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Letters to the editor: April 18 to 25

UCT is focusing on commission’s findings

Regarding the article “UCT culture leaves some suicidal” , the University of Cape Town provided a substantial statement in response to the request by the journalist. Yet our response was not adequately reflected in the article and we would like to clarify the university’s position.

The article reported on a series of statements, taken from the report of the Institutional Reconciliation and Transformation Commission (IRTC). These claims are reported on without having been put to UCT for a response.

Although UCT provided a full statement despite not being asked specific questions — UCT was only asked for a statement in response to the issuing of the report — its response was reduced to just the last two paragraphs of the article and the key parts of the response were not included.

The UCT executive noted the findings and recommendations of the final report of the IRTC. It will now await the consideration, further work and final recommendations by the steering committee which will be tabled at the UCT Council meeting in June.

UCT acknowledges that the context in 2015, 2016 and 2017 was complex, raising very serious challenges for all universities, including UCT, and many would not have been prepared for the unprecedented complexities that prevailed. Many lessons were learnt, and the UCT executive will give appropriate consideration to the report of the IRTC.

In addition, the UCT executive will work its own way through the report, its findings as well as its recommendations. The executive wishes to do this with the due seriousness that the issues deserve. The executive wishes to ensure that its own responses to the various elements of the report are considered and aligned with the intention (alongside the steering committee) to work towards strengthening UCT into the future. This work has begun and will take some time. — Elijah Moholola, senior manager: media liaison, University of Cape Town

Revolutionise recycling

Calls to ban plastic products are a simplistic response to a complex problem. What’s required is a rational solution to the genuine crisis of plastic pollution.

Many of those leading the call to “wage war on plastic” fail to understand the terrible effect that alternative materials have on the environment. Although it’s tempting to imagine a world without plastic as some sort of environmental utopia, plastic in consumer goods uses four times less energy than alternative materials such as metal, paper and glass. In fact, alternatives to plastic packaging would nearly double greenhouse gas emissions.

The fact is that plastic — if disposed of correctly — is one of the most environmentally friendly products there is. And this is where the solution to plastic pollution can be found: in the correct disposal and management of plastic waste.

But to win the war on plastic pollution, everyone in the plastics industry must confront some hard truths. This includes us, the producers of plastics, but it also includes government and consumers. We support President Cyril Ramaphosa’s quest to clean up South Africa, but it can only happen if there is a recycling revolution in this country.

We need government to urgently fix South Africa’s inadequate waste management facilities and improve infrastructure for collection and recycling. It can create thousands of new jobs while safeguarding the 100 000 formal and informal jobs that the plastics industry currently provides.

Government can do this if it ring-fences the plastic bag levy, which has increased from three cents a bag when introduced in 2003 to 12 cents in 2018. The nearly R2-billion that has been raised through the levy so far should never have been absorbed into the black hole of our national fiscus. Instead, the levy should have been ring-fenced for its intended purpose: to develop better recycling facilities and incentivise sustainable consumer behaviour.

It’s time to declare and act on thewar against plastic pollution. — Anton Hanekom, executive director, Plastics SA

Board speaks for Jews on Israel

In his letter, “Butler and BDS silence opinions” (April 12), David Robert Lewis makes some interesting observations regarding the nature of Jewish identity and the inherent dangers of making overly sweeping statements about how Jews think and who should speak for them.

On one point he is definitely wrong, and that is his claim that representatives of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) have often stated that “Israel represents the Jews of South Africa”.

No board representative would make such an assertion, because it is the SAJBD itself that represents the local Jewish community. The board is the elected spokesbody and civil rights lobby of South African Jewry, and the co-ordinating umbrella body for Jewish communal organisations.

Most such organisations are affiliated to the SAJBD, and it is they who vote into office those who sit on its regional councils. The regional councils provide the members of the SAJBD’s national executive committee, which elects a national chairman and other executive office bearers.

This does not mean the SAJBD speaks for all Jews in South Africa. What it can claim is to be broadly representative of mainstream Jewish opinion, including on the question of Israel. — David Saks, SAJBD

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