UCT mends its broken relations

The powers that be at the University of Cape Town (UCT) are working at mending fences following a damning report by the institution’s ombud into the leadership of the university.

UCT ombud Zetu Makamandela Mguqulwa in her report likened UCT vice-chancellor (VC) Mamokgethi Phakeng to a bully who victimises staff.

A source at UCT has, however, told Sunday World that anti-transformation forces were trying to oust Phakeng, who was appointed to the role in 2018, and that the office of the ombud was weaponised for this purpose.


In a letter to students and staff this week, Phakeng and her deputies Loretta Feris, Sue Harrison, Lis Lange and the university’s chief operating officer, Reno Morar, said they were working on resolving any difference that might exist.

The letter reads: “We acknowledge that there have been tensions in the executive, much of it has been resolved and we remain committed to working as a team. The interest of the university is at the centre of what we do, and we are focused on ensuring that the University of Cape Town continues to succeed. “Whilst there might be differences of opinion and personal complexities from time to time, we are, as a team, totally committed to leading this university in the best way possible.”

Babalwa Ngonyama, the newly elected chair of the UCT council, in a separate letter, said the council and the ombud had agreed to explore best approaches to rebuilding the relationship between the office of the VC and the office of the ombud.

However, Ngonyama showered praises on the leadership of Phakeng. “The vice-chancellor has to lead the organisation with a clear vision. Professor Phakeng took office as vice-chancellor at a time of great change.

Many senior staff members were leaving the university. Professor Phakeng has skilfully steered the institution to more stability, particularly in terms of student unrest. In her efforts, she foregrounded transformation while prioritising excellence.”

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