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By Getrude Makhafola

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UCT keeps panel report confidential for now

Council is still handling the report and its recommendations.

The University of Cape Town (UCT) has received the final report from the panel led by retired Judge Lex Mpati, but says it will keep it under wraps until it is considered by council.

The investigation got underway in January to probe governance problems that engulfed the institution last year.

Council chairperson Norman Arendse on Sunday said the report will be discussed at an upcoming meeting.

“Until the content and recommendations have been fully considered, Council has resolved that it will remain confidential.

“It is recognised that stakeholders expect to be informed, and Council therefore undertakes to provide further details as soon as it is appropriate to do so,” he said in a statement.

Terms of reference amended

The investigation was initially based on former vice-chancellor Mamokgethi Phakeng and ex-council chairperson Babalwa Ngonyama’s tenure at UCT.

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The four-member panel was to determine whether the two misled council regarding the sudden departure of Lis Lange.

She was the deputy vice-chancellor for learning and teaching.

However, the panel’s terms of reference were later amended following a legal opinion cautioning possible litigation should the panel make findings against Phakeng.

Appearing before MPs last month, UCT top brass said the changing of the terms of reference was in lieu of the non-disclosure agreement reached with Phakeng.

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According to council deputy chairperson Malcolm Campbell, the former vice-chancellor was also concerned about possible reputational harm to her.

“We decided that the terms needed to be reviewed and remove the need to make any findings against the VC that could have legal implications.

“Apart from the matter surrounding Lange’s departure, the terms of reference were broadened to include general governance matters.

“She was concerned that council could make statements that could cause her reputational damage, council acceded to that. Her exit was amicable,” he said.

Investigation a ‘futile exercise’

The MPs slammed the investigation as a “waste of time and money”, also criticising the golden handshake given to Phakeng.

ANC MP Brandon Pillay asked Campbell why the panel proceeded when the two people it was concerned about had left.

“This is a futile exercise. What are you going to do to a VC that has already left? This costs money and time. You are on an R300m deficit, we should be hearing about your plans to improve UCT finances,” Pillay said.

The panel’s interim report released in May made scathing findings against Ngonyama, indicating that her continued presence as chairperson posed a “serious risk to the university” and urged council to take steps against her.

Ngonyama subsequently resigned, before promptly approaching the courts to challenge the interim report.

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