UCT Council accepts resignation of Chair

30 May 2023

Dear members of the UCT community

  1. The University of Cape Town (UCT) Council has carefully considered the interim report submitted by the Panel of Investigation (Panel) duly appointed by Council pursuant to Council resolution adopted on 15 October 2022, as revised by Council resolution adopted on 11 March 2023.
  2. The interim report makes the following critical findings of fact concerning the then Chair of Council (CoC), Ms Babalwa Ngonyama:
    1. That as early as May 2021, Ms Ngonyama “embarked on a strategy to terminate Deputy Vice-Chancellor (DVC) Associate Professor Lis Lange’s contract prematurely, and renew the [former] Vice-Chancellor’s term for a further five years” by initiating “a process on 3 January [2022] to terminate Lange’s contract, in violation of the Council approved policy for the re-appointment of an incumbent DVC”;
    2. That Ms Ngonyama had no authority to approach DVC Lange in connection with her second term, that authority vesting squarely in the office of the VC;
    3. That Ms Ngonyama falsely informed DVC Lange, or acted without Council’s authority in telling the latter, that Council would not support her wish to be appointed for a second term as DVC;
    4. That, at a meeting of Council’s Remuneration Committee (RemCom), where the agreement prematurely terminating the contract of DVC Lange was tabled and deliberated upon, Ms Ngonyama caused senior HR representatives to leave the meeting under the pretext of conflict of interests, as a result of which this critical meeting took place without any formal record. Neither were the papers for the agenda of this meeting shared beforehand;
    5. That, although RemCom’s meeting referred to in (d) above took place five days before Senate meeting, Ms Ngonyama caused or allowed the former VC not to sign the settlement agreement with DVC Lange, so that Ms Ngonyama could withhold from Senate the fact that DVC Lange had been forced to terminate prematurely her employment as DVC, and thereby increase chances of the motivation that the former VC be appointed for the second term being supported by Senate;
    6. That in her written response to Senate, Ms Ngonyama falsely claimed, in response to questions about the circumstances surrounding DVC Lange’s departure, that the reasons for her departure were “personal and confidential”. In addressing the question of renewal of the former VC’s term, Ms Ngonyama further falsely claimed the Lange matter was “still with DVC Lange and the Vice-Chancellor”;
    7. That on 6 October 2022, Ms Ngonyama did not recuse herself from a Council meeting at which her conduct regarding DVC Lange’s premature termination and second term was discussed. Ms Ngonyama remained in the meeting and took part in voting against a proposal to establish an independent Panel to investigate these and other matters;
    8. That Ms Ngonyama “mendaciously” reported to Ms Pheladi Gwangwa and Council that “at a meeting between [her] and DVC Lange on 3 January 2022 … Lange became abusive and insisted on being appointed VC”. The Panel rejected this claim as a “lie”;
    9. That Ms Ngonyama has made a concerted effort to “stymie the work of the Panel through an ill-conceived legal stratagem” despite her earlier assurances that she supported the establishment of the Panel.
  3. Council views these findings in serious light and agrees with the Panel that Ms Ngonyama’s “continued presence as CoC poses a serious risk to the University”. In particular, Council finds that the acts set out in paragraphs 2(a) to (i) above constitute flagrant violations of sections 16A and 16B of the UCT Statute, read with the UCT Code of Conduct, which specify the duty of all Council members to act in the best interests of the university and not to engage in behaviour that brings the university into disrepute.
  4. Council finds that the Panel has accorded Ms Ngonyama ample opportunity to make representations in response to all allegations that witnesses have made against her, which opportunity she has not taken. Council rejects accusations made by Ms Ngonyama, by herself and through her lawyers, that the Panel has been unfair to her or that the Panel has no legal authority to conduct the investigation.
  5. Council finds that the Panel has meticulously and fairly considered all relevant evidence, and that it has reached findings, in its interim report, which are legally and factually sound and reasonable.

In view of the above and upon due consideration, Council resolves to accept Ms Ngonyama’s resignation as Chair and member of Council with immediate effect.


UCT Council

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