Blade picks Makgoba to head transformation team

University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) vice-chancellor Malegapuru Makgoba will chair the committee for its first three years, the minister said at a press briefing in Johannesburg.

"The purpose of the oversight committee is to monitor progress on transformation in public universities and to advise the minister on policy to combat racism, sexism and other forms of unfair discrimination," he said.

The committee will "advise the minister on policy to promote social cohesion and an institutional environment where every student and staff member can live, work and flourish free of … unfair discrimination".

The seven-member, permanent committee will engage with university councils and staff and student formations. It will analyse transformation frameworks at universities and their transformation indicators and targets.

The establishing of the committee is an outcome of the enquiry into racism at all universities that former education minister Naledi Pandor ordered in 2008, following the notorious so-called "Reitz affair" at the University of the Free State (UFS).

Reitz video
This centred on a video showing four white students in the then Reitz residence putting five black workers through humiliating "initiation" rituals. The video, which caused a national outcry when it surfaced in 2008, included footage the students filmed of a white student apparently urinating on food that the workers were then forced to eat.

Pandor appointed Crain Soudien, deputy vice-chancellor of the University of Cape Town, to head her ministerial committee on tertiary racism. Soudien's report included the recommendation that the minister establish a permanent oversight committee on university transformation.

At the press briefing, Nzimande referred to other initiation practices still in practice today at some universities. "[I have] been picking up on this thing called initiation. It has no place in a democratic South Africa … it is very abusive… it can take racial forms," he said.

Announcing the committee's members, Nzimande paid tribute to Makgoba's transformation credentials, adding that the UKZN vice-chancellor "has scars, by the way, like many of us …"

Makgoba later told the Mail & Guardian that these "scars" refer to battles he has had "that go to the heart of change in South Africa".

He specified "my experience at the University of the Witwatersrand" as deputy vice-chancellor in the mid-1990s. "That was about transformation at the university. It was not a pleasant experience but it was useful because those issues of racism are still current."

Makgoba's struggle
The University of Witwatersrand was convulsed for about two years at the time by a bitter scandal initiated when a group of white academics – "I believe they called [them] the Gang of 13", Makgoba told the M&G – accused him of falsifying his CV.

Makgoba's struggle at the time was widely interpreted as an attempt by entrenched white university powerbrokers to maintain their privilege by subduing an intellectually accomplished and outspoken black academic.

Controversy pursued Makgoba when he subsequently became vice-chancellor of UKZN. In a 2005 M&G comment piece headlined "Wrath of dethroned white males", he wrote: "Certain white males exhibit all the symptoms of the dethroned male baboon."

Referring to the article at Wednesday's briefing, he told the M&G that it highlighted the racial tensions and contradictions that exist in South African society today.

Nzimande also announced the names of the six members who will form the new committee under Makgoba's leadership. They are:

  • Mvuyo Tom (vice-chancellor of the University of Fort Hare);
  • Nazeema Mohamed (transformation director at Wits);
  • Zingiswa Losi (second deputy president of the Congress of South African Trade Unions);
  • André Keet (director of the UFS's International Institute for Studies in Race, Reconcilliation and Social Justice);
  • Shirley Walters (director for the Division of Lifelong Learning at the University of the Western Cape); and
  • Joe Mpisi (first vice-president of the National Education Health and Allied Workers Union).

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

Virtual world left out of policy on universities’ international collaboration

The pandemic has underlined the need for effective research, teaching and learning through virtual platforms regardless of travel restrictions

NSFAS is a nepotist fiefdom – staff

Employees at the student financial aid scheme have told the education parliamentary portfolio committee that the administrator did not follow procedures when people were appointed

Editorial: Nzimande’s shame is youth’s loss

Before Nzimande or anyone in government thinks of telling young people to “choose” TVET colleges again, they need to fix this sector

The shame of 40 000 missing education certificates

Graduates are being left in the lurch by a higher education department that is simply unable to deliver the crucial certificates proving their qualifications - in some cases dating back to 1992

Unisa shortlists two candidates for the vice-chancellor job

The outgoing vice-chancellor’s term has been extended to April to allow for a smooth hand-over

Fort Hare students test positive for Covid after partying

The 30 students, who went to a bash at a tavern in East London, were not wearing masks, did not sanitise their hands nor keep to social distancing regulations.

Subscribers only

Covid-19 surges in the Eastern Cape

With people queuing for services, no water, lax enforcement of mask rules and plenty of partying, the virus is flourishing once again, and a quarter of the growth is in the Eastern Cape

Ace prepares ANC branches for battle

ANC secretary general Ace Magashule is ignoring party policy on corruption-charged officials and taking his battle to branch level, where his ‘slate capture’ strategy is expected to leave Ramaphosa on the ropes

More top stories

Journey through anxious Joburg

A new book has collected writing about the condition of living, yes, with a high crime rate, but also other, more pervasive existential urban stresses particular to the Global South

Football legend Maradona dies

The Argentinian icon died at his home on Wednesday, two weeks after having surgery on a blood clot in his brain

Why no vaccine at all is better than a botched...

As Covid vaccines near the manufacturing stage, a look at two polio vaccines provides valuable historical insights

Under cover of Covid, Uganda targets LGBTQ+ shelter

Pandemic rules were used to justify a violent raid on a homeless shelter in Uganda, but a group of victims is pursuing a criminal case against the perpetrators

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…