December 19, 2022

South Africa's Shadow Cabinet Calls for National Student Ombuds

The South African Democratic Alliance, which is the Official Opposition Shadow Cabinet, has issued a statement calling for a centralized student Ombuds system for all of the country's universities. According to the report, only 8 of 26 South African universities currently have an Ombuds system where students and employees can raise concerns in a confidential setting. Notably, the University of Cape Town, Rhodes University, UNISA, Stellenbosch University, and Vaal University of Technology have embedded Ombuds offices, and Nelson Mandela University has an outsourced Ombuds. Although not mentioned in the statement, England and Austria have national Student Ombuds offices.

The Shadow Minister for Higher Education, Chantel King, cited the recent failure of UCT to heed the issues surfaced by its Ombuds as partial justification for a national scheme: 
The disregard of the recommendation of the previous UCT ombud’s report in the behavior of the UCT Vice-Chancellor (VC), Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng, after numerous complaints received on the toxic work environment, is a point in question how an ombud can be perceived as overstepping its mandate. Had the complaints been tested through an internal investigation, UCT would not have faced governance challenges.

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