Cape Town – Newly-appointed UCT and Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) vice-chancellors, Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng and Dr Chris Nhlapo, have been welcomed with overwhelming support as they took office this week.
UCT’s Phakeng said she couldn’t have done it alone.
Phakeng said she was determined to bring change and use the platform to be a voice for young African students.
On Sunday, she started her term of office after serving as deputy vice-chancellor for research and internationalisation since January last year.
She takes over from Max Price, who had served as UCT vice-chancellor since 2008.
“It is time for young hopeless Africans who need to know and hear this message now, that my achievement is a testimony and assurance it is possible. So this is not about me. I have the hardest job and will ensure that the institution remains one of the best in Africa and adopts an identity that does not seek to make it something that it is not,” said Phakeng.
“We need to be unapologetically African and move from Afropolitan, as it is not an innocent term. For me it feels like shying away from being African.
“Our version is to be an inclusive and engaged, research-intensive African university. We do work that can make an impact globally and is relevant to the continent, and the world should sit up and take us seriously as Africans,” she said.
Stepping into her office for the first time on Monday was no unique feeling; she didn’t have to pinch herself. She also met with staff, security, cleaners and secretaries to remind them they all have an important role to play in making the institution a success.
Phakeng said she would contribute 10% of her salary to the Thuma Mina Fund, which aims to ensure struggling working-class students don’t miss once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, especially abroad.
“How can a million rand or more be spent on a party where I’ll be told how special I am while some students couldn’t graduate in April, and they have completed their degrees? Many of our researchers submitted proposals for grants at the National Research Foundation, and they were rejected, not because they were bad but because of funding.
“It doesn’t resonate with my values and with who I am. I would never be able to sleep at night; it will all be about me, and it makes my blood boil as it is just self-centred,” she said.
CPUT’s Nhlapo could not be reached for comment yesterday. He is taking over from Prins Nevhutalu, who resigned after being found guilty of gross misconduct.
In welcoming him, CPUT council chairperson Nogolide Nojozi said: “Council unanimously supported Dr Nhlapo’s appointment and looks forward to working with him to implement the CPUT Vision 2030.
“I also call on all university stakeholders to give Dr Nhlapo the necessary support during his tenure as vice-chancellor.”
Nhlapo had been serving as acting vice-chancellor since August 2017 and “did an excellent job stabilising campuses and ensuring the continuation of the academic programme under very trying conditions in 2017”, said Nojozi.
He previously held the position of the first-ever deputy vice-chancellor: research, technology innovation and partnerships, at CPUT.
~ OKUHLE HLATI