UCT report into Phakeng questioned as MPs call for independent assessor

Members of the portfolio committee on higher education have called for an independent assessor into UCT. File Pictyre

Members of the portfolio committee on higher education have called for an independent assessor into UCT. File Pictyre

Published Nov 8, 2023


Members of the National Assembly’s portfolio committee on higher education have called on the department to appoint an independent external assessor to review the report on governance issues at the University of Cape Town after they questioned it.

African National Congress (ANC) and Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) MPs said it appeared that the report targeted former vice-chancellor Prof Mamokgethi Phakeng and not directly addressed governance issues.

They said it was biased and not factual on some of the issues. Members of the committee also said the report did not give Phakeng and former council chairperson Babalwa Ngonyama an opportunity to respond to the allegations made against them. They said this was the test the panel had to pass.

The report made damning findings against Phakeng and Ngonyama.

Ngonyama is taking the report under review.

Phakeng has hinted at taking the report to court to challenge it.

The committee met on Wednesday with UCT council and management over the report.

ANC MP Tebogo Letsie said if he were in the shoes of those who are implicated in the report, he would have taken the report under judicial review.

He said the report had focused on the people it was targeting and not dealt with governance issues at UCT.

He called on Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande and the department to appoint an independent assessor to look at the report and test it.

EFF MP Mandla Shikwambana also supported the appointment of an independent assessor, saying the report was targeting Phakeng.

He said the report was demonising Phakeng and portraying her as incompetent.

Another ANC MP, Sicelo Yabo, questioned the report and called for an independent assessor to be brought in to verify the allegations contained in it.

Yabo also accused the UCT Council of reading the riot act to Parliament and telling it what to do and not to do.

“I also want to make mention that I take exception to the language used by council in reading us the riot act in their presentation as it relates to matters concerning the former chair of council, Ngonyama, specifically quoting rules of parliament in how we as parliamentarians can’t go into matters that are deemed to be in front of the judiciary or that are awaiting decisions of the judiciary, effectively telling us to pack up from that matter until the courts have decided because the former chair has submitted a review application on the panel report,” said Yabo.

Chairperson of the committee, Nompendulo Mkhathwa, said there was a view that there should be an independent assessor brought in.

She said they want an independent assessor to be brought in because they are not confident about the work of the independent panel and the outcome of its probe.

She said they were not calling for the administration of UCT but were questioning the work of the panel on governance issues.

“That is the recommendation going forward,” said Mkhatshwa.

“There is a lot of concern that perhaps the process followed was not as due as it should be. There is what I call a trust deficit. No one is feeling that the process followed was fair and will yield the best result for the institution,” said Mkhatshwa.

Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) MP Sanele Zondo said he agreed with views expressed by other members of the committee for an independent assessor to look at the report.

He said the independent assessor can verify some of the allegations contained in the report.

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