Who is going to decide the future of the University of Cape Town (UCT)?

UCT Emeritus Prof. and Life Fellow Tim Crowe The UCT Community has one more (perhaps last) opportunity to decide who decides the future of Africa’s premier university. All alumni (and presumably students and staff) are invited to submit comments on the terms of reference (ToR)...

485 0
485 0

UCT Emeritus Prof. and Life Fellow Tim Crowe

The UCT Community has one more (perhaps last) opportunity to decide who decides the future of Africa’s premier university. All alumni (and presumably students and staff) are invited to submit comments on the terms of reference (ToR) and Criteria for selecting commissioners for the University’s Institutional Reconciliation and Transformation Commission (IRTC).

IRTC Commissioners will be charged with making potentially profound and far-reaching recommendations that could lead to changes in UCT’s fundamental structure and functioning.

But, time is of the essence.

You need to submit your feedback to the IRTC Steering Committee via e-mail (uctalumniirtc@gmail.com) on or before 28 March 2017. I am appealing this deadline and suggest that other members of UCT’s “silenced majority” do so as well via the same e-mail address.

Below please find the ToR and Criteria as currently proposed by the IRTC Steering Committee.


  1. Look into what is referred to as the ‘Shackville protests’ of February 2016, including any related and subsequent protest actions, taking historical, institutional and national factors into account.
  2. Invite submissions from all constituencies on clemencies granted and make recommendations on how the university should deal with such matters in future.
  3. Make recommendations on institutional culture, transformation, decolonisation, discrimination, identity, disability, and any other matters that the university community has raised over the past 18 months, or may wish to raise.


  • Commissioners must be persons with integrity, a commitment to social justice and significant support from the wider campus community

  • Commissioners must be independent from UCT, but may include alumni. Thus, no current staff or students are eligible

  • Commissioners should preferably have experience in restorative justice processes, e.g. have been part of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission

  • Ideally, the commission should include at least one person with legal expertise e.g. a judge with an appreciation for social justice and transformative constitutionalism

  • Commissioners must possess demonstrated sensitivity to issues of race, gender, ability, and LGBTIQA identities

  • At least one of the Commissioners must have an understanding of, and experience in, dealing with trauma

  • Commissioners drawn from civil society must have at least ten years’ working experience and must have experience in dealing with matters of complexity

  • Commissioners must be flexible and available to participate fully in the IRTC process

  • For financial reasons preference should be given to locally based commissioners

I also have reservations as to what is meant by a commitment to “social justice”, “restorative justice” and “significant support from the wider campus community”.Here are my comments.  Please pass on yours as a matter of urgency.
At least two commissioners must also be persons with significant ‘coalface’ experience (e.g. >5 years) as a senior academic noted for excellence as an educator (ideally with academic development experience), researcher and administrator and who firmly supports academic freedom (sensu TB Davie) the rule of law, and open, unfettered debate.

If “social” justice means allowing/pardoning lawbreaking behaviour that intimidates members of the university community, preventing them from exercising their rights to study, teach, research and provide support for those who undertake these core-university actions, I adamantly oppose its use as a criterion.

With regard to restorative justice, I would ask each potential commissioner to give his/her definition after being made aware of the ‘textbook’ definition:

Restorative justice is a widely accepted process that requires victims and offenders mediating a restitution agreement to the satisfaction of each, as well as involving the community [in this case UCT’s un-consulted, “silenced majority” (SM). Victims must be allowed take an active role in the process, and offenders must take meaningful responsibility (apologize and express remorse) for their acts and not re-offend.

The ‘proofs’ of the RJ ‘pudding’ are the satisfaction of the victim/offender/community that justice has been done and that the offender doesn’t reoffend.

To date, what has been described as restorative justice used to grant amnesty/clemency to Fallists most definitely has not “justified” these actions.

With regard to having “significant support from the wider campus community”, I would very much welcome that the IRTC SC act as a filtering body, producing a list of +-10 finalist candidate IRTC commissioners from which five need to be selected. These finalists should minimally be required to provide to the full UCT community with a full curriculum vitae and a vision document that expresses the candidate’s personal views vis-à-vis the TERMS OF REFERENCE OF THE IRTC.

More specifically, I would like their views/visions/answers to the following questions:

With regard to “looking into” the “Shackville protests”, those involved should assist in compiling a chronicle of the events that took place, prior to them and in their wake by answering key questions:

  1. who planned them;
  2. who acted as leaders;
  3. where they met;
  4. who transported the petrol used to burn symbols/artwork;
  5. what was their short, medium and long-term strategy;
  6. who they colluded with, within and outside of UCT;
  7. if and how they communicated with the UCT authorities;
  8. who may have provoked them to cease protesting within the limits of the law; and
  9. the extent to which each protester is willing to show remorse, engage with victim and truly honour their commitment not to re-offend.

With regard to clemency/amnesty, if restorative justice is to be employed, it must not just be “in the spirit” of RJ, but according to its ‘textbook’ definition.

With regard to “decolonization”, each candidate commissioner should be required to produce an overall vision statement for this process and at least two commissioners should have demonstrable experience implementing decolonization successfully.

Finally, I strongly recommend that at least two commissioners be familiar with university finance, enabling them to comment constructively on issues relating to fee-structuring vs free-fees.

Once this is all done, as was the case for candidates for election to UCT’s Council, each finalist should prepare a 1-2-page document “justifying” her/his candidacy. Then they should be subjected to a democratic vote (by direct and/or electronic ballot) by ALL members of staff, students and members of the UCT Alumni Association and Convocation to ensure that those selected actually have “significant support from the wider campus community”.

I also would like to offer names of possible candidates who satisfy/meet some or all of the ToR and Criteria:

Dr Mamphela Ramphele, Prof. Njabulo Simakahle Ndebele, Prof. Jonathan Jansen, Prof. Jennifer Thomson, Prof. Crain Soudien, Prof. Danie Visser and Prof. Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela.

In this article

Leave a Reply

Rational Standard