Latest development at Jabulani

2008-12-16 00:00

It’s been two years since Witness readers were last brought up to date with the highs, and frequent lows, of Denzil Moto who is (still) a senior lecturer on the local campus of Jabulani University. They will recall that Moto’s father, Harry, led a chequered life under the apartheid regime. His family was — to all appearances — white; but he was clearly coloured. Moto, a well-respected teacher and highly qualified agriculture researcher, has experienced the opposite. He, although obviously from a disadvantaged background, is too pale for a liberated country.

By now Moto, somewhere in his mid 40s, would expect to be a professor. Last year his supportive head of department persuaded him to apply for promotion, so he polished up his impressive CV, had his suit cleaned and presented himself for an interview at the Eastdorp campus. Having been kept waiting for nearly two hours without apology (it later emerged that the equity commissar had rolled his new BMW on the way to the interviews and a substitute could not be found) he was finally summoned. To his horror, the committee chair turned out to be not the head of college, but the dreaded deputy vice-chancellor for Political Correctness and Transformational Guidance, and former dean of agronomy, Professor Shisa Amanzi.

Two years ago Amanzi had threatened Moto with disciplinary action and possible dismissal for the newly instituted offences of thinking too much and consorting with journalists. Since then Amanzi’s career had been meteoric — and controversial. The rector, recognising a kindred spirit, fast-tracked him on to the executive, a body whose attrition rate rivalled that of coach to Bafana Bafana.

Amanzi’s management record is extraordinary even by the bizarre standards of Jabulani’s executive. The university’s (acting) director of safety, Guy Chappell, had been forced to ban landlines in executive offices after Amanzi had tried to strangle a secretary with an extension cord. Amanzi resorted to throwing his cellphone instead and a succession of secretaries was sent on a military-style training course on dodging flying objects. National Occupational Safety Association subsequently removed a star from the university’s safety record, as a result of which the KwaZuma campus branch of the African National Congress Youth League demanded an investigation, accusing it of being a counter-revolutionary company.

Amanzi’s dictatorial management style attracted the derision of former colleagues elsewhere. Angered beyond reason, he sued a professor at Livingstone

University for libel after he had been accused of behaving like an apartheid-era security cop. The magistrate dismissed the case with relish, labelling Amanzi a man clearly unfit to manage a barrowload of water melons at a Saturday morning market. Amanzi rashly appealed to a higher court with the same result; except that now the judge thought retailing melons might be too exacting.

The whole exercise cost Jabulani thousands in wasted legal fees. An alert council member asked for a report on litigation, a task so vast that it caused the pale male legal advisor to suffer a nervous breakdown and take early retirement. Although re-gretting this, the rector issued a triumphal notice announcing another red letter day in the history of Jabulani: its demographics were now, according to his calculations, perfectly balanced. Exactly what this meant no one ever discovered, but the following month the university department of propaganda announced that the rector had received yet another award.

Sadly, this had not helped Moto at his interview. Fired up and ready to answer questions on research into small-scale organic farming and the work of his half dozen PhD students, Moto was amazed to see Amanzi consulting a chart clipped to his application. Well practised at reading upside down at a sequence of disciplinary hearings (all submissions had been declared highly confidential and available only to the prosecution), Moto made out the words Educon Pigmentation Chart (fifth edition) above an array of boxes coloured from ebony through chocolate to dirty white.

Comparing his chart to the latest faculty equity plan and subjecting Moto to close scrutiny, Amanzi wasted no time in uttering the words he now anticipated: application rejected. Asked for an explanation, Amanzi told Moto that this was confidential and that he would have to lodge an appeal. About a year later, after many letters and e-mails, Moto was told that he was pigmentation code 19G(i), and that his faculty already had enough of those.

He’s still at Jabulani, working hard and doing his best to contribute to academic life, but understandably demoralised. Recently, however, in an interesting twist that lifted his spirits, he was contacted by Theuns Goedgesindig of Boschendal University with an invitation to deliver their annual academic freedom lecture. The local paper ran a short news item and asked Jabulani for comment. Media spokesperson Hetty

Rathdas said that the term academic freedom was new to her, but that she would respond when the office dictionary could be found. Nothing further has been heard.

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