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UCT black academics call on Blade to establish panel to probe allegations of racism

UCT black academics call on Blade to establish panel to probe allegations of racism

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University of Cape Town (UCT) professor, Dr Tiri Chinyoka, has claimed that issues of racism are being swept under the rug at the world-renowned university.

Chinyoka, who represents black academics and staffers at UCT, says that he is in the process of taking the matter up with Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande.

He said only an independent commission appointed by the minister could solve issues of racism that have allegedly been going on for years at UCT.

In 2020, the UCT ombud reported that more than 30 employees of the university had in the past complained to the vice-chancellor, Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng, that they were being “bullied, silenced, undermined, rebuked, and/or treated unfairly”.

Chinyoka was speaking during an interview with Thabo Mdluli on Newzroom Afrika following media reports that black academics and staff were fed up with alleged racism at the institution.

He said they want Nzimande to set up an independent commission of inquiry to probe these allegations, as any probe initiated by the senate and university council would be self-defeating.

“We stand by our assertion that there is a governance dysfunction at UCT. These structures are proposing two contradictory motions to the university council. That is why we want the minister to intervene because there seems to be confusion coming from the senate, which is now creeping into the university council. Now we have factions in the university council who are now running to the media. We want the minister to intervene because the university is in crisis,” he said.

Chinyoka said the findings of the inquiry panel established by a resolution of the UCT council on September 10, 2018, in the aftermath of Professor Bongani Mayosi’s death by suicide on July 27, 2018, have not been implemented, and thus only an independent commission by the minister can help solve issues facing black academics and staffers at UCT. He said even the probe into issues of alleged racism affecting student housing has not changed material and structural conditions at the university.

In 2016, there was a protest by about 30 students who erected a corrugated iron shack on the university campus in protest against a student accommodation shortage.

“Both these two previous commissions revealed that the UCT is bedevilled by institutional structural racism; the Mayosi commission and the Shaksville commission both found similarly that the issues of racism at the UCT are structural in nature,” he said.

According to a UCT memo, on October 15, the university council met to discuss governance and racism-related issues, and the institution undertook to establish a panel of five independent members to investigate key matters relating to the recent developments, including the circumstances related to resignations within and beyond the UCT executive management team.

The university was not available for comment at the time of going to print.

Speaking to The Star, Department of Higher Education spokesperson Ishmael Mnisi said he was not aware of a letter or complaints from black UCT staffers.

“The department and the minister are not aware of such a letter from UCT staffers and academics. We will be on the lookout and we will check with other colleagues to see if they have received such a letter. Should these claims be true, we will be able to even take it further as well because it is important to establish what is happening internally,” Mnisi said.

The Star

Original Article

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