The chancellor is the titular head and representative of the university, and confers degrees in its name. The chancellor is elected for a 10-year term of office, by an electoral college. The electoral college is chaired by the president of convocation, and consists of 21 graduates or holders of diplomas, 6 academic staff, 6 administrative and support staff and 6 students, together with the president of convocation and the vice-chancellor.
Elections for a new Chancellor were held in 2019, and at the end of August the Chair of Council, Mr Sipho M. Pityana, announced that Dr Precious Moloi-Motsepe has been elected as UCT's sixth Chancellor, a position that she takes up from 1 January 2020.
Graça Machel was elected by the electoral college at its meeting on 18 September 1999. In 2010 she was elected unopposed as chancellor of UCT for a second term. Her name was the only one put forward following the call for nominations for the office. Her term of office ended in 2019.
Machel was the fifth chancellor of the University of Cape Town.
She was born in Mozambique's southern Gaza province in 1945. She studied Germanic languages at Lisbon University.
During her country's war of independence from Portugal, Machel worked underground for Mozambique's liberation movement, the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (Frelimo), which had set up schools in liberated territories and within their training camps in neighbouring Tanzania. She became deputy director of the Frelimo Secondary School at Bagomoyo, Tanzania, in 1974.
Upon her return to Mozambique at the age of 29, she was appointed state secretary of education in Mozambique's interim government. When she married Samora Machel on 7 September 1975, she was minister of education and culture in the post-independence Mozambican government, and the only woman in the cabinet. She held the post for 11 years.
Passionate about education and the plight of children in the developing world, Machel has been a major force in increasing literacy and schooling in Mozambique, and has spoken for the rights of children, families and communities from platforms all over the world. After her ministerial appointment, she persuaded the Mozambican government to devote as much as 12% of the national budget to education – a rare feat in Africa. Within 5 years the illiteracy rate had been cut by 22%, and the school-going population increased from 400 000 to 1.6 million.
In 1994, the former UN secretary-general Boutros Boutros-Ghali appointed her to lead a study on the impact of armed conflict on children. Her report for the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) led to a recommendation to approve a special representative of the secretary general on children in armed conflict.
Machel is a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF, chairperson of the National Organisation of Children of Mozambique and president of the country's UNESCO commission.