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UCT’s incoming vice-chancellor Prof Mosa Moshabela says work has already begun to stabilise campus

UCT’s incoming vice-chancellor Prof Mosa Moshabela says work has already begun to stabilise campus
Incoming vice chancellor of the University of Cape Town Professor Mosa Moshabela during a UCT media briefing. 24 May 2024. (Photo: Suné Payne)

On 1 October new UCT vice chancellor Prof Mosa Moshabela will step into a role that has previously caused division due to governance failures. Now he needs to start the rebuilding process and he has support from all sides. 

On Friday, Professor Mosa Moshabela was officially named the 11th and new vice chancellor of the University of Cape Town (UCT). During a media briefing at the university on Friday which Moshabela was present, it emerged he was a “near-unanimous” choice to lead UCT as it is trying to move forward from the fractures left behind during the tenure of his predecessor, Prof Mamokgethi Phakeng.

He will start on 1 October. He is currently the deputy vice-chancellor for research and innovation at the University of Kwa-Zulu-Natal (UKZN).

Read more in Daily Maverick: Prof Mosa Moshabela to be announced as UCT vice-chancellor

Moshabela is also a faculty member of the HIV, Infectious Disease and Global Health Implementation Research Institute at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri, US. As Daily Maverick reported ahead of his announcement, at UKZN, Moshabela oversaw a large institution-wide portfolio, including research management, development, ethics, integrity, capacity building, innovation, entrepreneurship, technology transfer and commercialisation.

His qualifications include a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery obtained at UKZN in 2001; Diploma in HIV from the Colleges of Medicine of South Africa in 2006; Master of Medicine in Family Medicine from the University of Limpopo in 2009; Doctor of Philosophy from Wits University in 2012, and an MSc in Demography and Health from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in the UK in 2017.

Moshabela will take over from Prof Dayanand Reddy, who was appointed interim vice-chancellor after the departure of Phakeng on 3 March 2023.

 Mosa Moshabela

Vice Chancellor Professor Mosa Moshabela (left) with UCT Council Chair Norman Arendse during a UCT media briefing. 24 May 2024. (Photo: Lerato Maduna)

‘Right candidate for the job’

Speaking during the briefing, UCT council chair advocate Norman Arendse told journalists that when he first looked at Moshabela’s credentials and CV, he thought “this was the right candidate”.  Moshabela went through a rigorous process and earned a near “unanimous” approval from the senate, explained Arendse, who claimed this was “unprecedented”. The next step was council approval, for which Moshabela also gained unanimous support.

Read more in Daily Maverick: UCT council still in talks to choose new VC, but Moshabela is the senate’s frontrunner

Moshabela thanked the leadership involved with running the institution. “Their term ends in June and I want to thank them, they’ve really succeeded in at least getting me here before they leave,” he said.

“I don’t imagine that was easy… I think to me what it does is show that there are a lot of committed people who are really willing to work hard to ensure that UCT succeeds,” he said.

‘Talent, excellence, innovation’ 

Moshabela will end his tenure at UKZN at the end of August, then take a break to rest and relocate to Cape Town.

When Daily Maverick asked which three words he’d associate UCT with, he responded, “talent, excellence and innovation”.

One of the key takeaways from the Mpati report into UCT’s governance was staff morale and trust being broken.

Read more in Daily Maverick: University Governance 101 — takeaway lessons from UCT’s big Phakeng mess

When Daily Maverick asked Moshabela how he intended to fix the findings in Mpati’s report, he said, “Firstly, I’m grateful to Professor Reddy — he’s been in this for nearly a year and it will be nearly a year and a half by the time I take over. And you know, a lot of work has already been done to try and stabilise things from what has happened previously and where UCT was two years ago, for example, right?”

Moshabela said he was not starting from that point, he’d be building from what other colleagues have been doing, including through investigation reports and finalised reports stemming from that action. “And there are lessons to take from those reports in terms of governance and we’ve got to make sure that those lessons around governance are upheld” he said.  Those were not just on paper, but as a relationship and an understanding between himself, executive management and an incoming council.

Mosa Moshabela

Incoming vice chancellor of the University of Cape Town Professor Mosa Moshabela, during a UCT media briefing. 24 May 2024. (Photo: Suné Payne)

Moshabela said his reference point was where he was now — and the entire institution “in terms of university affecting students, staff operations facilities, all of it, the institution is much bigger than just those governance issues”.

He said there was a history that went beyond Phakeng’s era, beyond former VC Max Price’s era too that could be learnt and leveraged from “if we are going to build it going forward”.

“And so I, I think that it would be good for us to broaden our minds in terms of the history of UCT and not just look at it in the last few years, but really look at it more holistically. I think that the culture and the standing of UCT also speaks for itself,” he said.

“I think that there needs to be an active process by myself, led by myself of ensuring that we’re going to build a community based on trust and Ubuntu, the values of Ubuntu… and for me, that is something that I would like to lead myself,” he said.

Support from students’ council 

After the briefing, Student Representatives Council (SRC) president Hlamulo Khorommbi told Daily Maverick the SRC is “more than happy” with Moshabela’s appointment and ready to work with and engage with the new VC to make UCT better.

He said the SRC were happy as they were included step by step in the process to appoint a new leader, as previously, a leader was “imposed on them”, he said about Reddy’s interim appointment.

As a priority, Khorommbi said the new VC should focus on solving long-term some of the fee issues and blockages; the outstanding governance issues; and speeding up the transformation process — something Khorommbi said must be dealt with with “decisively” and “rapidly” within UCT. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • W De Soto says:

    Hopefully, this will help UCT reach new heights!

  • Thanks for the write up. Just out of curiosity, what is Prof. Moshabela’s academic discipline/s? The article sheds no light on that aspect. Further, is the good Prof. a NRF – rated researcher etc by any chance? Kudos and congratulations to him and to the UCT senate and council that has ratified this appointment.

    • bigbad jon says:

      The article describes his whole academic career, don’t know what the mystery is there.. Apparently he’s a specialist physician in the field of infectious diseases.
      The SRC is overjoyed that another black was chosen, no doubt they were thrilled with Phakeng as well. The indian VC was simply ‘imposed’ on them, but he did the dirty work to clear up the mess..

  • Alan Salmon says:

    As a UCT graduate from the dark old days, I hope he does a good job and I wish him well – his CV looks good on paper. I can only smile at how things have changed – they had to get approval from the SRC !!
    The tail wagging the dog !

    • Michele Rivarola says:

      I have voted with my feet and so have many alumni. After the indecisive years of Price and the wrecking years of Phakeng I withheld my sponsorship and so have many, many others as seeing money wasted in repairing what was being unnecessarily destroyed was unacceptable. Until and unless my former alma mater can show that sponsorships are spent on education of those who are serious about their work rather than on repairs of what has been damaged by an ungrateful and irresponsible bunch intent on burning rather than building my sponsorship and presumably that of many other alumni will stay in our bank accounts.

  • Rolando MacJones says:

    If only someone had a clue what UCT is supposed to be transforming _to_?

    It’s very clear what it has transformed _from_ – namely an institution of academic excellence.

  • Agf Agf says:

    Poor old UCT. This once great and respected institution sliding down the slope into another failed African experiment.

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