The current Council of the University of Cape Town began its term on 1 July 2020, while South Africa was in the midst of a COVID-19 hard lockdown. This was a time when building a sense of community across the institution was more important than ever, and more difficult than ever. The fact that UCT continues today to inspire, equip and motivate thought leaders for Africa and the world is testimony to the deep commitment of its staff members and students.
With creative thinking, digital technology and, in many cases, personal sacrifices of time and energy, UCT staff have continued to teach, carry out research and contribute to the day-to-day functioning of the university in many ways. While many research activities had to be postponed or reorganised, other projects were refocused to address the many different needs presented by the pandemic. These needs have extended beyond the health sector to fields such as law, commerce, technology, media communication and the wider requirements of society. As public lectures and other engagements could no longer take place on campus, new platforms were created in the online space. UCT’s activities since the onset of the pandemic show how a university is a precious national resource that enriches society by contributing to the public good and by enabling individuals to realise their dreams.
As UCT’s governing body, Council ensures all aspects of the university’s accountability as a public institution. Before I assumed the role of Council chairperson, I had served as a Council member for four years and as a chairperson of the university’s Finance Committee. This experience has given me a deep appreciation of the selfless commitment to UCT’s mission, integrity and sustainability at every level of leadership in the university, including the Office of the Vice-Chancellor, the Senate, the Students’ Representative Council, the Institutional Forum, staff representative bodies, the Office of the Ombud and others.
I inherited the position of chairperson of Council from the capable hands of Mr Sipho M Pityana. On behalf of the current Council, I extend thanks to him and the previous Council members for the solid foundation they have passed on. Both Councils that served in 2020 put into effect decisions that have advanced not only the financial integrity and sustainability of UCT but also the many different facets of its ongoing transformation. These include employment equity and student diversity, approaches to teaching and learning, environmental sustainability, and use of space and other resources. They focus on building inclusivity and a diverse institutional culture and pride in our African heritage, confronting sexual and gender-based violence, and other initiatives for common purpose based on fairness and respect for others.
As the world moves further into the new industrialisation era that is upon us, we will be guided by the objectives set out in Vision 2030: a commitment to unleash human capacity and equip Africans to become drivers and initiators of positive change, in our own communities and around the world. It is a privilege to be part of this journey, and to have the responsibility of chairing our Council as the university rises to the challenges of difficult times now, and in the years ahead.
Chair of Council
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