Dear colleagues and students
I took over as the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Interim Vice-Chancellor just this morning, Tuesday, 14 March 2023 following the announcement by the Chair of Council, Ms Babalwa Ngonyama. I am assuming office during a particularly challenging period for the university as a result of, among others, the ongoing student protest action that resurfaced in the week of 6 March 2023.
Working with the rest of my colleagues in the UCT executive, I have wasted no single minute in stepping in to continue the various efforts and engagements geared towards speedily finding resolutions to the prevailing issues.
One such engagement concerns mediation between the executive and the Students’ Representative Council (SRC), facilitated by external parties. Through this process, we hope to resolve the current impasse.
This has been a very difficult period, with unlawful acts negatively impacting all of us on campus. The executive fully recognises and deeply regrets the impact of these unlawful acts on staff and students. We acknowledge the resulting anger, anxiety and frustration. We thank staff and students who, for the most part, have responded to these developments with forbearance.
While UCT upholds the right to protest action, we had to adopt various measures in an attempt to minimise the impact of unlawful acts on the university’s operations. These include an interim interdict granted to UCT on 17 February, which resulted in Public Order Policing (POPs) intervening on campus last week. In an effort to de-escalate the situation you would have noted that the executive leadership has ensured that no law enforcement agencies were present on campus this week and we hope no actions necessitate such intervention.
I concede that staff and students have not been kept abreast of developments to the extent expected, or required. We are working under rapidly changing and fluid circumstances. Despite this, even before my arrival the university leadership has endeavoured to share updates as much as possible in relation to developments on campus. In the past few days there has been communication by either the Chair of Council or by the then acting VC, Professor Sue Harrison, on a daily basis to the various UCT stakeholders, including staff and students; as well as to parents, guardians and students’ funders.
I’d also like you to know that in certain instances we are not able to use our usual internal communication mechanisms to share updates rapidly. In such cases, we make use of both the university’s websites (main, staff and students) as well as our social media platforms (Facebook and Twitter). This is particularly the case when we have to communicate unforeseen developments which could impact the university’s operations, such as instances where the UCT Shuttle is not operational.
I reiterate the executive’s commitment to dealing with the current issues. I further express our gratitude to members of the university community for your support and patience as we address these issues.
I have watched from a distance when this university community responded in a united and supportive manner during recent challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the April 2021 fire. I hope that we can count on such unity and the full backing of all as we continue addressing the issues such as fee blocks and financial exclusions.
Emeritus Professor Daya Reddy
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