Appointment of acting DVC: Transformation

06 April 2021 | VC Prof Mamokgethi Phakeng

Dear colleagues and students

There have been some media articles and social media conversations around the appointment of the acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor (DVC): Transformation. Staff and students are important stakeholders, and considering that some of the issues have been raised by stakeholders in the University of Cape Town (UCT) community, I would like to provide clarity on the incorrect information that has been circulating.

The previous DVC, Professor Loretta Feris, was neither “fired” nor “axed” as alleged. Her term was set to end on 31 December 2021. However, as communicated in February, she did not to seek a second term of office. DVCs are appointed on a five-year renewable term. The DVC informed me as her line manager of her decision early enough to enable the commencement of the recruitment process for her substantive successor. Following her decision not to seek a second term, the DVC then requested and was granted sabbatical from 1 April 2021 until 31 January 2022, which brought her term to an end earlier. This, too, was shared publicly in the most recent communication bidding the DVC farewell. We remain deeply grateful for the work that she has done during her tenure.

When determining candidates to serve in an acting capacity, no applications are requested or sought. The relevant line manager, in this case the vice-chancellor, proposes the name of a possible candidate for Council’s consideration and decision. As with many processes of this nature the name is kept confidential. Only the persons approached are made aware. The decision over the appointment of any acting person rests with Council after nomination by the vice-chancellor.

One of the benefits of a university having emeritus professors is for us to be able to call upon them in emergency or unforeseen situations, in accordance with their areas of expertise.

It is deeply problematic to suggest that the ability of members to serve the university for a limited acting period can only be on the basis of their race, age and gender. It is a skewed and incorrect view of transformation. UCT remains committed to the transformation project while at the same time being a diversified campus where all members of the campus community from all backgrounds can have a place and make a contribution.

As with all vacancies at leadership level, the recruitment process for DVC: Transformation started as soon as the previous incumbent gave an indication that she was not going to seek a second term. This process is underway and it is my hope that an appointment will be made soon.

The appointment of Emeritus Professor Martin Hall as acting DVC from 1 April will be until a substantive appointment is made. The appointment was done in line with an endeavour by the UCT leadership to have an individual who does not have any interest in the role beyond the acting period as this could have been seen to advantage or disadvantage them in so far as a permanent appointment is concerned.

Emeritus Professor Hall’s transformation track record speaks for itself. He is a former UCT deputy vice-chancellor whose portfolio included transformation. He took over and built this portfolio in its very early stages. In his previous tenure, he foregrounded and anchored Employment Equity at UCT. He was also responsible for – among others – the setting up of the university’s transformation office and the formation of transformation committees at the institution. One of the criticisms he faced during his tenure was, that he gravitated more towards radical transformation – underscoring his commitment to transformation.

The executive remains committed to and encourages engagement via the existing channels on any issues that stakeholders may have.


Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng

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