Cape Town – Babalwa Ngonyama has resigned as Chair of the University of Cape Town (UCT) Council.
In her resignation letter – seen by The Bulrushes on Monday, which she addressed to members of the UCT community – Ngonyama said: “I write to announce that, after thoughtful consideration and deep and thorough reflection, I have decided to step down as Chair and member of Council of the University of Cape Town”.
Ngonyama added: “This decision, which was not a light one, will come into effect immediately”.
Ngonyama her decision was taken “considering my unreserved commitment expressed when taking up this role and during my tenure – which was and is to put the interests of the institution first and foremost at all times.
“I have also taken this decision having considered the impact of the current circumstances on my wellness and health.”
She said the members of the UCT community were well aware that late last year the Council put an independent investigation panel in place to look into governance-related issues at the university.
“I wish to also state, as I always have, that I remain committed to the work of the panel and I have always been unwavering in my willingness to appear before and cooperate fully with the panel,” said Ngonyama.
“As part of the panel’s ongoing work, I was invited and also informed that there were allegations made against me by some individuals who had appeared before the panel.
“It is one thing to focus on improving governance at UCT, it is a completely different matter to use the process in an attempt to lay blame.
“As part of the process and in the interest of procedural fairness but also to ensure efficiency in how the claims made against me are addressed, I requested that I be furnished with the statements of the individuals beforehand.”
Ngonyama said the request was made so that she could thoroughly respond to them 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,” said Ngonyama.
It is important for any person appearing before the panel who needs to respond to claims against them to be given access to any statements or evidence presented by those making the claims against them.
“Unfortunately, the panel has been unwilling to grant me this opportunity, which conflicts with a basic tenet of procedural fairness,” lamented Ngonyama.
“In response to this, I requested the Western Cape High Court to decide on the fairness of the process and the nature and extent of the panel’s powers under the revised terms of reference, the Institutional Statute, and the Higher Education Act.
“This prompted the panel to release a pre-emptive interim report to Council, recommending that steps be taken to remove me as Chair.”
The university traversed a very difficult period from late 2022 until the first few months of this year which culminated in the departure of UCT Vice-Chancellor Mamokgethi Phakeng.
Ngonyama said it would be a disservice to see a situation where the university returns to the days of instability or sections within the university once again becoming polarised by this matter.
“It is for this reason that I have concluded that it was best for me to resign and deal with this matter outside Council through the available legal mechanisms,” she said.