Dr Max Price  File photo: INLSA
Dr Max Price File photo: INLSA

‘Least qualified Max Price's appointment rigged’

By Lisa Isaacs Time of article published Jun 13, 2018

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UCT has denied flaws in its senior staff selection and appointment processes after allegations that Dr Max Price was manipulated into the position of vice-chancellor, despite being the least qualified candidate.

This follows a social media post by former student and provincial secretary of the SA Students Congress (Sasco) Lebogang Hoveka, who claimed he received instructions that Price was the preferred candidate.

Price retires at the end of this month and Professor Mamo- kgethi Phakeng, currently UCT’s deputy vice-chancellor for research and internationalisation, is to take his place.

This also follows the recent decision of UCT Professor Elelwani Ramugondo to take the university to court for hiring an apparently less qualified white woman in her stead.

“In 2007 at some stage during the selection, I received instructions that Max Price should be our preferred candidate. I was told he is 'a comrade'. The directive was that he consulted for the movement on health policy.

“I looked at his qualifications and told his suitors he was woefully underqualified, adding that UCT would never appoint him in any event,” Hoveka said.

Price is a qualified medical doctor and was dean of the health sciences faculty at Wits.

Students had their preferences, particularly Professor Martin Hall, and the only black deputy vice-chancellor at the time, Professor Cheryl de la Rey, said Hoveka.

Hall was appointed Salford University vice-chancellor in the UK. De la Rey became the Council on Higher Education chief executive and National Research Foundation executive director.

“Shortly after the first round of interviews were conducted, a short-list was leaked to me. That list had neither Professor Hall nor De la Rey on it. Price was among the top three," Hoveka said.

“It later turned out that the selection committee had used confidential character reports from academics, who said they were not willing to work with Hall.

"Insofar as Professor De la Rey was concerned, similar submissions were made,” he pointed out.

"He used National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) and ANC connections to source the proof needed to challenge the process.

"When he approached the university, UCT sent its lawyers to deal with the matter," Hoveka said. "Whatever the students said to them, their preferred candidates, Hall and De la Rey were added to the shortlist, along with Price.

“For us, justice was done. This would allow a transparent process and the university community would decide for themselves who was best,” he added.

Nevertheless, Price was selected. “UCT is the only university post-apartheid to have a registrar with just a BA degree.

"Today, it singularly holds the disgrace of having a vice-chancellor who is neither a professor nor holds a PhD,” Hoveka said.

Price and UCT were approached for comment. UCT spokesperson Elijah Moholola said UCT had noted this was an individual’s opinion.

“We strongly disagree with the opinion, and think history and facts will too. We have confidence that selection processes at UCT are thorough, include diverse stakeholders and that the best candidate for any position is appointed based on the criteria set during any given selection process.

"We are always seeking to improve these processes, and if any individual wishes to participate in that process (or raise concerns about any given process), they can do so via the university's human resources department," Moholola added.

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