Dear members of the campus community
I write to you on behalf of the UCT Council to give you feedback following Council’s plenary meeting on 11 March 2023 on the major concern about events that unfolded on campus during the latter part of the week of 6 March.
The higher education sector in South Africa finds itself in challenging times and these challenges confront UCT as well. Council is extremely concerned about the well-being of the entire UCT community, particularly our staff and students. We note the protests of last week and the disruptions on parts of the UCT campus.
Council is aware of and sympathetic to the financial concerns that student leaders have raised. This is a fundamental aspect of a national and sector-wide set of concerns. It is for this reason that the university has already made significant concessions to assist many students, and this has been done within the bounds of what is feasible and sustainable for UCT. We continue to work towards finding solutions, very aware of the need to strike a balance between the importance of having the UCT academic project continuing uninterrupted and the need to exhaust all possible avenues to address fee block issues.
We certainly do not want to see the current situation continuing and we want to make every effort to ensure that there is no need to seek the support of law enforcement agencies to intervene on campus, but at the same time it is crucial that lawful conduct must prevail. Council has heard the inputs of the student and union leaders at its recent meeting.
I have also engaged with a number of relevant stakeholders, including some of the recognised unions on campus whose input has been valuable in us walking towards an amicable and peaceful resolution of the issues.
Council is of the view that a mediation process should commence and has asked the UCT management and the student leaders to engage in such a process to find an agreed basis to move forward so that the work of the university, and crucially so its academic project, may continue without further interruption while importantly, any further possible measures are considered to address fee blocks.
I am pleased to advise that there is commitment from both UCT’s management and the Students’ Representative Council (SRC) leaders to engage in externally-facilitated mediation and this will commence as a matter of urgency. In addition, there is an in-principle agreement that peace marshals will be deployed on campus as necessary.
We commit to ensuring that this mediation process is concluded as speedily as possible, recognising the urgency with which this matter has to be handled so that all students can participate in teaching and learning.
We are calling on all concerned to exercise care and respect for each other as we work towards finding a common ground in the interest of UCT and its future.
I will as usual provide a more detailed report on the further business of the Council meeting of 11 March. This will follow in due course. For now, the urgent matter is to restore calm at our university and find ways to reach an agreement on how we will move forward.
Babalwa Ngonyama, CA (SA), MBA
Chair of UCT Council
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