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Friday, 03 November 2023 11:21

Former UCT chair Ngonyama deny allegations against her and takes report on review.

By Lehlohonolo Lehana.

Former UCT Council Chairperson, Ms. Babalwa Ngonyama, breaks her silence and felt it is appropriate to provide her perspective on the release of the report by the independent panel appointed to investigate various governance issues at the University of Cape Town. 

Ms Ngonyama has taken a legal review process, which is currently pending in the Western Cape High Court to challenge the lawfulness and fairness of the process and the nature and extent of the Panel's powers.

"More alarming is the fact that the panel chose to release the final report while a court review process is pending."

She says: "I strongly deny the allegations made against me in the report which is the very reason that I have challenged the basis of the findings in the legal review process. They are one-sided, unverified and untested, leading to the unlawful damage and defamation inflicted upon my dignity, reputation and character, which is profound. I eagerly anticipate the resolution of the legal review process in the Western Cape High Court."

The panel was appointed to investigate broader governance issues at UCT. It is unfortunate that a process that could have been used constructively was rendered a missed opportunity as it morphed to target a few individuals. It is one thing to focus on improving governance at UCT, it is a completely different matter to use the process to lay blame.

Ms Ngonyama states: "I remain aggrieved by the manner the panel chose to proceed with the process, without providing me the opportunity to test the evidence against me, something which conflicts with the basic tenet of procedural fairness. As part of the process, I requested that I be furnished with the statements of the individuals beforehand and be afforded an adequate opportunity to address them. I also requested that I be allowed to cross examine the witnesses as part of testing the allegations against me. I was not afforded that courtesy."

"This denied me an opportunity to exercise my right, prepare for, provide input and reply during the panel’s investigation. Despite repeated offers and requests to participate in the process and that a fair and lawful process be followed. I was ultimately refused an opportunity to participate in the investigation."

The process followed by the panel was unlawful and infringed on Ms Ngonyama's right to dignity and to be heard in a fair, transparent and impartial process. Additionally, UCT's conduct and the constitution of the panel violated the constitution of the RSA, the Higher Education Act and the Universities policies, with the result that the Panel is not legally competent to make any findings at all.

From the outset, the investigation was targeted at undermining her reputation and scapegoating her by making predetermined and unfounded adverse findings in relation to her character. The assassination of her character is the ultimate goal as this satisfies the political grandstanding that is being perpetuated by various factions within UCT.

"It is important to note that during my tenure as UCT Chair of Council, we faced significant challenges but we also achieved remarkable success. We secured UCT's place as a leading university in Africa."

"The university also navigated the monumental impact of the COVID-19 pandemic with the rapid ramping up of virtual lectures and online interactions, as well as providing our students with assistance and wellness support. We also faced the challenges of a fire in April 2021, where the university suffered significant damage not only in infrastructure, but also in records of historic significance."

"During this period, UCT launched the landmark Online High School together with Valenture Institute. We continued to embark on the vision to unleash potential and create a fair and just society. The university continued to excel globally, retaining its top spot on the Centre for World University Rankings (CWUR). UCT climbed 23 places on the World University Rankings by Times Higher Education in October 2022 reaching 160th place globally. In various global rankings, the university maintained its position as the top-ranked university in Africa."

"The panel and council have sought to tarnish my legacy at UCT, but the facts will speak for themselves in due course."

Meanwhile Ngonyama has resigned from the board of Vukile Property Fund after damning findings against her by a panel that looked at governance lapses at the university.

The JSE-listed group said on Thursday that Ngonyama had decided to step down from her roles in the board as she readied to take the panel's report on review.