Cape Town - The UCT council is scheduled to reconvene this week to decide on who should be at the helm of Africa’s top university following the swift departure of former vice-chancellor Mamokgethi Phakeng.
Two weeks after the fate of Phakeng had been sealed, UCT council chairperson Babalwa Ngonyama confirmed that the deputy vice-chancellor for research and internationalisation, Professor Sue Harrison, was currently serving as acting vice-chancellor.
Phakeng was on leave until her final day in office on Friday, with Harrison serving as vice-chancellor until council confirmed the appointment of an interim leader for the institution.
“We are following the process as prescribed by the UCT statute. This requires that, if the office of the vice-chancellor becomes vacant, council – after consulting the university’s senate and the institutional forum – must appoint an interim vice-chancellor to hold office until such time as a new vice-chancellor takes up appointment,” Ngonyama said.
The start of the academic year has been not without chaos.
Weeks before teaching and learning was set to commence, the UCT Academics Union vowed to hold a first-of-its kind (for the institution) strike by academics over an “insulting and derisory” 3% salary increase for the year.
After the university management and union had managed to reach agreement on the issue, the SRC intensified its protests over fee blocks, student accommodation, and issues related to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme.
The Western Cape High Court granted the university an interim interdict ordering that all student protests on campus cease.
In addition to investigating allegations made against Phakeng and Ngonyama related to governance breaches, UCT’s Black Academics Caucus said the panel should also investigate the complicity of the council in the deterioration of leadership and management at all levels of the university, including the university’s senate.
Meanwhile, the Daily Maverick has refuted claims made by Phakeng during an interview with eNCA’s JJ Tabane that UCT’s suspended communications director Gerda Kruger leaked confidential council documents to the publication.
Kruger is the life partner of the Daily Maverick’s associate editor, Anso Thom.