The Western Cape High Court has dismissed an application challenging the appointment of Lis Lange, as the deputy vice-chancellor for teaching and learning at the University of Cape Town (UCT).

Judge Nathan Erasmus ruled against Professor Elelwani Ramugondo and the university’s Black Academic Caucus, which claimed that UCT had flouted its rules when it appointed Lange in December 2017, notes City Press.

Ramugondo, a full professor at the university, lost out to Lange, an associate professor and former University of Free State vice-rector for academics.

Ramugonda in 2018 told City Press that she was overlooked because of institutional racism at UCT and was heading to court reluctantly after engaging internal structures.

In court papers, respondents in the matter were UCT, former UCT vice-chancellor and principal Max Price and Lange.

In his judgment, Erasmus said: ‘Having regard to the facts herein as summarised above, even if the university was an organ of state, which clearly it is not, and applying the doctrine of precedent, it would still not have been administrative action reviewable under the Promotion to Administrative Justice Act but rather a labour matter where the Labour Court has jurisdiction. Having found as above, this would dispose of the matter.'

However, Erasmus decided to deal with the question of whether the appointment of Lange was rational and reasonable.

According to City Press, he said: ‘Without elaborating on the individual objections raised against the appointment of the third respondent it is important to note that every purported negative aspect raised in this review was considered by the (UCT) council before r eaching a final decision herein. In my view, having regard to the record one tests whether the decision was founded upon reason and it is rationally related to the purpose of the decision. Council considered all the issues and exercised its discretion to appoint the third responded, which process and appointment tested objectively, in my view, was rational, reasonable and in any event, did not fall foul of the principle of legality ...'

In a statement, Ramugondo and the BAC said the judgment was a disappointment for all those who support transformation at UCT and the broader society.

‘It is a major setback for transformation in the higher education sector. We will study the judgment closely and take legal counsel before deciding on our next steps. We urge South Africans who care about transformation in the higher education sector to read the judgment very closely.’

Full City Press report