The Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Innovation met with the University of Cape Town’s (UCT's) Council and its management to consider the independent panel’s (IP's) report on governance issues at the institution.
The Council established the IP in October 2022 to look into governance matters that occurred from 2018 to 2022. The panel started its work in January, and UCT received the completed IP report on 11 October. The IP had investigated governance issues involving Prof Lis Lange, who had been the Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Teaching and Learning, the former Vice-Chancellor, Prof Mamokgethi Phakeng, and the former chairperson of the Council, Ms Babalwa Ngonyama, and why there had been so many resignations. The Council had considered and adopted the report on 28 October, and had forwarded it to the Minister of Higher Education, including the persons named in the report and those who had been wronged by UCT. The IP’s findings included governance issues, breaches of the law, and university policy.
The Council had been determined to use the report as a roadmap to guide it towards a future marked by accountability and transparency. It had made a renewed commitment to strengthen the governance of the university. It acknowledged that during the period under review, in important respects, it had not exercised its fiduciary responsibilities timeously and had not always acted in the university's best interests. The Council had acknowledged publicly that if it had fulfilled its governance role at the time as required, the events that unfolded and the emotional trauma caused to many individuals could have been avoided. The Council had publicly indicated its regret for not acting sooner, and had apologised unreservedly.
The Council had indicated that it would be pursuing the specific recommendations relating to those who were wronged by UCT, as recommended by the report. It was giving attention to the matter of taking remedial action in order to restore the trust and confidence of the university community and the public in UCT as a leading institution of higher learning. There was much to do and the Council was determined to get it right. It deliberated on an appropriate course of action concerning the individuals implicated in the report, which would be done in line with UCT's policies, procedures, and codes of conduct. The Council would convene another special meeting on 11 November to further deliberate on these matters. The university had gone through a very difficult period, and the Council was committed to making every effort to ensure that UCT was able to move forward.
The Student Representative Council and the trade unions representing the UCT workers rejected the report, and urged that an independent assessor be appointed. Concerns were raised about the absence of the UCT human resources department at the meeting; the acceptance of non-disclosure agreements; the lack of transformation; the lack of stakeholder engagements; miscommunication between the Council and the Department of Higher Education and Training; the IP's report focusing on targeting specific people; and the fact that it pointed to structural, institutional and systematic racism.
A major concern for the Committee was that the Council appointed the panel was acting as both player and referee in considering its report. They were also critical of the fact that key stakeholders at the university had not been consulted. The Committee agreed that the Minister should be asked to appoint an independent assessor to affirm if the IP’s work had been thorough, and whether the outcomes should be welcomed.
Chairperson's opening remarks
The Chairperson thanked the University of Cape Town (UCT) for hosting the Committee. She said that UCT did not have much choice, as the Committee said it would come. It had met with UCT in August, when it was agreed that there would be a follow-up engagement where the Council would present the outcomes of the Independent Panel (IP). The Committee had received the reports and the presentation. Stakeholders were not afforded an opportunity to present because the Council and management had to come back. The Committee had received letters, particularly from workers and labour. The Committee was worried about the Student Representative Council (SRC) not being represented. There were students present today. Parliamentary sittings were non-political party sittings, so colleagues should not wear their symbols.
Prof Elelwani Ramugondo, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Transformation, Student Affairs and Social Responsiveness, UCT, said there was a conflict of interest because she was implicated in the report. She asked if she should recuse herself.
The Chairperson said that anything anyone said in a parliamentary meeting could not be used against. Someone could not be expelled or intimidated after this. Nothing that was said here could be used against an individual. She asked Prof Ramugondo why she was sitting on that side.
Prof Ramugondo said she was implicated, and was ready to leave the meeting.
The Chairperson said that she could leave the meeting if she felt uncomfortable, but the meeting was a safe space.
Prof Ramugondo said that the conflict of interest was a legal question.
The Chairperson said that the rules that governed this meeting were parliamentary rules, not UCT rules. It was always said that they should take Parliament to the people, and they were doing so now. The meeting would continue as such. She asked Prof Ramugondo to move to the other side of the room.
She said that stakeholders were not being asked to make presentations, but each of them would be given five minutes to reflect on the report. The Committee was concerned about things raised in interactions leading up to this meeting. There were recommendations given and it was hoped that these recommendations would be taken seriously. There were recommendations around stakeholder engagements that the Committee felt would have assisted, but had not necessarily been followed through.
The Council had 25 minutes to present the work that the IP had done. Stakeholders would then have an opportunity to express their own reflections.
Dr Marcia Socikwa, Deputy Director-General (DDG): University Education, Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), said the Department was waiting for a formal letter from UCT on the Minister’s letter to the university. A response has not been received yet. She hoped that the UCT Council would take time to respond to the letter comprehensively. The Minister would still consider the report and revert back to the Council, as per legislation.
The Chairperson asked if a human resources (HR) representative was present, and was told they were not.
The Chairperson said that there was a lot that referred to HR matters, and it needed someone to be there. It did not help if no one could fully account for some of the decisions that took place or happened. This was where HR would have played a pivotal role. If HR was not present, it would hamper the effectiveness of the engagement. It sometimes felt that everyone was trying to “get one another” in this sector. Certain politics had become more important than what they were trying to do in this sector. Citizens of this country should have the requisite skills to participate and be active participants in this economy and harness and shape its citizens. Sometimes, people were so caught up in their own agendas that they ended up stumbling with what the institutions should be achieving.
The Committee would engage objectively in this meeting. It should be ensured that the mistakes made in terms of governance do not happen again. People had had a lot to say about the Professor Mpati inquiry, so the Committee was trying to ensure that the same mistakes were not repeated. UCT should be used as a case study. Any lessons learned from UCT should be used as a case study of what should not be done in this sector.
UCT response on IP findings and recommendations
Adv Norman Arendse, Chairperson of the Council, UCT, said there had been some action at UCT, some good and some bad. UCT was happy to host the Portfolio Committee, which played a role in ensuring all higher institutions did the right things and kept on the right track. He said management, the trade unions and the students representative council (SRC) were also present.
Regarding the conflict of interest issue raised by Prof Ramugondo, it had been decided that she was welcome to attend the meeting. If an issue arose, it was up to her -- if she was uncomfortable, she could ask to be excused. He was happy that she was here because there might be questions that he would not be able to answer.
He took the Committee through the presentation.
(Please see presentation attached for further information)
The Chairperson disclosed that she knew Mr Hlamulo Khorombi, President of the SRC. He knew that the function of Members of Parliament (MPs) was not only to provide Committee oversight -- they also had a responsibility for interacting with constituencies and taking Parliament to the people. She ran a civic education programme in partnership with Sol Plaatjie University, which partnered with UCT. This year, the programme has been extended to Stellenbosch University. Mr Khorombi had been part of the programme for two years. The programme helped to tell people the difference between a Minister and a Member of the Executive Committee (MEC). People were usually shocked to see how difficult it was to be an MP. On day two, the participants step into the roles of MPs, so they go and do oversight at police stations, hospitals, technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges and schools. This was done in the hope that young people would take an interest in leading society. She was happy that Mr Khorombi was participating in this process where he had learnt how it worked. She congratulated him on his election as the SRC President.
Mr Khorombi said there were still many answers that the SRC was seeking. There was so much more that could be done. The report was not changeable evidence; it just spoke about who did what. These cases were also usually one-sided. It was about failing to do simple things. For instance, it stated that many people had testified that a sitting position was not permanent, but this was something that one could get details easily from HR, but they did not have the time to do so. Why had the IP taken so long? The SRC had expected something tangible. The report was supposed to address governance, but instead, it was talking about individuals who were being pointed out. He was concerned about the fact that the Council wanted to use this report as a roadmap. There was going to be a problem if this report was going to be used as a roadmap. The SRC had a lot of questions and he was hoping that they would receive answers in this meeting.
Prof Daya Reddy, Interim Vice-Chancellor, UCT, asked if he could have three minutes later to add some things.
The Chairperson said that this was fine.
Democratised Transport Logistics and Allied Workers Union (DETAWU) obo workers
Mr Z Nxele, Secretary, DETAWU obo, said stakeholders should be allowed in engagements. This had been done the last time, but he did not want to go into that. He would not go into detail because the union had expressed concerns in writing. It had discovered some irregularities after the engagement with the Committee as far as finances were concerned. From his perspective, the report was saying that black people were wrong, and that white people had been wronged under the leadership of black people, and therefore they must be compensated. A part of this report also implicated the Council. The Council had been categorised as incompetent in terms of dealing with issues.
He referred to a previous report regarding governance where there had been transparency and engagement with stakeholders. The report had been easily accepted and never rejected even though certain incapacities and issues with different constituencies were noted. However, the report had credibility and integrity, because stakeholders were given an opportunity to engage. Therefore, the input given did not have to be explained -- it was enough to be considered. He said that there should have been serious consideration of using an external assessor for this report. It was only then that this report could find some credibility. The appeal was that the Committee engage with the inputs that had been given equally. It must consider an external assessor to deal with this reporting. It was only then that the union could be satisfied with what was contained in the report. The Council was not fit to deal with this matter.
Institutional Forum (IF)
Mr Ashley Rustin, Chairperson, IF, said that the forum was really broad, with stakeholders at the university. The constituencies were busy, and it heard from many stakeholder groups. The IF had not met to engage with the report, but had a meeting scheduled on 15 November to do so. It would engage on the report and then advise the Council. He expressed his gratitude to the current Chairperson of the Council for engaging with the IF, unions and stakeholders. It showed that there was seriousness about having engagements with stakeholders. This was important. As the trade unions had said, it still wanted this engagement with the Council.
The Committee Chairperson said that management had already indicated that they were covered by the Chairperson of the Council. She said that she should not be doing this, but it was just proof that this was a democratic Committee. She afforded management five minutes to add what they wanted.
Prof Reddy said that he had taken office on 14 March following the departure of the Vice-Chancellor (VC). He would not reiterate what had already been covered in the report. He highlighted the impact the failures had had on the institution's funding, as well as the extent to which its functioning had been compromised. He highlighted the Senate’s commitment to governance and the recommendation of maintaining a division between its management and governance responsibilities.
UCT was a fine institution. It was one of the top universities in Africa. He said that the Council should continue to engage with the report. The university community should also engage with the report's content and recommendations. There would be a debate that would take place on 17 November. Management also ensured that academic activities stayed on track and continued with good teaching. The examinations were not over yet. It had to ensure that academic and research activities were not compromised. Various senior positions had to be filled which would be filled in line with the employment equity policy. It would have to ensure that the finances were good and strong. UCT was in the middle of implementing a commercial sustainability plan that would ensure for the years to come that in the short, medium and long term, UCT had a financially sound basis on which to carry out its academic activities.
The Chairperson said it was concerning that there was still a narrative from two stakeholders -- the workers and students -- that the process of the IP and the investigations had not been just. They had questioned the way in which the IP had gone about doing its work. When she heard these concerns, it reminded her of why UCT had been asked to go back, engage and state whether it agreed or disagreed. This would allow for the time to come to state that the meeting stood. This had been discussed before, and now it has been brought back to the Committee.
She did not appreciate this. The Committee did not have sufficient time to allow for all this cross-referencing to take place. It unsettled the Committee that the people at UCT had not found one another. She was confused with the IF stating that it appreciated the work that the Chairperson of the Council had done in terms of engaging with shareholders. She asked for clarity on this statement. Which process had been engaged on? Was it the appointment of the VC, or in relation to the work of the IP and the report? Which part did the IF appreciate? The IF had also said that it supported the call for the meeting that the Committee had recommended.
In two of the documents received, there was a statement that said that the university must amend the statute to accommodate union representation at the Council, as instructed by the Committee. She said that people should be cautious about using these terms. The Committee only recommends, and hopes that the recommendations would be taken with high regard. The Committee did not want to end up summoning people to Parliament and having to move into an inquiry. It put the Committee in an awkward position, where it seemed like there was a mandate creep. The Committee did not want to be put in such a situation. So, the IF had said that it appreciated the engagement of the Chairperson of the Council with the stakeholders, and that it supported the meeting that the Committee had called.
She said that the Committee had received an account on the type of engagements that were scheduled at UCT with the different stakeholders, particularly the workers, throughout the year. This was all good and well, but there was a particular reason why the Committee had recommended the particular meeting which was to deal with these issues. The Committee was not the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), a disciplinary committee, or the Department. Even the Department did not want to sit here and say, ‘what are you saying’ and ‘you are not hearing each other’. The Committee did not want to be put in a position where it had to do that.
She said it seemed as if there was a call for an inquiry. This was the last thing that the Committee wanted. It wanted to afford the institution the autonomy to try and resolve issues first before the Committee had to step in. The Committee did not appreciate the "he said, she said" approach. The IP report made it clear that there was an issue with the Council’s collective capacity. It had been indicated that people should have recused themselves. There was indeed an individual responsibility, but what about the collective?
She said that in certain instances where she had to decide as the Committee Chairperson, she would reach out to the secretary, content advisors and the parliamentary rules for guidance. Members of the Committee would also indicate XYZ so that the Chairperson did not make a mistake that would make the whole Committee questionable. Was there any evidence of this, such as minutes, that indicated that these individuals were meant to take certain responsibility or had been guided by a broader collective? Was there a secretary that could provide some guidance?
There was a view that the Council was weak, and she agreed. She asked what was happening with the Minister’s letter that was not responded to. She said that non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) appeared a lot at UCT. This was weird and a concern. She did not want to repeat herself, but people were aware of how the Committee felt about the decisions made in the public institution which were of public interest. People could come and go and get particular agreements. Public funds were used for this.
There was a concern about how matters were resolved at UCT. This was not just about the former VC Mamokgethi Phakeng, or former Deputy Vice-Chancellor (DVC) Lis Lange. This was generally something that needed to be nipped in the bud. There were legalities involved, but there needed to be an appreciation of the ethics and principles that should be guiding UCT.
There was a concern by the workers that the UCT statute stated that for any person to be a full member of the Senate, they needed to have a full professor's academic rank, which contrasted with the Higher Education Act. The workers had rightly unpacked what this meant in terms of representation in the Senate space. She had looked at the Higher Education Act and the UCT statute, and could not necessarily find the segment that referred to full professor academic rank. She asked for clarity.
Mr M Shikwambana (EFF) said that there was no way that anyone at UCT would say anything negative about the approach. The findings of the IP focused on specific issues. The report was like writing an essay. There was the title, but when it came to the body of the essay, it spoke about something else completely. The report did speak to governance at UCT, but when one went deeper into the individual target, what happened with governance, it was never covered correctly. It was just pointing at this person and that person.
There had been a number of concerns at the institution. Before the former Vice-Chancellor Mamokgethi Phakeng was appointed, a number of people had raised concerns about her leadership skills, saying that she was not fit enough to take on such a responsibility. However, the institution had continued to appoint her. Before she was in office, she had an institutional memory as she knew what was going on at UCT.
There had been a report of the investigations that were done at UCT, which pointed to structural, institutional and systematic racism. Nothing had been done about the issues that were pointed out in the report. The institutional Transformation Reconciliation Commission that investigated had put forward recommendations and said that there was serious institutional and systematic racism within UCT. This was never addressed. There had been a black woman who might be trying to confront the very same racism in the institution, but she had touched someone big who was now fighting back and turning everything around, and this made her seem to be the better person. This was what the report sought to tell the Committee.
The workers and student academic forum had written to the Committee and complained about the racism at the institution. No one seemed to be interested in wanting to deal with this problem. The report seeks to demonise or portray her as someone who is incapable. The problem of UCT was racism, and until UCT took it upon themselves to deal with this, they were not going to find anything correct at the institution. The workers were crying, and the majority of the people they were representing were black. They were not finding space to breathe within the institution itself. There was a form of racism, and it was not always about colour, but behaviour as well. It could be defined anyway, but the manner in which the institution ran its affairs led back to racism.
Some unions representing the majority of the workers were suffocating because they were not represented on the Council. They wanted the voices of the workers to be heard in the Council, but there was no opportunity to do so. These concerns would continue happening, because there was no opportunity for the workers to do so. The majority of these people happened to be black people.
The SRC had mentioned that the report did not speak about governance. The IP investigated only specific governance matters, and there was no general focus on how governance should be dealt with. The report focused on executive governance and said nothing about student governance. He fully agreed with what the workers and students had said. The report should not waste the Committee’s time.
The IP had to produce this report, but it had targeted specific people. The report was saying that blacks were wrong and whites were right, and therefore the whites must receive an apology from the institution. The report was further dividing UCT, and was not providing any solution. The blacks were still fighting and still felt like they were not represented. White people were being treated with kid gloves, while black people were treated like eggs in this institution. The report further divided the institution when it should seek an atmosphere where everyone was working together. If black people felt that white people were still being treated better than they were, the issues would not be resolved.
It had been argued that the IP did not do its work thoroughly, and they should go back and do thorough work and engage with stakeholders. The report was one-sided, as argued by the students. It was hearing only the side of the panel appointed by this institution. How could someone find anything wrong in the investigation of the institution if the university was the one that appointed the IP? He said that the report was duty-bound to be found the way that it was today. People were doing the investigations that the university was paying. He supported the suggestion that an independent external assessor should be appointed so that it was not forced to give a report that sought to benefit a certain part, or the whole part, of the institution. The report should go back and it should not waste the Committee’s time.
There was a racial issue within the institution. The workers and students were complaining about the same things. The report said that white people were better than black people. He did not agree, and the report should go back. An independent assessor should be appointed to deliver an independent report. There were racial issues, and it had been said that the former VC had used racist remarks. The majority of black students were also not covered. The Committee should not be wasting its time. The report should be referred back to the Council. The credibility and competency of the Council was being questioned. UCT had appointed their own friends and people who were not going to find them guilty, and so forth. Time should not be wasted, and the report should not find any expression. Black professionals were suffocating. This was a nonsensical report. The issues should be dealt with properly. He agreed that an independent external assessor should be appointed. Many people felt that they were not being represented. The IF never went through the report, but they might have a different view as soon as they did.
Mr T Letsie (ANC) asked about the huge offer made to the chief operations officer (COO), that he would receive a thank-you package if he stayed on for another year. This would have been given on top of his salary of R4m. Was this true? Who had been involved in this particular negotiation? Was it true that a “brother-in-law arrangement” existed between the interim VC and the COO? This was an ethical question, and nothing had been received. The report should have been sent to the secretary and then passed on to the Council. The Council would then look at it and then say everything was covered.
His understanding was that there should be different people in the Council, such as those from the legal fraternity. Were there such people in the Council? If so, what would their contribution have been towards the report? One of the speakers had spoken about a deliberate arrangement of functions in this Council. One was either in a dominant function, or crushed. If there were legal people and they saw nothing wrong with the report, then it confirmed that there seemed to exist a functional arrangement that the Council wanted to get rid of a certain group of people. The people implicated in this report should have taken it for judicial review. The Council could have said that the first draft of the report was too light on this person and that person, and therefore defeated the purposes of its plan. There could have been multiple versions of the report, and the Committee might not have been aware of it. The Committee was an oversight body, and some things came in only when certain things had already happened.
People from the Minister’s office and the Director-General’s office were present today. After the Department and Ministry had looked at this report, it should seriously consider bringing in an independent assessor to test some of these issues. The report made a lot of allegations. There had been some serious collusion. The Committee was making serious allegations, and the Council should be given an opportunity to test the information. He suggested that the report of an independent assessor be done before the three-month period if possible. During January and February, there would be registrations, and students should know that during those times, the university did not mind unleashing resources to cause chaos. Some of the allegations would remain allegations if an independent assessment was not done.
People were not just fighting because of black people, but some were fighting for religious beliefs. When the former VC was allowed to bring the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) group, which was aligned with Palestine, to an event at UCT, her life was made difficult. There were a serious number of allegations coming out of this. So a recommendation was made that an independent assessor should come in and the Committee hoped this was brought forward to the Ministry and the Department.
He had checked the membership of the Council, and it was a pity that their expertise was not listed, but they did seem to understand higher education. It was not about the Council not having the capacity to deal with the problem, but it might be because they had aligned themselves functionally to get rid of this person or that person.
Mr B Yabo (ANC) said it was the second time in a row that an HR person was not present. At the meeting of 30 August, Adv Arendse had been looking over his shoulder when he was asked about filling positions. Furthermore, no person dealing with HR had even been mentioned. Was this a deliberate decision or an omission? In the first instance, it would be an omission if a person was not invited. In the second instance, it would no longer be an omission, but rather deliberate. Someone with substantive authority was needed to respond to these issues, instead of having written responses.
The report quoted the rules of Parliament and why it could not go into matters that were in front of the judiciary or awaiting court decisions. The former Chairperson of the Council had submitted a review application on the IP report. He took exception to the tone used in the report, as if the Committee was spoken down on. Parliament was very serious in executing its duties. Parliament did not shy away from stepping on toes if it needed to. The Committee should not be told not to step on this or that matter because of XYZ, and then have the Council quote the rules of Parliament. This was unbecoming and told the Committee about the general attitude of this institution. The leadership had been around for nearly a decade, and these issues remained. Two councils had presided over UCT, and some of its members had been present in both.
He said that the initial terms of reference had looked at why Prof Lis Lange had chosen to leave, or why she had been terminated from the university. It was because of a letter she had written stating that she had an interest in having a second term. The former VC Mamokgethi Phakeng and former Council Chairperson Babalwa Ngonyama had denied her that opportunity. This letter had found its way to the Senate. He checked the institutional statutes to see if the leadership had respected its own policies and statutes. Rule 27(7)(A)-(B) and 8(A)-(B) dealt with what constituted a matter that could be tabled before the Senate if it was not on the agenda. On the day of the Senate meeting, the meeting was not chaired by the former Vice-Chancellor. According to the rules, two-thirds of the majority should agree to the letter being processed and tabled. The Committee was now dealing with this IP report because of that letter. This letter had found itself gaining a status that was unprecedented, because other employees had not been dealt with in that regard. Prof Ramugondo had taken the university to court numerous times, and none of those issues had been responded to on this level of seriousness.
He referred to the redacted report because certain names could not be mentioned due to the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA). However, certain names were mentioned without them being consulted on whether the names could be mentioned. Paragraph 250 of the report told a tale of the nature of this leadership and what had precipitated the governance collapse of the institution. It stated that the new Council was hopelessly divided from the beginning. Professor Chirwa's interpretation of the divide was that ‘there was one group in Council which wanted to have the VC investigated with removal at the end. The other wanted to prevent any form of investigation or removal, opting for other interventions such as mediation, coaching and team building.’ Paragraph 51 stated that ‘the source of the division lay in the frustration by some members of the previous Council that the VC’s improper conduct would not be investigated and the determination of most its new members, led by Ngonyama, to “move on” and ignore what had happened. Both believed their chosen path was in UCT’s best interests.’ The Committee was now sitting and discussing a matter of a polarised Council determined by a polarised council.
He said he did not know how ethics were interpreted. There was a body which was conflicted in and of itself, having the authority to appoint a panel to investigate itself. Looking at the revised terms of reference, things were dealt with hurriedly to get rid of the VC. To investigate governance, the board that was conflicted in the matter, appointed a panel to investigate themselves. Did they even have the authority to do so regarding the legal framework? Has anyone seen a criminal suspect investigate themselves and appoint a judge, investigating officer and detective themselves? The rules were blurred for an institution of knowledge production, which was worrisome. Did the Council conclude an indemnity agreement with the IP for the work that they had produced? Was an indemnity agreement concluded to indemnify leadership from any repercussions that may come towards the end of the investigation? Yes or no? He asked for honesty.
He said that mention had been made of the conflict of interest between the registrar and the interim VC, who managed the day-to-day conflict of interest between the two. The one reported to the other. It was a known fact, an open secret. He said that Prof Reddy managed the conflict of interest. The policy on the website states that when there is a conflict of interest, one must recuse oneself from the conflict of interest. People like Prof Chirwa and Mr Ezra Davids had refused to recuse themselves. Was there a different protocol development for such situations? The report spoke about 'inquisitorial,' and that they did not have adjudicative powers.
On 17 May 2023, it was decided that an interim report was needed. The IP said that it started interviews on 3 April 2023, but the presentation stated that the work of the IP had started in January. The Council had already concluded an agreement with the former VC in February, who had to leave on 3 March 2023 before the IP started its investigation. How should the Committee believe that the Council was telling the truth when there were conflicting dates? The interviews by the IP were concluded on 8 August, but the IP was ready to issue an interim report between 3 April and 17 May. Someone needed to tell the Committee about the authority of the IP. The reason for this fuss of an interim report was to remove the former Chairperson of the Council. The Chairperson of the Council had said that the position of Dean of Science would be concluded in October, and the appointment of the Executive Director (ED) of HR would have to wait until the report was out. Why was one position subjected to certain rules and the other was not? The inconsistency of the Council was shocking. Why did the appointment of the HR director have to wait until the IP report? Why were these two positions being treated differently? Had this IP been delegated powers of the Council?
The Council was interfering with the day-to-day issues of the university. Certain issues were going straight to the Council and were not passing through the proper channels of the university. He made an example of the registrar with a golden handshake. The registrar had resigned at the same time as the COO. The policy indicated that the person must serve a six-month exit notice. The registrar had submitted his notice in November, and the former Vice-Chancellor had accepted it. It was later said there should be a review to rescind that resignation. Early retirement had been offered to the registrar, and he would be paid at rates commensurate to the outstanding period in the contract. Did this apply only to Mr Royston Pillay, because he had a familial relationship with the interim VC, or did it apply as an umbrella policy to any university employee? Could people submit resignations and rescind that resignation in the middle of serving their exit notice? Was this benefit allowed to everyone? If so, could evidence of a similar situation be provided? If it had to deal with leadership that was inconsistent in the application of its principles, then the leadership was not worthy of leading the institution. He suggested that the leadership voluntarily step down.
He said that he did not want to draw inferences, but there was a certain Mr Ezra Davids who was consistently used by sub-committees to deal with issues related to delinquencies. Why was there no change in the two different councils for the two different matters? Adv Arendse said he had been appointed to handle these interface issues with the panel. He did not agree. This Council even had the authority to appoint a body to investigate matters related to itself. This was not justifiable. It was not just for a body to have such authority to appoint a panel to investigate itself. The body then had to decide whether the report was acceptable or not. How independent was this really? These governance matters should have been dealt with timeously. There was no determination that it could abrogate responsibility, apply corrective measures later, and then apologise. The double standards of this Council were too damning to ignore.
The Chairperson of the Council had spoken about a meeting that took place on 14 October in a controlled environment. How was the report presented? Was it a hard copy or a soft copy? Was the report furnished to the Council before or during the meeting? Was it deemed a controlled environment? There was a subsequent meeting, but what was its nature? Mr Mughtar Parker, the COO and the Executive Director of Properties and Services, was literally reporting to himself. How was this good governance? How would this be reflected in the King IV report? He asserted that this Council was not worthy. The Minister had to move with speed to appoint an independent assessor.
Ms Gerda Kruger, who was the ED of the Communication and Marketing Department, had many allegations against her. Was there an investigation? The report spoke about a legal opinion. Was there an investigation into Ms Kruger’s misconduct? What had the investigation report recommended? What about the grievance against the former VC? Who of the two presidents had dealt with the matter? How was the matter dealt with? He said that HR was needed to answer these questions. Why had Ms Kruger deserved a golden handshake of R2.2m and an apology? What had Ms Kruger been charged for? People in the sector thought that MPs did not read and were just elected because they were bored. He had read the 179-page report. The whole situation required immediate intervention --not tomorrow, but yesterday.
Mr S Ngcobo (DA) agreed that there should be an independent assessor, but that the recommendations of the IP report should still be implemented. This report could help ensure that there was transparency and accountability moving forward. This was what everyone wanted. If Council believed this report could help, it should be used as a roadmap. Had the Council taken any action to implement these recommendations? If so, could some details be provided? He asked for clarity on the main purpose of the meeting on the coming Saturday. When would a new VC be appointed?
Ms K Khakhau (DA) said the previous speakers had covered her really well. She said testing the integrity of the report was very awkward. It was not necessarily awkward due to the composition of the people serving on the IP, but because of the processes followed in the composition of the report and the intention of the investigation by the panel. In the recommendations, one could see there was a lot of mess and confusion around the intentions and outcomes. In the previous meeting, the Committee had stated that it was confused. To a certain extent, the institution was also confused about what it was trying to achieve with the investigation, what it wanted to prove, what was wanted to correct, and for whom it wanted to correct it. If there was better clarity, all of these questions from the Committee would not have been asked.
It was asked whether the institution had used this opportunity to cover up its decisions that resulted in the mess that the institution was currently in. It could not be that there was a report of such a nature that wanted to test black racism in the institution without testing it before the Committee. This was where the problem and confusion lay. If the problem was transformation, then it had to test to what extent the institution had transformed itself and to what extent and capacity it could still do so. This should be done. This report should not be used as a scapegoat because it has been very poorly done.
The report highlighted an image of there being a black people problem within UCT, without doing the same for white or coloured people within UCT. This was very dangerous, especially given the history of the institution's activism and its academic standing. One could not afford to have Africa’s leading institution of higher learning to be dabbling in such a mess. The whole thing was very messy. The validity of the “shady vibes” and dictatorship “vibes” of the former VC and former Chairperson of the Council could not truly be assessed. The Committee did not know now if these people were shady because of the process. It defeated the purpose of showing that their behaviours and actions were problematic. It may have been a problem, but because of how the institution had handled it, they may have been effectively absolved from it. The former VC might have done shady things, but the institution did not follow proper protocols because they wanted to protect themselves in a way they did not need to. If it really wanted to shine a light on the dark, then why was the institution sitting here with the Committee?
She spoke about the process of people who could serve on the Council. What was wrong with the current or previous one? What were they trying to change about who could sit on the Council? What was the process now, and how was it flawed? Had it been manipulated in the past? If it was manipulated, who would have benefited? How was this a problem for the Council and the institution itself? Who did not meet the criteria to sit on the Council? Who was not qualified to sit on the Council? There was no clarity on this. There had been a recommendation around the skill set necessary for a person to sit on the Council. Apart from the names that had been listed, who else did not have the necessary skills, as per the description of the investigation report, to sit on the Council? The report spoke very specifically that it needed to ensure that people had the necessary skills. What were these skills? Who did not have these skills? She was asking this because it would also deal with the conflict of interest of the current serving Council members who had been serving since the appointment of this Council. If this question of conflict of interest was tied to the previous question of the process, it would help to understand that nobody who sits in the Council right now has been sitting in the Council since then.
Could the Council confidently say that it had no responsibility? It had to deal with the mess. All the complaints to the Ombuds' office and complaints that came from within the Council. This had to be clarified. One conflict could not be declared and the other one not declared. It was as if no one wanted to be honest about the role that they had played thus far. This “shady culture” led to the authority and the legitimacy of the Council being considered questionable. This was not fair to the people within the institution who were actually doing things correctly. People were working hard to ensure that there was international academic decorum and status within the institution. There were so many little things that led to the decay of the institution. It was unfair to the crème de la crème of students in this country and across the globe who came to study at this university because they thought it was the ‘it institution’.
She was unsure whether this was permissible, but she asked a question about Prof Ramugondo, who had consistently declared that her statement did not refer to Prof Lange. She had been investigated, and people had said that she was lying. Could Prof Ramugondo state who she had been referring to? This would help the Committee better understand what was being concealed, fantasised or protected here. If these derogatory or racial remarks did not refer to Prof Lange, who did it refer to? She agreed with the recommendation that it had to do with Dr Lwazi Lushaba. There had to be an investigation of his conduct on social media, his lectures, how he ran his classes, and the content of his lectures.
It was not only one person in the institution that needed to be investigated -- there were also many other people. The institution had a responsibility to conduct its own investigation and audit. There had been futile questions asked, but she did not know whether these questions would be answered, as seen in the previous meeting. Who was taking responsibility for the individuals that had been wronged by the institution? When were apologies going to be issued to those individuals? How were these individuals identified? And who would do the identification?
Mr K Pillay (ANC) asked Dr Socikwa when the letter of the Minster had been sent, and why it had not been responded to yet. He was worried about the double standards reflected in the report. On the one hand, there were apologies with compensation; on the other, there were only apologies and sometimes no apologies. These double standards were further dividing the institution. How independent was the IP? One could not be 'the referee and the player.’ He supported the suggestion of using an independent external assessor, but was against spending a lot of money as R12m had already been used on interviewing 27 witnesses.
In the report, it had been mentioned that there was extensive written and oral evidence. Further in the report, it stated that there were 27 oral submissions which they had requested to be in writing, so how many were written and how many were oral? It felt like the same oral submissions were also the same written submissions. What was the breakdown of those people who formed part of the witnesses?
Many of the staff had been implicated. Had there been any consequence management? There were also critical positions that had not been filled yet. When would they be filled? The posts being open had resulted in an unstable institution.
He said he wanted to draw a comparison between the report of the Ombuds and the IP. He had found many glaring differences between the two reports. There was some copy-and-paste stuff. It was R12m later, and the veracity of the report was questionable. How was conflict managed at the institution? It clearly seemed that it was not handled the way that it should be. It seemed like there was a cabal and if someone belonged to that cabal, the treatment was different compared to those that did not belong to it. This was one of the biggest challenges. How old was the interim VC? The policy states that the retirement age is 65. He said that transformation was far from happening in this institution.
Ms D Sibiya (ANC) said this was terrible -- the students and the workers were unsatisfied. There was a lot of talk about black and white people here. If the institution and its people did not respect itself, how would it respect the students and the workers? She agreed that the report should be set aside and not to waste time. She agreed that an independent external assessor must be appointed. She had no questions, as her questions had already been raised.
Mr S Zondo (IFP) said that he agreed that an independent external assessor needed to come and validate the IP report. A lot of money had been spent on this. If the IP report was not validated, there should be a demand for the money to be repaid. There had been a lot of issues raised around black and white people. This was an institution in South Africa. South Africa belongs to everyone in it, no matter if people are black or white. Everyone should be able to participate and do what they want as long as it is on the right platform. It was not right that black people had been mistreated, especially in the disciplinary processes, while white people had been given a free path.
The independent external assessor should also look at the R2.2m given to Ms Kruger. What was the composition of the Senate? Why were certain people included while others were not? The country belonged to all who were in it. There was still this issue with colour. This institution was still far from having an equal environment. No one was above the law.
The issue of dissolving the Council might be something that the independent external assessor should consider. The unions and students were saying that the Council was not credible. People could also see this, but the law had to be followed. There had to be an investigation into this. He also asked about the UCT policy which stated that the retirement age was 65. A reason for this should be given if the interim VC was above 65.
There had been no boundaries for the financial management in this institution. When extending "golden handshakes" to people leaving, millions were spent. This was one of the terms of reference that had to be checked. The independent external assessor should also be looking at the IP that only interviewed a person, instead of going to the different departments of the institution. There was also irregular expenditure of R15m. This was not a small amount of money and it should be investigated. There was nothing that says that the Council had rectified this. Why were processes not followed? He condemned the institution's actions, saying one "should treat each other as equals."
Ms C King (DA) congratulated UCT for receiving a clean audit. However, this IP report overshadowed the audit report and outcomes. She had hoped that during the presentation, the Chairperson of the Council would have spoken about the HR issues -- at what stage it would have assessed the HR system and what was discussed in the meeting that they had. Was there a discussion around internal governance? There had been a generalised approach. What had been the approach to appointing an interim VC? What requirements did it look at? The report said nothing about this.
There was so much transformation that could be done within the institution. What about the behaviour of the former VC against her colleagues? She would not mention race, but it did seem that the executive of the Council had been anti-transformation. What was going to happen to the former VC? A statement was made that she was not fit for purpose, and the Ombuds report also spoke about her behaviour. It was not about whether she was fit for purpose, but about not being bold enough to take over issues that affected transformation in the issues, and this had put a dent in the image of the institution. She did believe that she was doing the work that was in the best interests of the institution, but staying silent about matters had not been in its best interests. This was what had come out in the report.
This executive had taken no collective responsibility. She hoped that after the request was made to the Minister for an independent external assessor, the report would delve deeper into UCT. Other institutions had governance issues. These were the main issues that had to be looked at. She suggested perhaps amending the legislation to ensure proper direction regarding the composition of the Council. There were times when one institution included the workers and had no SRC members, and at other institutions, it was the opposite.
She agreed with some of the issues raised earlier, but did not agree on the race element, although the process might have been fraught in this regard. She also agreed there was a conflict of interest. The institution could not give evidence and then still review the report in which it had provided the evidence. There was a conflict of interest, and it should have recused itself from the process.
In the previous meeting, the issue of the "golden handshakes" had been raised, especially the one given to the former VC, including the non-disclosure agreement (NDA). She should have absolved herself from being part of the investigation. After she left, the Council should have considered the terms of reference and what it wanted to investigate. There should have been a unanimous decision on this. The former Vice-Chancellor was not here, and she should have been here to apologise to everyone she had offended. The Council now had to do this on her behalf. She should have apologised for being a silent accomplice to all the atrocities that had been done against other people. This now overshadowed the academics, and everything else in the institution.
UCT was a fine institution. It was one of the best institutions in Africa, and it would be sad if the small governance issues overshadowed it. She agreed that at some stage, the succession planning of the institution had to be looked at. HR should have been here. She did not agree that the institution should be placed under administration. It was not at that point yet. The institution had to take bolder steps, even if it was going to offend the transformational agenda of this country. The institution should have been bolder when it saw somebody was not fit for purpose, or did not have the proper emotional intelligence.
Ms J Mananiso (ANC) said that everyone should note that the Committee did not deal with personalities, but with the merits of procedures and conduct. She said Mr Shikwambana had deliberately mentioned the issue of the treatment of black people. The Committee was very deliberate about the transformational agenda in terms of seeing everyone as equal. The basic principles of law dictated that everyone was equal before the law. The Committee had read the IP report, and it did not dictate that everyone was equal. The Committee could not condemn the conduct of the people mentioned in the report. The race issue had been mentioned in the context of the gender transformation agenda.
The Minister must give this institution immediate attention, and an independent external assessor should be appointed. The Committee would always touch those who were regarded as untouchable. If people followed this Committee, they would know that it had not come into this meeting with predetermined views on how it wanted to deal with the institution. It was deliberately engaging with what had even been said by the students and the unions in this meeting. It was very deliberate as to how it wanted to see the university implement its own policy. The institution could not have a policy and then not implement it, but then wanted it to be seen as fit for purpose. She did not agree with Ms King. The institution could not have good policies and then not implement them without fear or favour. They were not fit for purpose. They did not indicate any responses or take responsibility for their failures. It did not mean that they had to be exonerated from this report. Had there been any consequence management, and what had those measures been? Many people had been wronged by this institution. Many people had also done the wrong thing. What measures had been put in place to ensure those people accounted for the wrong deeds that they had done?
She said that she was always proud when UCT was doing well, especially on the international front, but it could not mask the truth of the issues at the institution. What was the role of the transformation committee? If a committee was established, it was established for a purpose. What was being done to ensure transformation? What had the institution done about the issues of bullying and the matter of seeing black-and-black and white-and-white? This issue should be dealt with before the independent external assessor comes in. She also asked about the retirement policy and what the retirement age was. When last had the institution reviewed its code of conduct? There was a reputation for unethical conduct at the institution. This unethical conduct had been institutionalised and professionalised.
She said it was wrong that the university had not responded to the letter of the Minister. Institutional autonomy was a problem. The Committee had seen the clean audit and was happy about it, but the fact remained that there was a depressing report. It was really unfortunate to see how things were being dealt with. A letter should be written to the Minister to appoint an independent external assessor, and the Minister should intervene.
The Chairperson said the meeting was supposed to end at 13h00, but asked for some indulgence as additional time would be needed.
Adv Arendse asked if there could be a caucus to help the institution coordinate its response.
The Chairperson agreed that the institution would get ten minutes to coordinate a response, and 30 minutes to respond to the questions raised.
There was a bit of trust deficit, because no one felt certain that the processes that had been followed were fair and did not yield the best results for the university. The Committee noted the sentiments of the students and the workers, and that the IF needed some time to go over the IP report. The Committee was concerned about the IP's terms of reference, and how it delved into the issue of Prof Phakeng. This was just messy. Concerns had been raised about what the institution was trying to achieve. It was no surprise that people were not confident in the report. There was an overarching concern about whether the recommendations should be followed through or not. There was a common sentiment that this process had not been as thorough as it should have been. Perhaps an independent external assessor needed to come on board. Perhaps the Minister was already thinking about an independent external assessor. The Committee was not confident, and the oversight role of the Department was necessary. An independent external assessor was needed to bring some confidence. If an independent external assessor was brought in, the Department should ensure that the process itself was not questioned. She did not want to repeat what had already been said, but t the way forward was an independent external assessor.
She said she was a board member of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, which speaks about a non-racial society, and it had been difficult to read this report. She was quite an objective individual, but many people were sitting in this meeting and battling to see the objectivity in the report. It did not look or feel objective. The process that had been followed was also under question. It was inevitable that it was going to look biased, racially induced and sexist. Certain phrases were used in the report, such as the ‘supporters of Phakeng.’ The person who wrote the report might have spoken about certain members supporting her. Perhaps there were eight members, and only three were supportive. It looked and sounded factional.
The Committee had an obligation to inform the public of its meetings. A link to this meeting had been posted to ensure that Parliament was reaching the people of this country. A young woman who went to UCT had responded that the university needed deliverance from racism. It had been a painful response from a citizen of this country. She was not saying that there was racism at the institution, but a lot of reflection was needed. She was not saying that UCT should now create spaces to make it look a particular way.
She found it unsettling that there were so many men in the room. The Committee had always been clear about the fact that if it walked into a room, it wanted to see leadership and diversity. The Committee wanted to see young people and young women at the helm of leadership positions, especially young black women, because black women were always at the bottom. She was uncomfortable because it felt racial and sexist.
Given the processes that had unfolded, the Committee had not been brought into confidence. The best intervention here was for an independent external assessor to come in, but the Department should also be careful about who it brings in so that it does not produce the same results as today. There could not be a back-and-forth between the Department and UCT, such as was the case with the University of South Africa (UNISA). The Committee was not here to create a rosy picture, but there was some appreciation of the intention to interact with stakeholders. It was not impossible for UCT to be inclusive. No stakeholder was complaining about that. She was not trying to add a little bit of sugar to a sea of salt. Things were bad at the moment. It was possible to be inclusive, which they could work towards.
An intervention from the Department was needed for the issues involving the workers and the statute. Colleagues were not finding one another. The response had been that there were many platforms where colleagues had engaged. The Committee did not appreciate it when recommendations were made and they were 'willy-nilly' being accepted or disregarded. The Department should come to UCT and sit down with the Council and the workers to try and resolve these matters. It could not let matters just linger at the university for years. These issues create a trust deficit, and they hover around everyone.
There was also a concern about a financial deficit at the institution. It was alleged that workers would no longer be in-sourced, and would be outsourced. She asked for clarity on this, especially in light of the fact that golden handshakes were being given, despite the financial deficit. This was an injustice.
The Chairperson said written responses could also be sent to supplement some of the responses that were going to be given.
Adv Arendse thanked the Chairperson for allowing written supplementary responses. He asked for the timeframe for submitting written responses.
The Chairperson said seven working days.
Adv Arendse said that the IP report had been criticised today. A number of persons outside this meeting, such as the former VC and former Chairperson of the Council, were unhappy with the report and had already challenged the interim report with a court review. The Council anticipated that more people would adopt this course, which was their right in terms of the law. The Council had, however, with its authority under the internal statutes and procedures, robustly discussed, debated and adopted the report. This was a lawful decision, and the Council had satisfied itself with the report. The report was lawful because it was substantively and procedurally fair and rational. This did not mean that, in law, it was absolutely right on all aspects covered in the report.
The Council had adopted the report and was now in the phase of implementing the recommendations. This process had commenced with the appointment of a committee which would report to the Council on Saturday, where it would discuss the recommendations. The Council had noted the comments by the SRC and the unions. The Council would engage with them where necessary to discuss some of the demands. There had been a failure to meet with the unions previously. The Council was supposed to receive the report at the end of September, but had not. He had engaged with the union now and raised the matter of representation, albeit not in a substantial way. There would be further engagements. The Council was guided by the statutes which provide for worker representation to be in Council in different pay classes. Two members of the union served on the Council.
The appointment of an independent external assessor depended on the Minister. He was not really sure about whether the independent external assessor should assess and review the IP report and report back to the Committee and the Minister, or if it would be the kind of independent external assessor from another education institution who would be appointed to oversee the situation in the interim. He did not think the latter situation applied to UCT.
There were lawyers on the Council -- he had been one for 40 years. The IP had done its work and recommendations had been made to Council which had been adopted. This fell under the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act (PAJA), where a legally binding decision was made. The decision stood unless it was set aside in a court of law. The retirement age was 65, and the earlier retirement age was 55. UCT had its own policy for post-retirement appointments, which applied to Prof Reddy and was recommended to the Senate by the former Chairperson of the Council, which Senate had unanimously endorsed. He was happy with the appointment, because Prof Reddy had been a source of stability at the university. He could have been happier elsewhere but had chosen to help and assist this institution.
He said that non-disclosure agreements were also foreign to them. He always read about NDAs in tabloids and saw them in movies. The NDAs had been introduced under the previous regime by the former Vice-Chancellor and former Chairperson of the Council. The former Chairperson of the Council was instrumental in concluding the process of the NDA with the former VC. Two experienced lawyers had been brought in; one was a retired judge who debated the issue with the Council. It was unanimously agreed that there was some opposition to it. The Council had adopted a majority decision which bound all of them. Conflicts of interest loomed large in these matters. There was guidance from the Higher Education Act and internal statutes regarding conflict of interest matters. Some of the current members of the Council had served previously, but there was no conflict of interest. Conflict of interest related to matters that concerned a person personally, either directly or indirectly, where there was financial gain, or there was an interest in the outcome of a particular issue. Such a matter should then be decided or resolved in a meeting. No such content had arisen in this regard.
The decision to appoint a panel had been made in October 2022. The former VC and former Chairperson of the Council had presided at that meeting. It was obviously a contested issue, but sometimes contested issues were resolved simply and bluntly by just a simple vote. The outcome of the decision by the majority had bound every one in the meeting. All of these decisions were taken in accordance with the statutes and policies. It had all been entirely legal.
He said that when releasing reports, there were sometimes leaks. The report was kept under wraps by the IP’s attorney and had been delivered on 14 October 2023 in this very room. This was what was meant by a controlled environment. All the pages were water stamped with a person’s name in case the report was given to a journalist. Everyone had to sign for the document to be delivered, and each person had to hand in their electronic devices. The Council had gone through the report in this room for three to four hours. Another meeting then had to take place on 28 October to debate the report. No letter from the Minister had been received, but if a letter had been sent during August, then the response would have been that it was still waiting for the IP report. Mr Parker did not report to himself, but to Prof Reddy.
Mr Malcolm Campbell, Deputy Chairperson of the Council, said that the Senate had made the appointment of Prof Reddy on the recommendation of the former Chairperson of the Council. At the time, Prof Reddy’s relationship with the registrar was known, so not only was the recommendation made but the relationship was also clarified. It was then taken to the Council and the institution, and after it was processed, the credentials of Prof Reddy were accepted. The registration of the registrar had to be considered by the three-person panel, which engaged with the registrar on his continued role at the university. The three-person panel consisted of one member from the Senate, one member from Council and one external member from the remuneration committee. The panel had engaged with the registrar and the report was tabled at the Council for acceptance. The Council had taken the decision to appoint Prof Reddy.
Ms Nazeema Mohamed, a Council member, said that when nominations were called, she had recommended Prof Norman Duncan because she was concerned that the relationship between the registrar and Prof Reddy would be used mischievously. She had asked about Prof Duncan’s availability. She had evidence of this in the form of an e-mail and WhatsApp message. She was allowed to put forward people who were available. Prof Duncan had been an assistant before and had the Minister’s confidence and trust. She thought that he was a good candidate. She had contacted the former Chairperson of the Council, and she had not responded. She had had to urge her to respond, and when she did, she asked for Prof Duncan's details. The former Chairperson of the Council said she had contacted Prof Duncan, and he had said he was unavailable. She wanted this to be placed on record. She had called him to apologise for pressurising him, and he assured her this was not the case. The former Chairperson of the Council had told him the decision had already been made. She was concerned that the critical role as the secretary of the Council would be compromised, and it had been compromised. She had no objections against Prof Reddy, because he had all the credentials and was an A-rated researcher. The university respected him and he had brought stability to the university. She just wanted to put this on record.
Prof Ramugondo thanked the Committee for giving her the opportunity to appear before the Committee. She was unsure what it meant to have protection so that one could speak truthfully and honestly, but she would speak honestly and truthfully about transformation at this university.
She had served on the Senate of this university under five different vice-chancellors. She had been at UCT since 1998. She had been an undergraduate student at UCT from 1989 to 1992. When one spent too long at an institution, it was easy to recognise patterns that other people could not. She had left after finishing her degree, gone back to rural Venda for three years, and then gone to the United States of America to gain a different kind of experience. She had been head-hunted back to the university. A pattern needed to be very clear to everyone in the room. Two of the five Vice-Chancellors did not finish their first term and did not have a second term, and they were both African women. She would just leave it at that for people to think about in terms of transformation.
UCT did not have a transformation committee, but rather a transformation forum. A committee was a body that made decisions. There was also an employment equity forum. Employment and recruitment responsibility was left to individuals who were employment equity representatives, and sometimes these were even junior people. There were selection committees chaired by deans, heads of departments and other people, but now it expected junior people to drive employment equity in the institution. Transformation was not only about the demographic composition of an institution, but also much more than that. One had to worry about the knowledge projects, and it was important to know what was meant by excellence. UCT wanted to see excellence that served this country, society and continent. This was the excellence that many who cared about transformation espoused.
The institutional forum was important, because it had been mandated by the Higher Education Act to drive institutional culture and inclusivity and do all the things it wanted to see in a non-racial society. This was a forum that advised the Council, but did not make any decisions. When decisions were made, one could see where the power truly lay. The Senate had been mentioned as a key decision-making space in this university, and in order to be a member of the Senate with full rights, one had to be a full professor at UCT. There were 262 full professors at UCT, and this did not include associate professors. She was going to use racialised categories because of redress, but these were not identities they wanted to assume. There were nine African professors, of which only three were females. There were 26 Coloured professors, of which were ten females and 16 males. There were 23 Indian South African professors, which consisted of 14 males and nine females. There were 107 white professors. In the foreign national category, according to the Employment Equity Act and the target set by the Department of Employment and Labour, there were 93 professors. The university did not like calling anyone foreign. This was not too much of an issue -- one needed to interrogate how many of these foreign nationals were from the rest of the African continent compared to everywhere else. Was it about expertise and scarce skills? If it was, then that was great because UCT wanted people who were really on top of their game from anywhere.
It was also important to interrogate dismissals, to see where harm occurs. There was data available for dismissals. She said 39 African employees had been dismissed, of which 24 were males. Further, 44 Coloured employees were dismissed, of which 22 were males and 22 were females. Two female Indian employees were dismissed. Four white employees were dismissed, of whom one was female. Three male foreign national employees were dismissed, and one female. When one talks about harm, one needs to think about the ultimate harm.
Adv Arendse said that he did not want the Committee to leave with the impression that Prof Ramugondo had just left. He said everyone, including himself, who was leading the Council, had never delegated transformation to any junior. Transformation was the responsibility of the Council. The deputy vice-chancellor (DVC) for transformation was the person that Council looked to do the oversight work in relation to transformation and to make proposals to Council to make the right decisions.
He said one should be careful about simply looking at raw statistics without context. People dismissed from whichever race group had been entitled to challenge the dismissals in the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) and the Labour Court. If people were dismissed after a fair process, one should be careful about drawing conclusions or inferences purely by looking at the numbers.
He assured the Committee that he took transformation very seriously. He had always been concerned about the number of senior black African academics. These were issues that had to be addressed. He would be concerned if there was any racial bias in terms of the disproportionate number of black Africans at the academic level being dismissed. This had never been brought to his attention. Professor Loretta Feris had also signed an NDA, and she had been excellent in terms of transformation.
Prof Reddy said there were appointments beyond the normal retirement age of 65, and he was 70 and eight months old.
There was a DVC for transformation. The VC was ultimately accountable for transformation and implementing various policies. There was also a social ethics and transformation committee which was a committee that reported to the Council. The Senate was not only for the professors, which was the traditional composition. The UCT Senate was comprised of professors, heads of departments, deputy heads of departments, deans, representatives of the academic, professional and administrative staff, and student representatives whom the SRC nominated.
The Chairperson said she would allow the SRC to speak, but she would not give Prof Ramugondo another chance to speak. She was worried, and knew that the Members sitting close to her were also worried. The Council and the management were not in sync. There was no cohesion. When Council and management were responding, there was always a correction of what the management had said. It made no sense for Adv Arendse to correct Prof Ramugondo. The Committee had the ability to contextualise what she had said. Unfortunately, numbers did matter in a country like South Africa, as they translated to representation. Unfortunately, there were quotas.
The Committee did want to know the statistics on demographics at UCT. It wanted to see black women professors. If there was this inclusion, there would not be this racial micro-aggression. Maybe the students and workers would not be complaining about their day-to-day experiences. Women and young students who were following these particular interactions were saying, ‘save us from this institution that is drenched in racial microaggression.’ It was patronising, what had just happened. If people in this country were not being honest, this country would not be going anywhere. If this was how meetings were run, it would not assist the Committee. The Council and management were not taking the Committee into its confidence. What the Committee had witnessed in this meeting was worrisome. Ms King had tried to add a little bit of sugar in the room when she mentioned the clean audit outcome, which the Committee accepted. However, it could not, for instance, say that the Committee was proud of the work being done in the Department and then not question transformation and issues of intersectionality.
She had been in a meeting where a gentleman had said that a clean audit and all these A-rated scientists and researchers had a meaningful impact. In other words, it was about the meaningfulness and impact it had on young women and young children. This was what it meant to be number one in the country.
The Committee was not going to shy away from this conversation. It must ensure that UCT excels and feels like an institution in a democratic country. The problem would remain for as long as a collective in this institution did not feel included. South Africa needed people to be bold, honest and interact in good faith. If there was a collective in this institution that was not happy, let them express their concerns. The institution should not try to sugarcoat things, because this would not assist the Committee.
She said she would now allow the SRC, the unions and the IF five minutes to make their closing remarks.
Mr Khorombi said that the majority of the people in the room had the same view. He wanted to highlight the issue of race and gender equality. There had been previous reports on this institution that spoke directly to the racism and transformation at UCT. There should be no hesitation about speaking on these issues. There should also be no hesitation on speaking about the functions of the Council. Members of the Council did not want to engage with the SRC. How could the Council go through the report and adopt it, but not engage with the stakeholders? What was the SRC here for if the Council was just going to be like voting cows? How could the Council go over the report for 15 minutes with such a number of pages, and adopt it? There should be an intervention in regard to the Council. The SRC supported the proposal for an independent external assessor.
Mr Nxele said that he was happy with the extensive work that the Committee had done in terms of addressing these issues. He did not have to say much because he was covered largely on the issues that the workers/unions were aggrieved. He asked for an answer on the possibility of outsourcing while there was a perceived deficit. There was evidence of millions of rands being thrown around. When voting in elections, there were always questions by people in the townships on whether the President agreed on the grant issues. There was no way that people would agree to vote for a President that did not agree with the grant programme, or wanted to stop it. People always wanted to know what the position was on the ground. This was similar to the issues here. At all material times, people wanted to know what was happening under the university's leadership. There had been no pronouncements. So, there had to be a discussion around the leadership position on in-sourcing. A deficit should not be used as an excuse. The memorandum on in-sourcing should be reviewed. The issues around in-sourcing and outsourcing should be addressed so that the workers could also understand the position.
Mr Rustin said he wanted to put it on record that the IF had not met with the Council, which was very concerning. The IF would push to meet with the Council. His earlier comment about the openness of the Council to engage with the IF, unions and various bodies had been related to the appointment of the VC. Some relationships had to be fixed. He had been with the IF for many years, even under the previous DVC for transformation. He said that Prof Ramugondo had made mention of the transformation committees. He said that if a chairperson or a VC was interacting with an ordinary worker, there would be some sort of power imbalance. Would an ordinary worker take the opportunity to engage with a chairperson, and then possibly lose their job? The problem was that transformation committees comprised members in the same department. So, would ordinary workers disagree with their boss and possibly lose their job, or just sit there to keep it?
The IF had written to Council and advised them that the key performance indicators should indicate that every senior dean, an executive of the transformation committee, should be directly responsible for transformation in their department. The Council was just a body that met a few times a year. It was actually the heads of departments that were interviewing people. The dean and head of department should have the responsibility to ensure that the transformation objectives are achieved.
The Chairperson said people here knew that the Committee did not run meetings haphazardly. The Council and the management at UCT should have coordinated themselves. There had been a request for a caucus, which was granted. Adv Arendse should have covered everyone in the Council. Prof Ramugondo and Prof Reddy should have covered everyone in management.
The Committee was concerned about the state of governance at the institution. The people were not happy. This issue had to be resolved. The institution could not be the player and the referee. This was also what was causing tension. She liked investigations by independent bodies because it allowed everyone to have an equal footing, and no one could say there was bias or a lack of objectivity. There was a risk if the independence of assessors was being questioned.
The Department needed to assist the sector. Work needed to be done to regain public confidence in the sector. Some questions were unanswered, such as when a VC would be appointed. There should be a stakeholder meeting to resolve some of the issues. There should be meetings so that everyone could voice themselves. There should be a space for people to speak. She would rather have a report that stipulated that there had been a meeting with disagreements, because it would show that the disagreements were on principle and not because they wanted to steadfastly keep their positions. To build this country, there needed to be give, take, and push and pull until it got to where it wanted to be.
She urged the Council and management to sit again and talk through these issues. All these platforms were good, but there were questions around the in-sourcing of workers that needed to be ironed out. There could not be hearsay and rumours of this nature at an institution. It created uncertainty, discomfort and a trust deficit. It was not healthy for people to operate in a space like that. There should be engagement with students and labour. There needed to be some sort of regroup. There had to be a collective responsibility to ensure that the engagements yielded the fruits that would benefit everyone.
A lot had been discussed in this meeting, such as outsourcing and statutes. There had been a comprehension issue. Some understood the matter in a particular way, whereas others did not. The IF played a critical role in bringing voices together. There had to be a sit-down. The question about the brother-in-law conflict of interest had been answered. Whether or not the Committee agreed with it, an answer had been given.
The Committee was not saying that there should be an interrogation into the work that the IP had done, but that there must be a whole new process that an independent assessor led. The Committee was also not calling for the university to be put under administration either -- that someone should run the institution on their behalf. However, some issues had to be nipped in the bud. The only way this could be done was to understand the root causes and then find a way to pave the best way forward. This was what was meant by an independent assessment.
She was trying to get advice from the Council on other matters that the Minister may explore. The sentiment of the Committee and stakeholders of the institution was that there was no confidence in the panel regarding its actual terms of reference and what it had sought to do. There was no confidence in what it had actually done and the outcomes of its work. Was the process done with due diligence and ethical, or was it unjust? The outcomes of the work were questionable, and not everyone was happy right now.
Some questions had not been answered. These questions would be forwarded and the institution had seven working days in which to respond. Some very direct questions had not been responded to. She hoped that those questions had been captured, but the recording of the meeting was available to capture them. These responses would have to be forwarded to the Parliamentary Monitoring Group (PMG) so that they could be published on the PMG website. There was a limitation of written responses, because citizens did not get them. The Committee would ensure that the written responses were published on the PMG website. This was the way forward.
She reiterated that no matter how great the managerial skills were, if the university was not able to bring the entire collective on board, then it was not really meeting its ultimate intention. The SRC had mentioned a concern about the functions of the Council. There was a general concern about the structure of many bodies at UCT. There were questions about the representatives on the Council and the Senate. There was clarity needed on the memorandum of demands. The Committee had also been privy about members of the Senate having to have full professorship. There was a bit of a disjuncture in that regard. There needed to be an engagement to clarify these issues with stakeholders.
The Committee requested that there be a report or minutes of the meeting which should be signed by the Council, students and labour. There had to be a mutual agreement of this conversation in that particular stakeholder meeting. There could not be a, ‘he said’ and ‘she said’ approach. There were concerns around functions and the structure of the organogram, as well as transformation, along with whose responsibility it was to measure that transformation. It had been mentioned that it was not a transformation committee, but a forum. She appreciated the mention of it being the responsibility of the head of department who did the day-to-day running. Council was given this overarching line of responsibility, but did not appoint those people. It was not impossible for UCT, the number one university in the country, to achieve transformation.
She said there were seven working days to respond to the questions. Adv Arendse had indicated that the Council could not find the letter from the Minister.
Adv Arendse said that the letter had not been received. The context was that the letter had not been sent due to the extended timeline for the IP report.
The Chairperson asked if the letter was received or not.
Adv Arendse said it had not been received.
The Chairperson said that she would afford five minutes for DDG Socikwa to give her closing remarks. This miscommunication that had taken place between the Council and the Department should be resolved. The Committee should then be informed of the situation as soon as it has been cleared up.
There were seven days to respond to unanswered questions, and there should be a stakeholder engagement. The Committee was putting the rest into the hands of the Department for the appointment of an independent assessor. The Council had made their stance that it accepted the IP report.
Dr Socikwa said that the meeting had been enlightening for the Department. It had shown the fractures at UCT, which was discouraging in many ways. There had been an impression that things were fine at UCT and that things were improving. However, it was very clear that a lot of work was required to build confidence among stakeholders. There had been a huge omission in the report on the tone of reconciliation -- as if reconciliation could be resolved with monetary compensation alone. This was insufficient in many ways.
There was a lot of introspection required at UCT. The people at UCT should be honest if they wish to rebuild this phenomenal institution. She would report to the Minister on the recommendations of all the stakeholders. It was clear that there was a common position -- that stakeholders were calling for an independent assessor. If Council had been confident, it would have called for an independent assessor to confirm and affirm the content of the IP's report. She was worried that the Council had not been equally confident. The recommendation for an independent assessor would be sent to the Minister and the Director-General for consideration.
A letter had been sent from the Minister to request a report on the state of governance and management at the university. She asked that the report still be sent through. She appreciated the IP report, but it did not even cover this in the report. There had to be a holistic view. These sentiments would be passed on to the Minister and the Director-General so that the report could contain it, because it was likely to become an explosive issue in the new academic year.
The Chairperson said she welcomed the fact that Dr Socikwa had agreed that an independent assessor should come in to affirm if the IP’s work had been thorough, and whether the outcomes should be welcomed. She also thought that this was how assessors and investigators should assist. This would also help with knowing who did wrong, or who had done the right thing and whether the process was done thoroughly. She appreciated Dr Socikwa's constructive guidance.
She thanked everyone in the meeting and for UCT allowing the Committee to turn it into Parliament for the day. She appreciated the hospitality and looked forward to the responses and the proactive responses from the Department. There could not be a hasty decision about an independent assessor, but they had to be proactive on that. The Committee did not want any institution not to be stable in terms of governance and not have an environment that was conducive to learning.
The meeting was adjourned.
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