UCT crisis: VC interim, registrar's family relationship 'transparent', arrangements made for potential disputes, council says

UCT crisis: VC interim, registrar’s family relationship ‘transparent’, arrangements made for potential disputes, council says

  • Interim Vice President of the University Professor Daya Reddy is the son-in-law of Registrar Royston Pillay – a relationship which has become “completely transparent”, its board has argued.
  • The university criticized a recent report after it was found that the board breached governance processes in forcefully agreeing to pay Pillai the R4 million.
  • Pillai tendered his resignation in December, alleging strained relations with the former Vice-Chancellor, Professor Mamukgithi Phakeng.

The University of Cape Town (UCT) council criticized the “false, untrue and malicious” allegations after questions arose regarding the appointment of interim Vice-Chancellor Professor Daya Reddy – who happened to be the son-in-law of the Institution’s Registrar Royston Pillai.

UCT was responding to a City Press report after the board was alleged to have breached governance processes in forcefully agreeing to pay Pillai R4 million after he resigned in December, ostensibly over strained relations with former Vice-Chancellor, Professor Mamukgeti Phakeng.

The newspaper reported that Pillai and Reddy are related and that the board chose to ignore conflicts of interest when Reddy was appointed in March this year.

It should be noted that Professor Emeritus Reddy had been designated to be Vice-Chancellor (temporarily) by the former Chair of the Council, and that in considering his appointment his family relationship with the Registrar was made fully transparent and appropriate arrangements were made to deal with areas which might give rise to possible conflicts in the interests,” said UCT Vice President Malcolm Campbell.

Reddy is set amidst a public fallout between the council and Phakeng.

Campbell said he was concerned about what had happened at UCT Council level over recent months being represented as “a factional battle that led to the ‘orderly’ exit of the former Vice Chancellor.

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He said that “Professor Reddy’s appointment was overwhelmingly endorsed in the House, following the support of some 87% in the Senate.”

Campbell continued, that Pillay had always “acted with integrity, professionalism and impartiality and advised the Council in ensuring that good governance was observed in the exercise of its duties”.

“He deserves credit for his unwavering and consistent approach during a turbulent period when he had to endure intense stress and has since been subjected to unsubstantiated personal public attacks by elements who share the ‘coordination’ narrative,” Campbell said.

City Press reported that after tendering his resignation, Pillay retracted, with the council then passing a motion offering him an 18-month bonus.

Campbell said there has been no compensation to the registrar yet.

This will only occur upon voluntary early termination of his contract, and forms part of UCT’s approved policies and practices regarding Incentive Early Retirement (IER) and Executive Transformation Incentive (ETI).

The majority of the Board understands and acknowledges Registrar’s 100% commitment, despite the stress this recent targeted attack and similar events in the past have placed on him and his family, and greatly appreciate his joining in continuing this. A role in the interest of achieving stability and continuity in terms of this critical function within the organisation.

According to Campbell, “the continued leakage of sensitive and confidential information about the council requires investigation and urgent action.”

“It appears that we are getting closer to identifying the source of these leaks,” he said.

An independent investigation, led by retired Supreme Court of Appeals judge Lex Mbati, was opened after the council met in October.

The committee was set up last year following allegations that former Council President Babaloa Ngonyama gave false reasons to the UCT Senate for the early departure of Professor Les Lange, Vice-Chancellor for Learning and Education.

According to Ngonyama, Lang chose to leave on her own for personal reasons.

Also read | Former VC Phakeng is retiring at UCT as Professor of Mathematics Education

However, Lange denied this, saying that Ngonyama had effectively fired her and told her that Faking did not want her to continue as second-in-command.

Ngonyama resigned from her post last month.

Campbell added that by approving and supporting Reddy’s appointment, the board sought to ensure there was stability at the senior leadership level and to restore the UCT’s reputation after the upheavals of the preceding months.

“We’ve noticed that this has been the case over the past few months: the university is now in a safer position and will emerge more aggressively despite this latest attempt to destabilize UCLA,” he said.

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