Transformation conundrum

25 January 2013 - 02:17 By PHILANI NOMBEMBE and POPPY LOUW

One of the country's leading academics has poked holes in the committee set up by Minister of Higher Education Blade Nzimande to assess transformation at universities.

Nzimande announced the formation of the seven-member ministerial committee to oversee transformation at the country's 23 universities this week. The committee is a result of recommendations made in a report commissioned by former education minister Naledi Pandor five years ago.

The Pandor report was compiled in the wake of the uproar caused by the "Rietz Four" incident at the University of the Free State - students were filmed engaged in an allegedly racist initiation stunt involving five black female workers.

Yesterday the university's vice-chancellor, Prof Jonathan Jansen, said the forming of the committee "doesn't make any sense". He said he did not know of any universities that were struggling with transformation.

"We put aside millions to source the best researchers in the world, particularly black females, and we have had success," Jansen said.

"I don't know why we need a policeman. A university is not a prison. It is an autonomous institution with smart people who understand their duty to the future."

The committee's job includes monitoring the universities' transformation progress and advising the minister on policies to combat racism and sexism.

The Federation of Unions of SA and the SA Parastatal and Tertiary Union criticised Nzimande for excluding representatives of the universities' staff from the committee.

Jeffrey Mabelebele, acting CEO of Higher Education SA, said his organisation did not know much about the committee's mandate and why it had been formed.

He said gender and racial relations at universities had improved over the years.

DA MP Annelie Lotriet has questioned the appointment of Malegapuru Makgoba, vice-chancellor of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, as oversight committee chairman, and the committee membership of union leaders Zingiswa Losi and Joe Mpisi.

"The DA has serious reservations about three of these members, whose qualifications and suitability to engage in work of such a sensitive and complex nature must be questioned," said Lotriet.

Nzimande spokesman Vuyelwa Qinga said the membership of the committee is "not constituency-based" and that the minister had used his discretion in making the appointments.

"The minister has complete confidence in Professor Makgoba," Qinga said.

NZIMANDE'S TRANSFORMATION TEAM

  • Professor Malegapuru Makgoba, vice-chancellor of the University of KwaZulu-Natal and a molecular immunologist;
  • Dr Mvuyo Tom, vice-chancellor of Fort Hare University and a medical doctor. He studied at the universities of KwaZulu-Natal and Wits. He has an MSc in public policy and management from the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies;
  • Nazeem Mohamed, head of Wits University's transformation programme. Mohamed has a masters degree in higher eduction management from the University of London, with a specialisation in gender equity. She is a former transformation manager of the University of Cape Town;
  • Zingiswa Losi, union federation Cosatu's second deputy president, served in the defence force for three years. She is a former member of Cosas and of the ANC Youth League. She became a Numsa shop steward after joining car manufacturer Ford in Port Elizabeth.
  • Joe Mpisi, Nehawu's first deputy president since 2010, joined the union while a clerk at Wits Technikon and rose through the ranks.
  • Professor Andre Keet, director of the Institute for Reconciliation and Social Justice at the University of the Free State, is a former deputy CEO of the Human Rights Commission and a former commissioner of the Commission for Gender Equity;
  • Professor Shirley Walters, director of the Division for Lifelong Learning at the University of the Western Cape, is chairman of the SA Qualifications Authority.

She is also a founding member of the Development of Adult Learning Trust, a consortium of departments of adult education involved in research and development.

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