Newly sworn in Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) chancellor Thandi Modise says she is ready to take up the challenge facing the university and hopes to bring stability by engaging with students and management.
The National Council of Provinces (NCOP) chairwoman was sworn in as the first female chancellor of the university on Thursday September 14, in a ceremony attended by Minister of Higher Education Blade Nzimande, at the Bellville campus.
Ms Modise succeeds former Finance Minister Trevor Manuel as chancellor. She felt honoured to lead the institution at a time like this, she said, referring to the protests that have rocked the country’s universities since 2015.
“Although it is a challenge I have always welcomed getting into difficult spaces. If only to prove that women are capable. It is also an awesome task because with the economy slowing down some of the issues affecting CPUT – such as issues of high salaries and properly catering to students — are going to take longer to address because the fiscus is strained.”
She said she planned to meet with students and management to stabilise the institution.
The chancellor’s inauguration came at a time, when there have been violent protests at CPUT’s Cape Town and Mowbray campuses, over the suspension of four students in connection with an earlier demonstration on campus.
The students were expected to appear in the Western Cape High Court on Friday September 15.
The major sports hall where the ceremony took place was fenced off and patrolled by private security guards. Police vans could also be seen patrolling the campus.
Dr Nzimande said the countrywide university riots had threatened some of the academic gains made since 1994. He agreed that universities need to be transformed, but not by being destroyed.
“The poor students are the ones who suffer the most when institutions such as these are destroyed, as their parents cannot afford to send them to private institutions or to go and study overseas,” he said.
Dr Nzimande said sound leadership was needed, including worker and student leadership. He believed Ms Modise would help CPUT overcome some of its key challenges.
“We need more government leadership to work together with student and worker leadership… She’s a very principled person, and we need those like her to act as examples,” he said.
Ms Modise was elected as a member of Parliament in 1994. She was Speaker of the North West provincial legislature from 2004 to 2009. A former ANC deputy secretary-general, she also served as premier of that province from 2010 to 2014, when she was elected as chairperson of the NCOP.