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‘My heart is beating fast’: UCT vice-chancellor threatened on campus

UCT's vice-chancellor Mamokgethi Phakeng.
UCT's vice-chancellor Mamokgethi Phakeng.
Image: Esa Alexander

The vice-chancellor of the University of Cape Town‚ Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng‚ was threatened by an assailant on campus early on Tuesday.

Around 7am‚ she tweeted: “My heart is beating fast. I am sweating and angry! Thanks to the person who threatened me this morning as I was walking from my car to my office.”

She said she refused to “waste UCT money on a driver or bodyguard” and added “go ahead and do what you want.”

At the end of the tweet‚ she added‚ “NB; It’s not a white person”.

The tweet caused a major reaction from members of the UCT community‚ all of whom expressed their support.

Phakeng has styled herself as a fiery yet maternal leader on the campus since she took over from Dr Max Price.

The official UCT Twitter account said: “This incident has been noted with serious concern and has been escalated to our campus protection services (CPS).

“We ask all staff and students to please report all safety and security incidents to the nearest CPS officer or CPS office so that they can be thoroughly investigated.”

Vuyi Mcebo told Phakeng her safety should take priority‚ while others responded to her sound financial management of the university and said money for her protection would be well spent.

Oupa Pappas wrote: “Please get a driver and bodyguard for you to be safe. You are one of the few leaders who take rational financial decisions that benefit a lot of people. We can’t afford to lose you.”

Some went so far as to suggest she carries a gun‚ and while most sidestepped her comment on the race of the attacker‚ some posed questions such as: “And the comment re colour? Why?”

Phakeng responded to the outpouring of support with a follow-up tweet which read‚ “Thank-you. My day is not stolen. I am fine and continuing as if nothing ever happened.”

Elijah Moholola‚ senior manager of media liaison at UCT‚ said a statement would be released later.

He said Phakeng had “back-to-back commitments all day” and would not be speaking directly to the media.

Students at Wits university embarked on a hunger strike on Tuesday, February 5 2019. The protest began on Monday over accommodation and registration problems.

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