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UCT to launch internal investigation into governance crisis after accusations against VC and chair

UCT to launch internal investigation into governance crisis after accusations against VC and chair
From left: University of Cape Town Vice-Chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng. (Photo: Gallo Images / Sunday Times / Esa Alexander) | Chair of Council, University of Cape Town, Babalwa Ngonyama. (Photo: UCT news) | Gallo Images

Chair of UCT Council Babalwa Ngonyama has announced an internal investigation into governance concerns at the institution.

The University of Cape Town is to launch an internal University of Cape Town investigation into governance and procedural matters including issues related to former Deputy Vice-Chancellor Associate Professor Lis Lange’s departure.

This was announced by Babalwa Ngonyama, CA (SA), Chair of UCT Council  in the wake of dramatic events at the UCT Senate gathering on Friday 30 September and within several days of Daily Maverick publishing a lengthy investigation which recorded concerns from UCT insiders that the university is being brought to the brink of a governance crisis through the actions of Ngonyama and vice-chancellor Mamokgethi Phakeng.

At Friday’s senate meeting, Ngonyama was accused of misleading the body over the circumstances around Lange’s departure.

The turnaround also follows a decision by the UCT Council voted to investigate the university’s own senate rather than look into the governance concerns which saw a number of council members, including the Law Faculty dean, Professor Danwood Chirwa, going public with their dissent.

On Saturday Ngonyama released a statement saying “Council debated two possible alternative proposals: an internal or external investigation. After much deliberation, Council determined that all internal processes should be exhausted prior to considering an external process. Council also felt that internal processes have the potential to foster reconciliation and avoid polarisation. In addition, one potential outcome of an internal investigation could also be a recommendation to undertake an external investigation. However, an internal investigation process should have credibility and stakeholder buy-in.”

The independent investigation, led by a retired judge, will also take into account the objectives of the internal investigation. 

“I will ask Council to reconsider its decision of 6 October 2022 in the interest of a process that has credibility and stakeholder buy-in. I call for calm in the best interest of our university, as this process unfolds.

“The terms of reference should be developed jointly by council, senate and our wider multistakeholder body: the Institutional Forum. Our university has, in the past, shown resilience during times of extreme difficulty and has been able to overcome them. I have no doubt that this time too, our university will overcome this and emerge stronger,” said Ngonyama.

Ngonyama said UCT chancellor Dr Precious Moloi-Motsepe, had been briefed by the university on the issues.

In a separate statement, Moloi-Motsepe said she had been engaging with various internal and external stakeholders. This was “to ensure that the respect and credibility that UCT enjoys globally, as an academic institution that upholds the highest standards of governance, transparency, ethics and accountability is maintained and enhanced.” DM

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