Time for UCT alumni to step up and save the institution: Richard Wilkinson

The University of Cape Town embarks on a digital electoral journey, determining its future through the hands of its alumni. With twenty contenders vying for four seats on the esteemed Council, the stakes are high. From classical liberalism to human rights advocacy, nominees like David Ansara and Mark Oppenheimer bring diverse expertise. Upholding academic integrity, candidates like Professor Brian Kantor and Kelly Phelps stand as beacons against ideological capture. It’s a critical juncture for UCT’s identity and values.

Sign up for your early morning brew of the BizNews Insider to keep you up to speed with the content that matters. The newsletter will land in your inbox at 5:30am weekdays. Register here.

By Richard Wilkinson

The University of Cape Town is conducting online elections for its primary governance body, the Council, which comprises 30 members. Four members are elected by the “Convocation,” meaning the entire alumni community—anyone with a diploma or credit-bearing certificate from the university. The four elected individuals will serve from 1 July 2024 to 30 June 2028, and this year, twenty candidates have been nominated.

I have long known two of the nominees, David Ansara and Mark Oppenheimer, through the South African Institute of Race Relations. David, CEO of the Free Market Foundation, is a classical liberal think tank leader and a prolific writer on policies that foster economic growth and job creation in South Africa. Mark, one of South Africa’s leading advocates, has excelled in human rights, particularly in freedom of speech.

Although I am not personally acquainted with Professor Brian Kantor or Kelly Phelps, I understand their strong commitment to restoring the University of Cape Town as a beacon of genuine intellectual freedom and high academic standards. Both are distinguished figures with deep ties to the university. Professor Kantor, a former Dean of Commerce, has held notable private sector roles. Ms. Phelps is an independent criminal justice consultant with 18 years as a lecturer in UCT’s LLB and LLM programs.

Readers of my essays know my frustration with the “Woke” activism that has debilitated most of South Africa’s universities and many schools nationwide, a phenomenon I call “School Capture.” This includes pseudoscience, personal bullying, and, notably at UCT, severe violence, harassment, and intimidation over the past decade.

Addressing these illiberal trends requires more than writing; it necessitates gaining control over our institutions. This means nominating individuals opposed to Marxism and its modern variants—Critical Race Theory, Wokeness, Fallism, Gender Ideology—to govern. Our goal must be to win elections and secure majorities so those who value freedom of speech and academic rigor can reform illiberal policies.

UCT is a pivotal battleground for combating School Capture. I was pleased to request and receive a ballot last week, casting votes today for David, Mark, Professor Kantor, and Ms. Phelps. The process was quick, and I strongly encourage all UCT alumni to vote. 

Email [email protected] and copy in the following text:

“Dear UCT

I am a former student of UCT with the following details:

Student number / ID number:


Year of graduation:

Please may I request a ballot for the Council election?

Thank you”

You should receive a response providing you with details on how to vote online. Please note that the deadline to register to vote is 4pm this coming Monday 22 April 2024, with the deadline to cast your ballot being 4pm on Tuesday 23 April 2024, so please act immediately.

Read also: