UCT’s Black Academic Caucus concerned as Prof Phakeng ‘forced’ into early retirement

UCT vice-chancellor Mamokgethi Phakeng, photographed at Glenara. Photos: Lerato Maduna

UCT vice-chancellor Mamokgethi Phakeng, photographed at Glenara. Photos: Lerato Maduna

Published Mar 2, 2023


Cape Town – UCT’s Black Academic Caucus has raised concerns that outgoing vice-chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng was publicly ‘forced’ into early retirement.

Phakeng was recently placed on special leave with immediate effect.

According to reports, Phakeng received a golden handshake worth R12 million from UCT to vacate her position.

A four-member panel led by retired Supreme Court of Appeal Judge President Lex Mpati, was investigating, among other things, whether UCT council chairperson Babalwa Ngonyama and Phakeng misled the Senate in relation to the departure of former deputy vice-chancellor Professor Lis Lange last year.

The chairperson of the Black Academic Caucus at UCT, Dr Hlumani Ndlovu, told Newzroom Afrika that they had only heard of Phakeng’s matter in the media more than the UCT council and it had raised serious concerns.

“There are a lot of things that are happening in this institution and it is a very complex issue. Our view as the BAC is that a core of this issue is really a fight for the soul of the office of VC at UCT.

“This is really a call that raises concerns that there are forces within UCT that are refusing to transform at the pace we require as a university.

“I think, for instance, if you look at the structure, which is a key structure like the Senate, currently as things stand, in terms of the demographics of the senate, right now it is 66% white.

“It tells you of the kinds of challenges that were faced by Phakeng, who is very strong and professional in transformation. To work in a structure that basically is dominantly white is the biggest challenge,” Ndlovu said.

Ndlovu said the black caucus had been clear about the issue of changing the demographics of the Senate in the institution and in 2022 they put the motion of debate on how to diversify the profile of the Senate.

“The senators of UCT refused to debate the issues of changing the demographics, so it tells you the kind of problems we have and when the senate last year pushed an investigation into the vice-chancellor, most of us knew that it was the writing on the wall,” he said.

He added that as the institution seeks to appoint a new vice-chancellor, it might face similar challenges in the future if it did not do a proper analysis or a proper investigation.

Ndlovu said there was no proper communication about what is happening inside the institution, but rather leaks from media houses that reported on these issues.


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