Report on the UCT Council meeting of 16 October 2021

21 October 2021

Dear members of the UCT community

The third scheduled meeting of the University of Cape Town (UCT) Council on 16 October 2021 was a reminder of how fast we are approaching the end of another year. Each time Council meets, not only does Council give the necessary attention to the important business of meeting its governance and fiduciary duties, it is also a time to reflect on the many successes achieved by the university, by staff and students alike, and to take stock of the challenges that have confronted all of us in the on-going battle against the COVID-19 pandemic. We are aware of the challenges, the lives that have been lost, the very real impact on families, the associated hardships and the added burdens that our staff and students have had to endure. Council recognises all of the efforts that have been made under these very difficult circumstances, and is deeply appreciative of the commitment and fortitude shown by all who are part of our UCT community. On behalf of Council, thank you sincerely.

Allow me to inform you of some of the key decisions taken by Council and developments following our deliberations at the meeting.

COVID-19 vaccinations

There is no doubt that the issue of the on-going pandemic and the debates – at UCT and beyond – related to vaccinations, are of critical importance. No one can expect that there will be unanimity on matters such as these, and for a public institution like ours, with an established culture for debate and inquiry, we must expect and value the very many contributions that staff and students are making to the debate on vaccinations. Council, having debated the issue and taking into consideration a range of views on the matter, and having applied its collective mind, resolved to approve on an in-principle basis a proposal requiring that, with effect from 1 January 2022, all staff (as a condition of being able to perform their duties) and students (as a condition of registration) provide proof of having been vaccinated against COVID-19. Council has in parallel required the university executive management to proceed to establish an appropriately constituted panel, whose task it would be to develop the operational details required to implement the in-principle decision as referred to above, including the guidelines for exemption from a requirement to provide proof of vaccination. The executive management will report back to Council at its December 2021 meeting. I ask that you allow this process to unfold, and to appreciate the sincere intentions that inform the efforts to advance health safety as we plan for the 2022 year.

Council membership

I am pleased to confirm that we have filled member vacancies on Council. Council is now fully constituted in terms of the requirements prescribed in the Institutional Statute. Cllr Angelo Graham has joined as nominee of the City of Cape Town, and Ms Busiwa Mtsi has been elected in a PASS staff membership category. Council is pleased to welcome the new members.

Wellness break for staff

Council approved the proposal from the UCT management team that all staff be granted a wellness break in the period between Christmas 2021 and New Year 2022 (effectively from 28 to 31 December 2021). Council agreed that this break for staff is well-deserved, especially given the challenges that staff have had to endure during the course of this year. These include the COVID-19 challenges and the related impact of the lockdowns and associated impact on the operations of the university, requiring sacrifices and extraordinary efforts on the part of staff to keep the academic core business and operations of the university going. In approving this wellness break, Council wishes to signal that it is aware of the profound contribution that UCT’s staff – academic and PASS – have made and continue to make under very challenging circumstances. Thank you again.

Transformation Report 2020 and Social Responsiveness Report 2020/21

Council, noting that Senate considered the reports, resolved to adopt each report as a record of the university’s transformation work for 2020, and as a record of the university’s social responsiveness work for 2020/21. In the case of each report, Council recognises the importance of the work being undertaken across the university and in line with the important goals of Vision 2030. The strides made to respond to the imperative for transformation, to embrace change and to continue to be relevant for society and the wider community in all we do, are an important part of the journey our institution is on. There remains much to do, while at the same time the advances made to date are important milestones to celebrate.

Senior staff appointment

The appointment of senior staff is a vital responsibility of Council. I am pleased to inform you that Council confirmed decisions to make offers of appointment to fill two senior leadership positions. These are the Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Transformation, Student Affairs and Social Responsiveness and the Dean of the Faculty of Commerce. A more specific announcement will be made shortly as to the names of the successful candidates, as soon as the formal offers have been accepted, which I am confident will be the case. I can also confirm that the appointment of the recommended candidates in each case will advance UCT’s goals as informed by Vision 2030.

Revised terms of reference for the Office of the Ombud

Following a thorough process to review the terms of reference for the UCT Ombud, Council approved the revised terms of reference. This took into account the fact that UCT has had the benefit of a long-established Ombud’s Office and the experience gained over time has allowed for a meaningful review, and at the same time to strengthen the systems in place. The revised terms of reference will take effect as from 1 November 2021, and the revised terms will be published in the Ombud’s section of the UCT website as has been customary. I wish to thank the Interim Ombud, Professor Ihron Rensburg, for his work in the revision of the terms of reference, and to also thank Professor Pierre De Vos for the advice he provided in the course of this review. Council remains committed to the Ombud’s Office, and recognises its importance to the work of UCT.

Appointment of trustees to the UCT Foundation Trust

Council, mindful of the important task of the trustees to manage the affairs of the UCT Foundation, confirmed the appointment of Ms Nhlamu Dlomu as trustee for a period of five years, and extended the appointment of Mr Peter Grant as trustee for a further term of three years. In each case these appointments are with effect from 1 January 2022. These appointments have given effect to the responsibility that Council has to ensure that it appoints up to five persons to serve as trustees. Mr Mutle Mogase and Mr Sello Moloko are the other trustees, with the ex officio trustees being the Chair of Council and Vice-Chancellor.

Appointment of directors to the Board of Food and Connect

Council, having previously confirmed the principles for selecting directors to be appointed to the Board, and aligning these principles to the Institute of Directors in South Africa (IoDSA) guidelines on Board composition, confirmed the appointment as directors of Refilwe Lepelle, Riyaan Mabutha and Thando Tsotsobe.

Establishment of an executive committee of Convocation

Council, having regard to a previous resolution taken at an AGM of the Convocation, that an executive committee of Convocation be established in order to support the President of Convocation to carry out his/hers/their duties, agreed to recommend a statutory amendment to the Minister of Higher Education in order to give effect to the resolution of the Convocation.

Committee reports

Council received reports from its sub-committees on their work since the June 2021 meeting of Council. With regard to a proposal from the University Finance Committee, Council agreed to differentiated fee levels for students from Africa and students from countries on other continents and international non-degree programme fees for students from Africa for 2022 and 2023.

I extend my appreciation to the members of Council for their time and attention in giving effect to their governance role, to the members of the UCT executive management team and wider leadership group for their sterling efforts in managing the affairs of the university, to staff and students who all contribute in so many meaningful ways to ensure that our institution continues to thrive notwithstanding the very many real challenges.

We look forward to successfully concluding the last quarter of 2021. Stay safe and please continue to take all the required COVID-19 precautions. The risks associated with the pandemic remain, and we should not let our guard down. Each and every life is important, and your well-being remains a priority.

On behalf of Council, I extend our on-going gratitude.

With best wishes

Babalwa Ngonyama, CA (SA)
Chair of UCT Council

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