UCT chair fired by interim report 

By GroundUp

The Chairperson of the University of Cape Town’s council Babalwa Ngyonyama has resigned, with immediate effect.

This follows a recommendation in an interim report from a high-powered panel established to investigate governance at UCT that she be immediately removed.

The panel consists of Judge Lex Mpati (chair), Judge Azhar Cachalia, Dr Bernadette Johnson and Dr Patricia Hanekom.

The panel’s report, dated 17 May stated that at this stage the facts established from the uncontested evidence of witnesses are sufficient to conclude that her presence as chair of the council poses a serious risk to the university.

“This together with her threatened attempt to stymie the work of the panel through an ill-conceived legal stratagem is further proof that she cannot be trusted to fulfil her fiduciary duty to the university,” said the report.

“Her removal cannot wait for the panel to complete its work and finalise its report, much less wait for the matter to be dragged through the courts. The facts are clear, and the council must act.”


In a statement dated 22 May, Ngyonyama said she had taken the decision to step down after “thoughtful consideration and deep and thorough reflection”. She said she also took her current circumstances regarding her wellness and health into consideration.

She said she had always supported the work of the panel.

“But it was one thing to focus on improving governance at UCT, it is a completely different matter to use the process in an attempt to lay blame,” she said.

She said the fact that the panel had refused to give her access to statements made against her “conflicted with a basic tenet of procedural fairness”.

She had made a court application to determine the fairness of this and it was this that had prompted the release of the interim report.

At the heart of the probe was whether the university’s then vice-chancellor (VC), Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng, and Ngonyama misled the university’s executive and Senate about the reasons for the departure of the deputy vice-chancellor (DVC) for teaching and learning, Associate Professor Lis Lange.

They claimed Lange had resigned for personal reasons. Lange claimed she had been pushed.

In February this year, the council approved a settlement agreement terminating Phakeng’s appointment and, the panel notes, she had since severed her relationship with the university.

The panel said while Phakeng had twice given evidence Ngonyama had repeatedly refused to cooperate.

“It is apparent she has no intention of providing evidence to the panel, despite her fiduciary duty to do so. She complains that the panel is not treating her fairly. There is no substance or evidence to support this complaint,” the panel said.

Pictured above: University of Cape Town 

Image source: GroundUp

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