirical, moral and pragmatic legitimacy. Research limitations/implications This study contributes to the literature on legitimacy by illustrating the importance of institutional legitimacy during unplanned social change and the factors that negate legitimacy. Originality/value Though other legitimacy models have been well developed, they do not apply to such unplanned social change in organisations. This study shows a different angle of the legitimacy crisis under unplanned social change conditions.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)663-678
    Number of pages16
    JournalJournal of Organizational Change Management
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished (VoR) - 1 Jul 2023


    Funding: This research study was made possible through a collaborative University Capacity Development Grant that was awarded by the DHET to Nelson Mandela University.

    FundersFunder number
    Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University


      • Legitimacy
      • unplanned change
      • crisis
      • FeesMustFall
      • Social movement
      • Senior managers


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