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Forum accuses UCT council of being ‘anti-black’

Former vice-chancellor, Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng. Picture: Supplied

Former vice-chancellor, Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng. Picture: Supplied

Published Nov 3, 2023


On the eve of the much anticipated independent panel’s report being released, UCT Worker-Student-Academic Forum marched against the university’s council, accusing it of being anti-black, and particularly anti-black women.

This comes as lecturer Dr Lwazi Lushaba and deputy vice-chancellor for Transformation, Student Affairs and Social Responsiveness, Professor Elelwani Ramugondo are the latest academics to be roped in following former vice-chancellor, Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng’s leadership issues.

The panel, which described the two as “Phakeng’s supporters” has recommended that disciplinary action be instituted against Lushaba and Ramugondo.

It was tasked with investigating governance failures at UCT and made the findings public on Wednesday.

“Dr Lushaba breached council’s code of conduct by using threats, intimidation, ethnic slurs, personal insults and generally conducting himself in a racially intolerable and disruptive manner during council meetings. Phakeng’s supporters, in particular Dr Lushaba, who was joined by Professor Ramugondo, attempted to discredit the idea of an independent inquiry. Lushaba falsely called the decision a ‘racist attack’ against Phakeng and (former council chairperson Babalwa) Ngonyama.

Ramugondo added that what was happening to the three black women, Ngonoyama, Phakeng and (former deputy chair Pheladi) Gwangwa was evidence of institutional racism.

There was no evidence to support these allegations,” the report said.

It further claimed that Lushaba accused the council of repeating the “injustices of the past that often saw black women, being victimised by intertwining systems of racism and patriarchy”.

In relation to Ramugondo, the panel suggested action be taken against her for allegedly having posted a racially offensive message regarding Professor Lis Lange on social media, and then “untruthfully denying” to a selection committee and to the panel under oath that the message referred to Lange.

“There was no evidence to support the views of Lushaba and Ramugondo. In particular, there was no evidence of racism by any member of council supporting the investigation of Lange’s departure and related matters.

“Quite the contrary, Lushaba himself has used offensive and racially loaded language to stigmatise those with whom he disagreed,” the panel said.

Some members of the Worker-Student-Academic Forum marched on Tuesday and submitted a list of demands to the UCT’s executive, among them that unions be included in council as stakeholders.

UCT spokesperson Elijah Moholola said the university’s management would consider the issues raised and revert to the group via the relevant internal channels.

Cape Times