South Africa's top university has lost almost half its senior leadership team over the past four years. The body supposed to act as watchdog for the institution, the UCT Council, is described as increasingly toxic, with accusations of racism and claims of cover-ups. Now matters look to be coming to a head with the accusation that both the Vice-Chancellor, Mamokgethi Phakeng, and the Chair of the UCT Council, Babalwa Ngonyama, have deliberately misled the university's governing bodies.
When the announcement was made in May 2022 that UCT's deputy vice-chancellor for teaching and learning Lis Lange was leaving her post, the news was met with concern. Lange was described by academic commentator Jonathan Jansen as "one of the best deputy vice-chancellors this country has ever had". Her departure was widely felt to be a major loss to UCT.
Both UCT Vice-Chancellor Mamokgethi Phakeng and the Chair of UCT Council Babalwa Ngonyama subsequently told the UCT Senate separately that Lange's departure was initiated by Lange herself, was entirely voluntary, and was a decision made for "personal reasons".
But in an explosive Senate meeting held on Friday, 30 September, a letter from Lange was read out in which she stated that she had...