The article by Richard Wilkinson ‘The liberation of UCT from woke oppression has begun’ (Daily Friend 26 April 2024) is riddled with falsehoods, non-sequitur conclusions, slanderous personal comments, and superficial analysis. I do not have the space here to respond to every speculation and specious claim.

For those interested in an analysis that contradicts almost every one of his assertions – on decoloniality, on why race still matters in post-apartheid South Africa, on the roots of the Rhodes Must Fall and Fees Must Fall protests in 2015, which were not primarily about critical race theory as he believes – I invite you to read my book Statues and Storms; Leading Through Change1

I do, however, feel compelled to respond to his lies about me and my administration when I was Vice-Chancellor of UCT, from 2008 to 2018.

Wilkinson claims that ‘misgovernance’ and ‘destruction’ during my tenure has caused UCT’s finances to deteriorate. This is false. He mischievously presents a comparison of the university’s finances in 2014 and 2022 – asserting that the deterioration by 2022 is as a result of my ‘catastrophic tenure’.  First, he fails to point out that the finances he views so favourably in 2014 were achieved in my 7th year in office, and demonstrated dramatic expansion compared to the results when I took office in 2008. Secondly, he fails to point out that I completed my ten years as VC in mid-2018 – so the results of 2022, over 4 years after I had left, can hardly be attributed to me. What he should have quoted were the results of the 2018 financial year. Those show that, far from a net cash outflow of R223m in 2022, in 2018 there was a net cash inflow of R199m.  And compared with 2014, which was already a high baseline, both tuition income, and total consolidated income had increased by about 35% – i.e. an annual compound growth rate of 8% over the years of the Fallist protests.

Moreover, though I hold no brief for the financial performance of the university in the four years following my term, I nevertheless wish to point out that Wilkinson’s claim that ‘Go Woke, Go Broke’ applies to UCT is unsubstantiated nonsense. I presume he thinks that the mechanism of such a causal relationship is through donors or research grant makers being deterred by a university’s woke ethos. If he is right, then UCT must be terribly un-Woke – since research and donor income have continued to increase at admirable levels – from R1.17bn in 2014 to 2.03bn in 2022 – an increase of 73%. Wilkinson obsesses about student fees receivable and written-off (unrecoverable), but this has much more to do with the failures of NSFAS on the one hand, and the commitment of a university to provide access for poor students on the other, than with the extent of wokeness in a university.

Wilkinson also claims I have made ‘false and revisionist claims … in respect of Professor Mayosi’s death’. I would like to know what claims he is referring to. The only public comments I have ever made regarding Professor Mayosi’s suicide (which happened after my term as VC) are in my book, ‘Statues and storms’, and the comments I make there are quotes from, and entirely in agreement with, the commission of enquiry that the University set up under Prof Thandabantu Nhlapo. Wilkinson should either provide a reference to my ‘false claims’ or apologise for accusing me of lying. 


Dr Max Price is the Emeritus Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Town.