UCT vice-chancellor, Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng.
- The UCT council adopted terms of reference and the names of five panel members to investigate Vice-Chancellor Mamokgethi Phakeng.
- A conflict-ridden meeting went on into the early hours of Tuesday morning.
- Phakeng and her supporters on council refused to participate after 22:00, but the majority pushed through.
After a marathon, conflict-ridden meeting of eight hours, the University of Cape Town’s council finally approved the appointment of a heavyweight independent panel to investigate allegations of misconduct and abuse of power against its vice-chancellor, Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng, and council chair Babalwa Ngonyama.
News24 understands the panel, which must still be announced, includes three retired judges.
After numerous attempts to collapse the meeting late on Monday night, sufficient council members constituted a quorum, pushing through and insisting that decisions be made in the session.
The meeting finally adopted terms of reference for the investigation and a list of five names at 01:00 on Tuesday morning.
According to News24’s sources, Phakeng and her supporters on the council left the meeting around 22:00 and refused to participate in further deliberations.
Earlier in the day, two council members resigned and deputy council chair Pheladi Gwangwa withdrew out of protest about an impending motion of no confidence in her.
READ | UCT crisis: Night of drama as deputy chair withdraws ‘in protest’, council members resign
This comes after a legal opinion commissioned by UCT found Gwangwa was conflicted in her handling of the appointment of an independent panel.
Gwangwa has now threatened to go to court and Phakeng’s lawyer has written to UCT, asking for details regarding the investigation into her.
After Gwangwa’s withdrawal as acting chair of council, chartered accountant Tshidi Mokgabudi took over as chair and allowed council to deliberate over the terms of reference and appointment of a panel.
After 22:00, Mokgabudi wanted to close the meeting, but News24 understands the majority of council insisted that the meeting proceed until a decision was formalised.
Mokgabudi was replaced as chair by fellow council member Marlene le Roux, the CEO of Artscape Theatre, who oversaw proceedings into the early hours of Tuesday morning.
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The terms of reference as adopted by council stipulate that the panel must submit its report by 31 December this year. “The report shall make specific conclusions on the issues… and recommend the specific actions to be taken generally and against any specific individuals. The panel shall also prepare a redacted report that will be made available to Senate.”
A senior judge will chair the panel of five. News24 understands two more judges were included.
The terms of reference outline the scope of the investigation as follows:
Scope of investigation
The panel is empowered to:
- investigate whether the vice-chancellor (Phakeng) and the chair of council (Ngonyama) misled faculty boards, Senate and/or council regarding former deputy vice-chancellor Lis Lange’s availability for a second term and the reasons she did not pursue it;
- investigate all matters related to executive relationships, including the number of, and reasons for resignations within and beyond the executive, with due consideration of reasons for this; and
- speak to any current or departed staff and/or members of this or previous councils of UCT, whether they have signed a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) or not, from which they are considered released insofar as this is legally feasible.
The panel will have full access to university documents, including a list of all senior staff who have departed from UCT since 2018. Phakeng’s critics have accused her of overseeing an exodus of senior leaders from the institution.
The university’s former ombud, Zetu Makamandela-Mguqulwa, accused Phakeng of being a bully who allegedly kept a black book with the names of her “enemies”.
The university is yet to release a statement on the outcome of Monday night’s council meeting.