UCT opposes Israeli academic boycott

The UCT Senate has voted against a proposed Israel academic boycott with a majority against the plan. Picture: Leon Lestrade/Independent Newspapers

The UCT Senate has voted against a proposed Israel academic boycott with a majority against the plan. Picture: Leon Lestrade/Independent Newspapers

Published Mar 15, 2024


The UCT Senate has voted against a proposed Israel academic boycott with a majority against the plan.

According to UCT Palestinian Solidarity Forum (PSF) chairperson Anwar Adams, 60 members were in favour and 75 against.

This is after a meeting was held on Friday over three motions regarding the Israel-Gaza war. However, only one was heavily debated and it was resolved that an online vote would be conducted. The motion called for the university not to participate and co-operate in any events, activities, agreements or projects involving Israeli academic institutions, research entities, lobby groups, corporations, foundations, academic forums and entities that accept funding from Israel.

“This stance will be maintained until these institutions clearly condemn the ongoing genocide of Palestinian people at the hands of the Israeli state; until these institutions categorically condemn violations of Palestinian human rights and violations of international law; and, until they announce their commitment to safeguarding Palestinian people’s right to life, equality and dignity,” it stated.

Adams said the motion was yet again heavily debated over the past few days leading to the outcome that was expected to be released on Wednesday.

“It is unfortunate that the motion has failed, as 75 Senate members voted against the plan to boycott and 60 in favour for the collaboration with Israel and the normalisation of Israel.

However as the PSF, we support the boycott and we know with our own experience of apartheid, there is no normal education in an abnormal society. This might be a top university, academically, but we feel that the same priority is not given to human rights,” said Adams.

Meanwhile, the outgoing UCT Council has acknowledged its former ombudsman, Zetu Makamandela-Mguqulwa, was undermined in her responsibility and if the past council had acted on her report, the university would have been on a better path.

With only three months remaining until the term of the current council ends, it remains unclear if it has managed to compensate all individuals who incurred legal expenses in their battles against the university, or the outstanding recommendations it still needs to implement.

Nominations for new council candidates opened last month and end next week as the office of the current one ends on June 30.

Makamandela-Mguqulwa departed from the university four years ago.

Her tenure ended amid high tensions following her 2019 report which contained 37 anonymous complainants and painted an unflattering bully picture of former vice-chancellor Mamokgethi Phakeng.

An independent panel investigated governance issues early in 2023, as well as resignations of staff at UCT.

A 179-page report with findings and recommendations was published in October.

The independent report, which some implicated individuals are challenging in court, instructed that Makamandela-Mguqulwa be issued with an apology and commended her for her “meritorious service to UCT and compensate her in full for the legal costs incurred in respect of the abandoned disciplinary action against her”.

An apology on behalf of the university’s council was issued by chairperson Norman Arendse, who praised Makamandela-Mguqulwa for her work.

“You challenged the highest levels of the administration to foster fair and just practices. The report that you authored was instrumental in setting in motion a chain of events that would eventually put UCT on a better path marked by recognising past mistakes, and course correcting.

“As such, it would be remiss to not acknowledge the past mistake of council. We regret the decision that was taken by the UCT Council at the time not to act on your report,” said Arendse.

Makamandela-Mguqulwa said, in time, she will issue her own statement with full reflections.

Cape Times