UNIVERSITY GOVERNANCE CRISIS
Former UCT Council chair Babalwa Ngonyama resigns from Hollard board after independent panel report
Former University of Cape Town Council chair, Babalwa Ngonyama, who was implicated in the independent panel report into the governance crisis at the university – along with former vice-chancellor Mamokgethi Phakeng – has quit her position at insurance group Hollard.
In the fallout from the damning report released last week by the panel investigating governance failures at the University of Cape Town (UCT), the university’s former Council chair, Babalwa Ngonyama, has resigned from the board of Hollard insurance company.
Ngonyama resigned from her role as lead independent director of the insurance group.
“We can confirm that Babalwa Ngonyama has resigned as a Board member,” Hollard’s group spokesperson, Warwick Bloom, told Daily Maverick in response to questions. He did not elaborate.
This comes after a report was released last week by the independent panel investigating governance failures at UCT. The report excoriated Ngonyama and former vice-chancellor Mamokgethi Phakeng. The panel was chaired by retired judge Lex Mpati. Fellow retired Judge Azhar Cachalia, public sector governance expert Trish Hanekom and Wits University’s transformation head Bernadette Johnson served on the panel.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Independent report spits fire at UCT’s recent leadership, blasting Mamokgethi Phakeng
On 2 November, Ngonyama also resigned from the Vukile Property Fund’s board of directors following UCT’s release of the independent panel report, Business Day reported.
The report slammed Phakeng, concluding that she “repeatedly conducted herself unprofessionally by engaging in activity that is prohibited in the UCT workplace, including using threats, intimidation, ethnic slurs, personal insults and also posting racially offensive material on social media”.
Phakeng’s behaviour, the report found, was aided and protected by Ngonyama’s multiple breaches of good governance.
The report found it sufficiently concerning that “Ngonyama’s conduct in failing to perform her fiduciary duty to UCT”, that it recommended she be “reported to the appropriate regulatory authorities”.
It found Ngonyama and Phakeng had initiated the termination of former deputy vice-chancellor Lis Lange’s contract “without having the authority to do so”, and also misled the UCT Council and Senate regarding the circumstances of her departure.
“To conclude that Ngonyama and Phakeng’s conduct during this period amounted to a governance failure would be an understatement. In an attempt to shield themselves from accountability, they subverted the policies and procedures … of UCT.
“Had it not been for the fact that half of the members of Council and most in Senate acted to protect UCT from their machinations, the consequences could have been calamitous,” the report concluded.
Read more in Daily Maverick: University Governance 101 — takeaway lessons from UCT’s big Phakeng mess
The findings of the independent panel vindicate and expand on Daily Maverick’s investigation in October 2022, exposing the governance crisis at UCT.
Phakeng avoided suspension by the UCT Council by reaching agreement on a lucrative early retirement package in February this year. Her total payment package amounted to R12.5-million. She will also receive reduced UCT tuition for her dependents for life and post-retirement medical aid for life.
Ngonyama resigned from UCT with immediate effect on 22 May 2023. This followed a recommendation by the independent panel, in an interim report, that she be removed immediately.
Read more in Daily Maverick: UCT chair Babalwa Ngonyama resigns following governance panel’s recommendations
“Her removal cannot wait for the panel to complete its work and finalise its report, much less wait for the matter to be dragged through the courts. The facts are clear, and Council must act,” the interim report, dated 17 May, concluded.
In a later statement, Ngonyama said she had taken the decision to step down as UCT Council chair after “thoughtful consideration, and deep and thorough reflection”, and taking into consideration the current circumstances on her wellness and health.
Shortly after resigning from the university’s Council, Ngonyama also quit the board of pharmaceutical group Aspen in May, News24 reported.
Daily Maverick requested comment from Ngonyama, who had not replied by the time of publication. Her comment will be added if received.
On Wednesday, Parliament’s portfolio committee on higher education, science and innovation was briefed by UCT on the findings and recommendations of the panel’s report. DM