UCT vice-chancellor Prof Mamokgethi Phakeng is leaving with R12m ‘golden handshake’

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University of Cape Town vice-chancellor Mamokgethi Phakeng is set to leave the top-ranked tertiary institution, which is in the midst of a governance crisis, after reaching an exit settlement with the council.

TimesLIVE reports that a settlement paving the way for the vice-chancellor’s departure, reportedly involving a multimillion-rand “golden handshake”, was reached during a late-night meeting of the university council on Tuesday.

According to the publication, the settlement involves a non-disclosure agreement.

Another publication, News24, reported on Wednesday the settlement involved a R12m “golden handshake”.

UCT Council chair Babalwa Ngonyama is yet to confirm what transpired overnight, but said at the weekend the meeting would “thoroughly and thoughtfully consider options and potential resolutions” to the governance crisis.

UCT started the academic year with student protests, a court interdict to halt the disruptive action, the executive accused of endangering staff, a denial that Phakeng had been suspended and an independent investigation by a panel into the governance crisis and staff exodus.

Phakeng, as vice-chancellor, was accountable to the council for leadership of the university, including its financial health, academic standing, transformation and social justice interventions.

A UCT staff member told the Sunday Times last week things were coming to a head “in an ugly power struggle that has ripped the university apart”.

Sociology and political studies professor Jeremy Seekings, director of the Centre for Social Science Research at the institution, said last week it would “not be surprising” if Phakeng was not squeezed out of her role under a face-saving exit strategy before her second term started later this year.

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