Parliament, Thursday, 9 November 2023 – The Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Innovation notes the concerns of labour and students at the University of Cape Town (UCT) about the purpose, process and outcomes of the independent panel’s investigation into events at UCT. The committee thus supports a call from UCT stakeholders for the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) to consider appointing an independent assessor to probe underlying issues at UCT.
The committee met yesterday with the UCT Council for a briefing on the independent panel’s findings and recommendations on governance matters at UCT, along with an update on the filling of the Vice-Chancellor position.
The committee pointed out that the panel, which was appointed by the UCT Council, appeared to be conflicted and that the report contained inconsistencies that were too glaring to ignore. The committee had, in its previous meeting with UCT, highlighted some concerns with the panel’s terms of reference and processes. It thus does not shock the committee that some stakeholders are calling for the panel’s report to be set aside and for the department to appoint an independent assessor. The committee supports this position, as an investigation by an external body may alleviate some of the concerns and elements of mistrust within the community.
The committee further pointed out that the report contained many human resource-related issues and that it would have been helpful if the UCT’s executive director of human resources had been present at the meeting. The committee also has a concern about the UCT Council’s capacity to fulfil its governance role within the institution.
The portfolio committee Chairperson, Ms Nompendulo Mkhatshwa, remarked that it was of great concern to the committee that non-disclosure agreements had been used to resolve many of UCT’s challenges because UCT is a publicly funded institution.
The committee also noted with great concern that UCT stakeholders have made allegations of racial micro-aggression. While the institution is undoubtedly academically excellent, it’s inability to address transformation challenges does not assist the country’s aspirations for a socially cohesive nation, given our divided past. Thus, the committee once again urges the UCT Council and management to honestly and meaningfully engage with stakeholders to address the many dire concerns that have again been expressed by stakeholders in committee meetings. The committee believes that through honest engagement and deliberate planning for transformation, many of these challenges can be addressed.
The DHET’s Deputy Director-General, Dr Marcia Socikwa, told the committee that they are waiting for a response to a letter sent to UCT asking for a progress report on the state of governance at UCT. The committee called upon the the Department of Higher Education and Training to assist the university and its stakeholders to resolve all governance issues.
ISSUED BY THE PARLIAMENTARY COMMUNICATION SERVICES ON BEHALF OF THE CHAIRPERSON OF THE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON HIGHER EDUCATION, SCIENCE AND INNOVATION, MS NOMPENDULO MKHATSHWA.
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