November 03, 2023

Independent Review Vindicates Former UCT Ombuds

Last month, an independent panel of retired judges and education and equity experts, issued a report on issues at the University of Cape Town in 2018 through 2022. The report revealed governance failures involving former Vice Chancellor Mamokgethi Phakeng and other leaders. At the time, UCT's inaugural Ombud Zetu Makamandela-Mguqulwa was one of the very few voices raising concerns. After speaking out, she was publicly threatened with disciplinary charges and ultimately terminated. The new independent commission fully vindicates the Ombud.

The Executive Summary states:
[53] In the Panel’s view, the case against the Ombud was instituted for an improper purpose, i.e., to suppress the allegations of systematic bullying by the VC. The threat by the Chair, purporting to act on behalf of Council, to institute disciplinary proceedings against the Ombud was unlawful. This is so because the publication of the Ombud Report constituted a “protected disclosure” within the meaning of the Protected Disclosures Act 26 of 2000.

IV. UCT must publicly commend the previous Ombud, Makamandela-Mguqulwa, for her meritorious service to UCT. In addition she must be compensated in full for the legal costs incurred in respect of the abandoned disciplinary action against her; 
V. A written public apology, published on UCT’s website, must be made to the 37 anonymous complainants referred to in the Ombud Report for failing to act on their complaints. In addition, UCT must make available, at its expense, a counselling service for any complainant who experienced bullying by the erstwhile VC; (Exec Summary, pp 16, 33, emphasis in original.)


  1. It takes courage for individuals to speak up. And it takes as much courage for leaders, but frankly perhaps not as much, to take action. When institutions wonder why people don't speak up the reasons are often that people are afraid of retaliation and/or they don't think they'll be listened to and the concerns acted on. Glad to see Ombud Zetu Makamandela-Mguqulwa, who raised concerns and was terminated, vindicated by the independent commission.

  2. Paul Caffera11/06/2023 8:36 PM

    Congratulations, Zetu. I am very pleased to see you vindicated.