Fear and loathing at UCT as university Ombud calls VC Mamokgethi Phakeng a ‘bully’|News24

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Damning claims of “bullying” and a culture of fear have actually been levelled against high-ranking leaders at the University of Cape Town, most especially vice-chancellor Teacher Mamokgethi Phakeng, opening a can of worms which the UCT council says threatens the university’s “governance and stability”.

In a surprise carry on Thursday, the office of the UCT Ombud Zetu Makamandela-Mguqulwa released its yearly report online, which has been the source of a remarkable leadership legend at the university for months.

The report was published online by the workplace of the Ombud despite legal suggestions, gotten by UCT, that making the report public could cause “permanent and permanent damage to [Phakeng], and to the university”.

This development unfolded less than 2 days before the brand-new UCT council is due to meet for the very first time this Saturday to choose its brand-new leadership for the next four-year regard to office.The internecine

fight started on 27 February, with the draft yearly report by Makamandela-Mguqulwa. The office of the Ombud”offers a safe and unbiased location where individuals can air their concerns, receive referrals, find out about pertinent policies and procedures, and discuss formal and casual alternatives for addressing their issues”. A long list of destructive claims, counter-claims, warnings and attempts to recover senior relationships followed.Included in the Ombud’s report, which covers the duration 1 July 2018 to 30 June

2019, is a foreword in which Phakeng is accused of bullying.”A variety of job-related problems pertained to me throughout this reporting period about

expert interactions with the VC where people felt bullied, silenced, undermined, rebuked and/or treated unjustly,” reads the foreword.The report checked out: Their pain was visible. Some affected bystanders likewise came to express worry and told me how they were affected individually by different occurrences.”My usual approach is to be directed by the visitor on what they wish to attain by bringing the issue to my attention. Not one of those who brought

these issues wanted me to approach the vice-chancellor as they feared retaliation. The spectators said they would not want to experience what they saw first-hand occur to others. What worried me was how the visitors can be found in various capacities however all spoke about the exact same worry.” According to Makamandela-Mguqulwa, lots of UCT-based visitors informed her that this was their experience with Phakeng.”They reported that she utilized words that were experienced as combative and violent– such as’fighting in a ring’and that she, as the VC, would eventually’win while the other is predestined to lose’.

Understanding this was unfolding, I became significantly concerned about a variety of things, including the bullying policy that the university has actually not yet finalised, and the myriad of UCT communications that speak about UCT being a neighborhood,”the Ombud wrote. ‘I am shocked’The Ombud reports to the UCT council, via its chairperson, and her report was duly sent out on to Phakeng on 27 February, as is basic. The UCT council makes up 30 individuals, 60 %of whom are external members, and 40% internal members, including staff and students.Days later, Phakeng composed to the council chair, Sipho Pityana, strongly protesting the content of the Ombud’s report.

Phakeng wrote:” Dear Chair of Council, I am composing to you with 2 issues relating to the report of the Ombud: Phakeng’s issues 1. The process: I am stunned that the Ombud has actually submitted a report, that links the VC, to council and the officer without

giving the VC an opportunity to react to the accusations made in the report. 2. Confidentiality: I am worried that a report wherein I am explicitly mentioned is flowed

without providing me the right to react.”It is real that I have actually disagreed with the Ombud and my disagreements with her had absolutely nothing to do with my regard or absence thereof the office. We, nevertheless, have actually also had amicable

conferences therefore I am amazed that she selected to raise concerns in this manner, which in my view opposes the function of her office.” As I comprehend an Ombud

is an individual designated as a neutral or unbiased disagreement resolution practitioner, whose significant function in this capacity is to supply confidential and informal support as a counsellor, shuttle diplomat, conciliator, fact-finder and representative for orderly systems alter.”Provided the tone of the report and the

manner in which it is submitted, I have serious concerns about the motives on the Ombud. I ask for that the Ombud retract, with an apology, the report she submitted so that correct process can be followed and privacy be made sure. Regards, Kgethi.”The Ombud’s report was because of have been dealt with by

the full UCT Council on 14 March.But on 6 March, the council’s deputy chair, Debbie Budlender, composed to her fellow-members of the full council to announce her immediate resignation -in protest at an alleged decision to withdraw the Ombud’s report from the 14 March agenda.Budlender stated that, at a meeting 4 days prior, a suggestion was made that the report be withdrawn from the agenda, and” another way discovered of handling it”.

“I stated I was uncomfortable with this method as this was a report by the Ombud to the council, by whom she is designated, and we must not be interfering with the Ombud satisfying her responsibility task to council and council satisfying their responsibility of managing the Ombud, engaging with the Ombud, reflecting on what she reports, and determining what this means for the university.”Even more, considered that the Ombud is suggested to be independent, neither the executive nor the council should be determining what the Ombud can or can not say. “‘ I deny that I have actually bullied the Ombud ‘On 13 March, Phakeng provided a full action to the Ombud’s report-a 13-page document in which she took on and challenged every negative claim by the Ombud. Among the vice-chancellor’s accusations were:”By cloaking her untried personal complaints in the kind of an official report of the office to council, the Ombud has actually abused her workplace in the most ostentatious manner, and acted in offense of the concepts that govern her office

and certainly every known fundamental concept of natural justice.

“The out of proportion prominence provided to the untried allegations in the report recommends mala fides on the part of the Ombud.The University of Cape Town’s Ombud Zetu Makamandela-Mguqulwa.”I think that this abuse of office and neglect for the law is unprecedented, brazen, and harmful. It has actually severely undermined my leadership and my self-respect.”In more paragraphs, Phakeng protects herself, writing:” I deny that I have actually bullied or silenced the Ombud. Neither have I treated her workplace unfairly. There is no proof, and I reject, that I have victimised anybody who has actually lodged a grievance versus me to any workplace in the university.”Phakeng concluded with the following demands:1.

That the report is withdrawn unconditionally so that all offensive parts

are eliminated. 2. The modified report should fulfill my approval prior to it is sent to council. 3. The workplace of the Ombud need to make a written apology to my office.The vice-chancellor also cautioned: “I want to believe that the Ombud has opened herself as much as possible disciplinary action. “In my viewpoint, she has acted in a perverse way and breached all the basic concepts that govern her office. Her actions are dissentious and have actually sped up an unnecessary stress and crisis. I will leave it to your office to choose how finest to proceed in the light of these offenses.”‘Black book’3 days later, the Ombud sent a reply, offering more detail, consisting of accusations that 37 visitors had actually complained to her about Phakeng. The Ombud further declared that ina meeting with the vice-chancellor”she told me that she keeps a black book

in which she keeps in mind all the names of the individuals who do not like or support her. She discussed that I had made it to likewise be named in her black book”. On 31 March, the process by which the UCT council was handling the Ombud’s report was called out in a caution from UCT’s deputy vice-chancellors and primary operating officer, Loretta Feris, Lis Lange, Sue Harrison and Reno Morar. The 4 executives cautioned:”It is our view, based upon details we have at our disposal asof 31 March 2020, that the

method this matter has been handled since 27 February 2020 presents a significant danger to the university. These include at the private level personal and expert dangers; and at the institutional level include legal, reputational and governance threats. We therefore request that, as a matter of seriousness, Council formally prescribe the method it means to handle this matter both substantively and procedurally.” On 8 April, a legal opinion by supporter Michelle O’Sullivan for the council specified that the Ombud’s report was neither unbiased nor neutral, had actually breached privacy and surpassed her required. O’Sullivan suggested the report not be served prior to council, and kept private to prevent”long-term and irreparable damage to the VC, and to the university”. Council solves to note Ombud report A number of weeks then passed, with continued correspondence in between the celebrations. This included a plea by Makamandela-Mguqulwa for council to allow her to re-write her foreword to her primary report -thinking about the choice not to publish her original foreword. In a mail of 4 June, Pityana, the council chair, wrote to the Ombud, discussing that this request had not been granted.On 10 June, Pityana and deputy council chair Shirley Zinn, launched a”Last Report to UCT Council”

-with the official record of a”UCT Unique Council Meeting of 24 April “. In it, the pair wrote that council resolved to only”note” the very first part of the Ombud’s report”Message from the Ombud “, and that the 2nd part may be released as was routine practice with yearly reports of the Ombud.”Council also fixed that the chair and deputy chair convey to the VC its deep issue that she had actually chosen to institute a High Court obstacle to evaluate and set

aside the Ombud’s report, with its associated reputational risks to UCT. “Council kept that it was skilled to deal with the concerns raised. A similar view was taken of the Ombudsperson who alerted that she scheduled the right to take legal action needs to she consider it needed to do so. This was done and the legal proceedings have been stopped, “Pityana and Zinn said.Pityana and Zinn then divulged additional details of more extensive dispute in between the UCT’s executive.’ Inefficient executive relations ‘The pair reported the UCT council was “worried about an undercurrent of tensions in

the senior management group which threatened great governance and institutional stability “. Pityana and Zinn then detail a long procedure by which the university tried to handle the conflicts which became so serious they degraded

into”inefficient executive relations “.” It emerged to council that in the course of engaging with the Ombud’s report, as reported by the chair of council, that the relations between these crucial executives of the university were significantly

impaired and possibly threatened the governance of the institution. “Pityana and Zinn reported that an evaluation of Phakeng’s first year in office had “raised warnings”. “An important context in this regard is the truth that in its recommendation to council for the consultation of Prof Mamokgethi Phakeng to the position of vice-chancellor, the selection committee highlighted with her, the senate and council her outstanding scholastic and career credentials that put her head and shoulders above her

competitors, however likewise her leadership and character drawbacks.”A number of interventions and expert team-building procedures followed. From these, council reported:”Typical styles that emerged from these conversations revealed management qualities that are problematic and certainly not favorable to a scholastic institution.These were: Authoritarian leadership style that is about tossing around the weight of the workplace MisTRUST that is intended to exact a culture of pandering for endearment from those in power Meaningless INSECURITY: a limitless fear of efforts to be undermined, unseated from VC function or screwed up Continuous burden to show value for role Abrasive behaviour Poor social skills and an inability to construct a cohesive team Non-collegial culture”This has been experienced as sometimes embarrassing, demeaning, undermining, rude and bad for the personal health of all those affected, “Pityana and Zinn reported.’No option however to disown report’The council thought it required to act to attend to the situation, acknowledging:”In considering our response, we need to review other implications and unintentional effects of whatever choice we take. By our inactiveness, we would be endorsing a conduct that can cascading to other levels of management with uncontrollably destabilising repercussions for the institution. We might be fairly implicated of making the VC to a lame duck; or even worse still that we might be said to have actually lowered her to a female black token leader.”In various correspondence, the deputy vice-chancellors and COO reject allegations they”in any method acted in

  • defiance of authority”. Because the 10 June interaction by Pityana and Zinn, and the decision not to release
  • the initial foreword, the Ombud on June 19 warned the UCT council that because her foreword had not been released,”I will have no alternative but to disown that report”. On Thursday, nevertheless, the report appeared online on the Ombud’s website.On the next actions towards attending to the”
  • inefficient executive relations”, News24 is in belongings of
  • “draft contracts”in between Phakeng and herdeputies and COO. These include the vice-chancellor and the deputies guaranteeing to”never
  • weaken each other’s
  • authority “and “never to humiliate or put each other down in any online forum”. News24 has actually asked for an upgrade on whether these contracts were settled, and/or are presently in place.The 10 June report likewise consisted of that council must regard

    to an evaluation of the terms of recommendation for the Office of the Ombud.The term of office of

    the UCT council ended on 30 June. The inbound council’s details were upgraded on UCT’s website, detailing the new council, with impact 1 July, when the new term of workplace of the new council began. The council will choose its chair, deputy chair, council executive committee, chairs and members of the committees of council at its very first meeting.News24 sent out a list of 14 concerns to UCT– specifically of Pityana, Phakeng, the Registrar, Royston Pillay and the UCT council.A short reaction from the communication and marketing department checks out: “Council has a fiduciary obligation in carrying out its governance obligations, which it does with due regard to the interests of the University

    of Cape Town. The issues raised connect to private council deliberations and documents, and it is not appropriate for such matters to be gone over outside of the council processes or in the media.” A representative for Pityana reacted:”I have actually been advised to notify you that

    Mr Pityana is no longer an officer of the university and that you ought to channel your query to the vice-chancellor and/or the registrar.”