Cape Town – The Department of Higher Education and Training’s (DHET) sights are set on developments at UCT, Deputy Minister Buti Manamela told MPs.
DHET was briefing its oversight committee on Wednesday about the currently troubled institutions of higher learning – UCT, Unisa and Mangosuthu University of Technology.
Manamela said the ministry became aware of a raging tug-of-war in the university’s echelons through media reports and communications from council members.
A divided UCT council recently adopted the terms of reference into an investigation by a yet-unnamed five-member panel to probe vice-chancellor (VC) Mamokgethi Phakeng and chairperson Babalwa Ngonyama and report back by December 31.
The complex probe will take a deep dive into whether Phakeng and Ngonyama lied to management about former deputy vice-chancellor Lis Lange being available for a second term, the nature of relations among executives, and ex-staff members’ resignations and reasons for them.
The panel will be given carte blanche into UCT documents.
“The minister has written to the council chair to ask for a report and it’s solely on the basis of that report that the minister will take action. We are monitoring the situation there,” Manamela said.
DHET director-general Nkosinathi Sishi said the matter was complex and the department was monitoring developments.
“I recently had the opportunity to engage the VC and bilaterally engage with the chair of council to get an understanding on the matters. We have identified two-a-side-team between my office and that of (Phakeng’s) so that we keep ourselves fully engaged,” Sishi said.
Sishi’s report painted an unstable environment at the three universities concerned.
Committee chairperson and ANC MP Nompendulo Mkhatshwa said: “We need the story of what exactly is happening at UCT.”
She added that they would give DHET Minister Blade Nzimande the space to follow procedures in all the matters pertaining to the universities.