Phakeng backs MPs call for assessor

Former University of Cape Town (UCT) vice-chancellor has broken her silence about the damning report which left a blot on her reputation.

Speaking to Sunday World for the first time after issuing a statement saying then she would not be doing interviews until her lawyers had finished studying the report, Phakeng said the report painted her as an angry black woman.

She said she will soon be making an announcement about the steps she is planning to take to challenge the report in “tell-it-all” episodes on her YouTube channel, FabAcademic Unfiltered, responding to each and every statement about her in the report.

 Phakeng said she welcomed the suggestion by parliament’s portfolio committee on higher education, science and innovation that minister Blade Nzimande should consider appointing an independent assessor at the varsity.

 The assessor will, among others, probe governance issues at the university and make recommendations to Nzimande.

On Thursday, the national assembly committee issued a statement, saying it had noted the concerns raised by labour unions and students at UCT about the purpose, process and outcomes of the independent panel’s investigation into governance at UCT.

“The committee thus supports a call from UCT stakeholders for the department of higher education and training to consider appointing an independent assessor to probe underlying issues at UCT,” read the statement.

UCT appointed a four-memberpanel chaired by judge Lex Mpati to investigate governance at UCT following the departure of deputy vice-chancellor for teaching and learning Prof Lis Lange and the alleged misrepresentation of the reason why she had left.

Aided by judge Azhar Cachalia, Dr Bernadette Johnson and Dr Patricia Hanekom, Mpati’s report painted a picture of Phakeng that was “hypersensitive to criticism” and quick to play the race and female card to bulldoze her colleagues.

The report also cited an incident in which Phakeng admonished a junior staff member of the human resources department, among many others.

The witness said when the member differed with Phakeng over a transformation issue, she called her outside.

“’You don’t speak until I tell you to speak, and you don’t ever insult me in front of these white people’,” Phakeng apparently told the staff member.

Phakeng said that the report does not contain any evidence against her and she will use her YouTube platform to expose the untruths by the witnesses.

“The poorly written and baseless Mpati-Cachalia report is not surprising,” said Phakeng.

The portfolio committee said that the panel, which was appointed by the UCT council, appeared to be conflicted and that the report contained inconsistencies that were too glaring to ignore.

“It thus does not shock the committee that some stakeholders are calling for the panel’s report to be set aside and for the department to appoint an independent assessor,” read the statement.

“The committee supports this position, as an investigation by an external body may alleviate some of the concerns and elements of mistrust within the community,” it said.

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