Report on UCT Council meeting of 5 December

14 December 2020 | From the Chair of Council

Dear members of the UCT community

First, I wish to congratulate the executive and the entire community for reaching the point where we are nearing the successful completion of the academic year 2020. This week will see us recognise the success of our students at two virtual graduation celebrations. This is the culmination of hard work and a reflection of the commitment and perseverance of staff and students. Congratulation to all!

Many of these students will become the leaders of the future. Much will be expected of them in the current unpredictable and complex global world.

Critical reflections on leading into 2021

Crises can bring out the best or the worst in us. Since early this year, we – just like the rest of the global community – have been hit hard by the coronavirus crisis. Like a bolt out of the blue, the pandemic struck and stunned us into a situation where we had to immediately find a response. It has led to many, unfortunately, suffering tragic losses. It has also, sadly, laid bare the extreme inequalities in our societies and left a trail of suffering, anger, and despondency as it continues to devastate the lives of individuals and communities alike.

It is during times of crises like these that courageous and leading institutions are called upon to step forward. A crisis like COVID-19 cannot be wished away, therefore it should be confronted.

Leaders face the pain, they do not shy away from it. They start with understanding the past, embracing the present and reimagining the future. The adage still remains true – those who do not know their history will be doomed to repeat it. If we do not take stock of our present-day realities, we will condemn the future of the many generations who will come after us.

The global pandemic has exposed those leaders who have feet of clay and elevated those leaders who display integrity, courage and vision.

What matters is what do we do with this profound experience. We need to guide our institution by transforming this pain and challenge into opportunities for meaningful change.

Institutional culture

Council is acutely aware of the important role that institutional culture plays in building lasting relationships. An institutional culture that is collaborative and engaging and builds a deep sense of trust and cooperation will ensure a safer environment for all.

People thrive in healthy environments. It is when they feel affirmed, appreciated and acknowledged that they give of their best.

As a newly appointed Council, we understand that we have a golden opportunity to reset stakeholder relationships and unite the UCT community. We have an opportunity to build a culture that is caring, respects diversity and safeguards the dignity of all. This includes bridging the gap between academic staff and professional staff to build a more cohesive university community.

Council appreciates that the UCT executive leadership team plays a key role in creating and nurturing the environment for such values to take root and grow. This is not only because of their visibility but also because of the example and the tone that they set.

Council is confident that the UCT executive appreciates the complexity of the prevailing organisational culture and the imperative for a resolute team approach, more so in these unprecedented times. Council reiterates its commitment to provide the governance support to the executive to best serve UCT and all of its stakeholders.

Vision 2030

At our recent Council meeting on 5 December, we approved the university’s new strategic plan, Vision 2030. The strategic plan challenges the UCT community to shape and lead the future as opposed to simply adapting to the future. It calls upon the university to take a critical look at itself by redefining excellence, transformation and sustainability as interdependent. It further urges the university community to interrogate UCT’s colonial and apartheid history, affirm the university’s African identity, commit to the future of the continent as a global African university and assert African agency.

Council expressed its unanimous approval for this vision and committed fully to work with the executive in the implementation of Vision 2030.

Social, Ethics and Transformation Committee

Council also approved the establishment of a new Social, Ethics and Transformation Committee. An organisation that holds itself to the highest ethical standards is one that creates for itself a breeding ground for success. Integrity should continue being the standard that is embedded in all members of the UCT community. As we continue raising the integrity bar at UCT, we set ourselves apart and set the institution up for soaring towards even dizzier heights.

One of the objectives of this committee is to create a framework that deals with the cross-cutting issues of racism, bullying, gender-based violence and sexism highlighted in the Institutional Reconciliation and Transformation Commission, the Mayosi Panel Report, the Ombud Report and the Inclusivity Survey.

Bongani Mayosi Annual Lecture

Council supported the proposal for an annual eponymous Bongani Mayosi Lecture in recognition of the tragic passing of our esteemed colleague. This lecture will serve as a celebration of African scholarship, foregrounding African science and showcasing African excellence. This will be a permanent event on the university calendar and will be hosted by the Faculty of Health Sciences.

UCT Policy on Sexual Misconduct

Council further approved the UCT Policy on Sexual Misconduct. The policy underscores the university’s commitment to creating and maintaining an institutional environment in which the dignity of its employees, students, job applicants, clients, visitors, service providers, suppliers and others having dealings with the institution is respected and where all may pursue their studies, careers, duties and activities free from any form of harassment, including sexual harassment and/or sexual offences.

The purpose of this policy is to encourage and promote the development of an institutional culture that is free of all forms of sexual harassment, and where everyone’s integrity, dignity, privacy and right to equity is respected.

Office of the Ombud

The tenure of the current incumbent, Ms Zetu Makamandela-Mguqulwa, will come to an end on 31 December 2020. Council wants to thank Ms Makamandela-Mguqulwa for her years of selfless and tireless service in this role and we wish her well in her future endeavours.

Council remains committed to the Office of the Ombud. To this end, Council approved the appointment of Professor Ihron Rensburg as advisor to Council on how best to ensure the effectiveness of the Office of Ombud as the process of recruiting a new Ombud gets underway. Professor Rensburg will be assisted in his role as advisor to Council by Professor Pierre de Vos, a constitutional law expert in UCT’s Law Faculty.

Professor Rensburg is a former University of Johannesburg Vice-Chancellor with a wealth of expertise in higher education. He will also serve as interim Ombud until a substantive appointment is made.

Concluding the year

The period since lockdown in March has tested our resolve and resilience as a university community. Notwithstanding the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are at the cusp of successfully completing the academic year. It has certainly not been easy. But because of the sacrifice, dedication and commitment of all of you, we will prevail.

On behalf of Council, I want to thank all of you for playing your part during this difficult time. In your various capacities, you all rose to the challenge. We appreciate the hard work, patience and understanding shown by all of you and I want to wish you all well as we approach the end of 2020.

Thank you!

Babalwa Ngonyama
Chair of UCT Council

Read previous communications:

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Please view the republishing articles page for more information.