Prof takes on UKZN

2013-10-10 00:00

A TOP KwaZulu-Natal academic has written to the minister of Higher Education asking him to stop the “marginalisation of South African-born black African academics”.

Professor Bonke Dumisa from the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) has written a letter to Minister Blade Nzimande, requesting him to intervene.

However, the university has denied that this is happening and said foreigners are only a small percentage of the staff.

In the letter seen by The Witness, Dumisa, from the School of Management IT and Governance at UKZN, said there were serious problems at the university “that I just cannot leave unattended, especially because of some reactionary forces’ endeavours to irritate me/marginalise me/squeeze me out of UKZN”.

Dumisa is leaving the academic world next year to work full-time as an attorney here and in Lesotho.

Dumisa is an executive chairman and co-founder of Dumisa Invest and holds various qualifications from local and international institutions.

He said he is prepared to give Nzimande two weeks to respond to his letter, after handing it over to him personally on Tuesday.

Dumisa said there were many South African-born black African academics who were very unhappy and felt unwanted.

“The situation is explosive, your ministry can ignore it at South Africa’s peril. It is my considered opinion that a formal committee of enquiry be tasked to investigate this matter,” he wrote in the letter to the minister.

He said he will legally take UKZN on and win whatever disputes he has with the institution.

“I now teach at UKZN, in my country where I spent 395 days of my teenage days in political detention in order to achieve this political freedom, and I find myself and all black South African academics being an endangered species who are the doormat of all and sundry,” he wrote.

Dumisa insists he is not racist or xenophobic.

He said he was charged with misconduct due to the sabbatical leave he took last year in order to do pupilage and also to conduct research, despite the fact that his head of department supported him and that the sabbatical was approved.

He says this is becoming a trend at the university for especially black academics to be charged with misconduct.

Dumisa believes it is a plot to destroy his “brand” before he exits the institution.

He said he hopes to see these issues being raised, but added that there were no platforms to raise them.

“This is not healthy. I’m leaving but what about those who will be left behind?” he asked.

Nzimande’s spokesperson Kefilwe Makhanya was not available by the time of going to press.

UKZN’s executive director for human resources, Dr Mojaki Mosia, confirmed that Dumisa faces an internal disciplinary inquiry relating to the violation of rules that pertain to sabbatical leave.

Mosai said full professors are required to obtain 150 productivity units per annum, but during the period 2004 to 2011 Dumisa’s research productivity was zero. “He obtained eight productivity units in 2012 for coursework Masters’ degree supervision.”

He said Dumisa’s statements were spurious and defamatory.

He said their policies clearly state that the university is committed to attracting, rewarding and retaining academic staff of outstanding quality that perform in ways that contribute to its reputation nationally and internationally.

He said there was a university ombud office and conflict resolution for staff grievances.

“We are unaware of any complaints by black South African-born academics of harassment or unfair practice at the university,” Mosai said, adding that foreign nationals make up six percent of the university’s academic staff profile.

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