IN CONVERSATION WITH NTIBI MAEPA: Deputy Registrar, Governance and Legal Services
Ms Ntibi Maepa, Deputy Registrar: Governance and Legal Services is officially in seat. She assumed duties on 6 January 2020.
Ms Maepa is an accomplished legal practitioner with demonstrated expertise in a range of areas including risk management, legal compliance, governance, negotiating and drafting complex agreements, dispute resolution, litigation management, legal research, policy and rule formulation among others.
Before joining the University of Fort Hare, Ms Maepa was a Legal Advisor at the University of Witwatersrand - a position she held since 2009. Previously she was Chamber Coordinator for Trade and Industry and Operations Manager at Nedlac. Before that she was an Advocacy Officer at the South African Centre for Non-Profit Law. She also served as the National Organiser for the Development Resource Centre where she set up the South African National NGO Coalition (SANGOCO).
She has a BA Law degree from the University of Swaziland as well as LLB and LLM degrees from the University of Witwatersrand.
To find out more about this dynamic lady and her plans for her new role, This Week @Fort Hare Senior Journalist, Aretha Linden (AL) asked a couple of questions.
AL: What is your key focus as Deputy Registrar: Governance and Legal Services?
Ntibi Maepa (NM): This is a crucial portfolio within the Office of the Registrar. The key focus is to ensure good governance and the rule of law are embedded and maintained within university structures and activities.
AL: Please share with us some of the responsibilities that come with this position?
NM: Various sections constitute the role of the Governance and Legal office. The Secretariat is concerned with operationalizing governance imperatives, particularly, lending secretarial support to institutional structures such as Council, Senate and institutional committees. The Compliance office deals with compliance, both internally and externally.
We also provide legal guidance to the university through the provision of legal opinions, drafting, vetting and negotiation of contracts, handling litigation, and other legal risk management activities. The office is also responsible for student discipline.
We also have the Registry and Postal Services section. Historically, the section was responsible for archiving and postal services to the university community. Now it is mainly concerned with record keeping and archiving – an essential function, not just for purposes of preserving history, but also in terms of governance requirements.
AL: Why Fort Hare?
NM: The legend that is the University of Fort Hare could not have escaped me. The institution has been a beacon of black excellence long before any other institution I can think of. The recent troubles that have beset the university are saddening. Bottom line, UFH cannot be allowed to go under. I feel quite humbled for the opportunity to add my skills towards ensuring that this sad situation is averted.
AL: So far, what are some of the areas you have identified as having potential to advance the university and which do you think still need to be polished when it comes to the governance of the university?
NM: I have not been here long enough to answer this question fully. Suffice to say, the Report of the Independent Assessor regarding UFH gives us enough food for thought.
AL: What is your plan to ensure that everything is done in accordance to the law?
NM: Without over-simplifying the work ahead, I would say the best way to ensure that rules are complied with is to ensure that the rules are clear, are known, and are consistently applied. In this way, and over time, a culture of compliance can be created and compliance takes on a life of its own.
AL: What approach are you planning to use to ensure management decisions are aligned to the university’s strategic objectives?
NM: Again, without over-simplifying the issues that need to be dealt with, we need to entrench a culture of accountability. There are policies and rules that will have to be either updated or put in place to achieve this. The basic principle at play here is that every officer of the university owes the university a fiduciary duty - an obligation to act in the best interests of the university. One of the elements of this is that officers of the university owe the university the duty of care.
AL: What are you most concerned about in your position?
NM: Resistance to change. I am quite determined, but my job will be so much nicer if no one has to be dragged kicking and screaming towards the achievement of a well-governed UFH.
AL: What are you most optimistic about?
NM: The fact that academic excellence still persists is testament to the commitment of members of this community to UFH and its mandate. This gives me assurance that everything else is fixable.
AL: Lastly, what are your aspirations for UFH?
NM: For UFH to make it to the top 100 universities list in the foreseeable future.