Dear members of the UCT community
You will be aware of the recent social media and media articles and reports about allegations of sexual offences linked to the University of Cape Town (UCT) and to persons associated with the university. From the onset I wish to state that this university will not tolerate behaviour that is not in line with our stated values, and we intend to address breaches of those values internally and thoroughly. Furthermore, in this regard, UCT is working with all parties to understand the full details of these matters, including working with the Department of Health of the Provincial Government of the Western Cape, with reference to the case reported in the media last week.
I write to you in my capacity as Chair of the UCT Council, to express my deep concern, sorrow and sadness about the very serious allegations that have been made, and mindful that we have an obligation to make every effort to address the concerns that have been raised. This includes recognising the rights of complainants and alleged perpetrators and taking steps to ensure that due process is followed. While it would not be appropriate at this stage to comment on the details of the cases that have been reported in the media, especially as these matters are still receiving attention from the relevant parties involved, I wish to make this point: sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) is a human rights violation which degrades the dignity and humanity of survivors and is a major barrier to achieving equality and social justice. Society is obligated to take a firm and unambiguous position on all cases of SGBV. UCT is equally obligated to make sure that it upholds and remains true to the values of the institution, including the promotion of the health, well-being, and personal safety of all members of the university community. We must at all costs uphold the humanity and dignity of each other, as this is what makes us who we are, and it is this that defines us.
The creation and encouragement of a safe space and environment for all students and staff who walk through our doors is one of my strong drivers as Chair of Council. It is important for us to feel safe if we are going to keep performing at the highest standards of education globally. UCT, as a multi-stakeholder community, and through its policies, remains committed to creating and maintaining an institutional environment in which the dignity of its students, employees and all who have dealings with the institution are respected and where all may pursue duties and activities free from any form of harassment, including sexual harassment and sexual offences. Our policies require that all complaints of sexual offences and/or sexual harassment be taken seriously and treated with respect and in confidence, and that all parties involved will be afforded the benefits of due process and fairness. An appropriate response to unacceptable behaviour and related actions will remain a priority for the Council and the university’s leadership.
UCT’s Council remains committed to the values of our institution and we will make every effort to ensure that required processes are followed. I wish to assure our UCT community of this commitment. Our values as an institution and as people require this of us, and so too our institutional policies.
These challenges have tested us, they have made us more resilient and willing to face them with might. I want to assure you that in light of the Vice-Chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng’s tweet of last week in relation to a post by @RAPEDATUCT, and the wide-ranging reaction that it elicited, I have had time as the Chair of Council to engage with the Vice-Chancellor to ensure that we learn and grow from these challenges. Professor Phakeng has reflected on the matter and has issued a public statement of apology and withdrawn the tweet concerned. Her statement recognises the gravity of the situation and is an important step in the process of moving forward on this very important matter for the university and all concerned. I trust that as a university community we will continue to be able to engage in ways that are equally robust and responsible, and to do so with due care, especially on issues that remain very important to the university and society at large.
Let us continue to journey together navigating these difficult moments in pursuit and furtherance of our reason for existence as a university. I have every faith that we will resolve these matters with care and vigilance. It is our duty to one another to strive for change and create an environment that is safe for all.
Babalwa Ngonyama, CA (SA)
Chair of UCT Council
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