Addressing incorrect and misleading claims in a media article of 9 July 2023

09 July 2023 | Malcolm Campbell

Dear members of the UCT community

I write following a disturbing article, published in a Sunday newspaper on 9 July 2023, attacking the University of Cape Town (UCT) Council and making a number of incorrect and misleading claims around Council’s appointment of the Vice-Chancellor (interim), Emeritus Professor Daya Reddy and the retention of the Registrar, Mr Royston Pillay.

As Deputy Chair of Council, I have been delegated to deal with this matter in consultation with the Chair, Mr Norman Arendse.

In our statement, issued to the newspaper prior to the publication of the article, we noted the allegations as false, untruthful and malicious; and therefore unlawful and defamatory. We also noted that our rights to take further legal action against the perpetrators of these false allegations are reserved.

Despite UCT statement’s prior rebuttal of key aspects of the claims made, the narrative within the article was left largely intact, and important aspects of UCT’s statement edited out.

Of grave concern to UCT is that the media query sent to the university attributed the claims contained in the narrative to Council members (which in the published article was reduced to ‘insiders’ and a ‘highly placed source’). It is of further concern that nameless and faceless individuals have shared incorrect claims with the media.

The persistence of leaks of sensitive and confidential Council information demands investigation and urgent action on the part of Council, and it appears that we are getting closer to identifying the source of these leaks.

Of particular concern is the representation of what has transpired at the level of UCT Council over the past few months as a factional battle which led to the ‘orchestrated’ exit of the former VC.

It must be noted that Emeritus Professor Reddy was identified for consideration as Vice-Chancellor (interim) by the former Chair of Council, and that in considering his appointment, his familial relationship to the Registrar was made completely transparent; and appropriate arrangements made for dealing with areas which might give rise to potential conflicts of interest. This point was made clear in our response to the query from the newspaper. Professor Reddy’s appointment was overwhelmingly supported and approved at Council, following the support by some 87% of the Senate.

In approving and supporting the appointment of Professor Reddy, Council has endeavoured to ensure that there is stability at senior leadership level, and that UCT’s reputation is restored following the upheavals of the preceding months. This, we have noted, has been the case over the past few months: the university is now on sounder footing and will emerge more strongly despite this latest attempt to bring about instability at UCT.

The Registrar, Mr Pillay, has always acted with integrity, professionalism and impartiality; and assiduously advised Council in ensuring the observation of good governance in the exercise of its duties. He is to be commended for his steadfast and consistent approach during a tumultuous period in which he has had to endure severe stress and has since been subjected to unsubstantiated personal public attacks from elements who buy into the ‘orchestration’ narrative. The majority of Council members are aware of and recognise the Registrar’s 100% commitment, despite the strain this latest targeted attack and other similar occurrences in the past have put on both him and his family, and are deeply appreciative of him acceding to continue in this role in the interests of bringing stability and continuity in terms of this critical function within the institution.

It should also be noted that there has been no payout to the Registrar. This would only occur upon the early voluntary termination of his contract, and forms part of approved policies and practices of UCT with respect to Incentivised Early Retirement (IER) and the Executive Transformation Incentive (ETI).

Council will persist with the focus on good governance, providing stability to the university administration, and enabling unhindered commitment to high standards of teaching, learning and research at the university which have contributed to UCT currently occupying the well-established and internationally recognised position of the best university on the continent.


Malcolm Campbell
Deputy Chair of Council

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