UKZN’s new chancellor defends academic and press freedom

2009-08-20 00:00

KWAZULU-NATAL Premier Dr Zweli Mkhize spoke out in defence of academic and press freedom and the responsibility of graduates to uplift poor communities at his installation as chancellor of the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) last night.

He succeeds Dr Frene Ginwala, whose term ended on June 30 this year.

The ceremony was attended by prominent national and foreign dignitaries, including Indian Consul General H.V. Shringla, Austrian Consul General S.G. Seitter, Ambassador of Panama R. Cordovez, Social Development Minister Edna Molewa, university staff, students and alumni

Mkhize said academic institutions (academics and students) cannot be quiet in the face of injustice.

“They, by virtue of their influential position, should be in the forefront in the fight for peace, justice, tolerance, campaigning for the end of conflict, freedom of association and expression and freedom of the media as these are the values of academic institutions. They should always act in the interest of the greater good of the society,” he said.

The premier added that repressive regimes tend to be fearful of criticism arising from academics and students.

He called for strong effort to be made to instil moral values among students.

“Most of the corruption, fraud and misuse of taxpayers’ money is perpetrated by products of academic institutions.”

He emphasised that, “It is the highly-regarded and highly-paid technocrat who is trained in the management of sophisticated systems of government that is often charged with corruption — not the illiterate and innumerate low-paid labourer.

“Have academic institutions relegated the issues of ethics and integrity out of the academic programme?”

Mkhize noted that research output from Africa remains weak. In 1995, Africa was responsible for 5 839 research papers, compared to Southeast Asia, which produced 15 995, and Latin America with 144 263.

He appealed to academic institutions to focus on how they can offer simpler programmes to empower ordinary communities in addition to their commitments to advanced academic training.

The new UKZN chancellor acknowledged the need to improve government financial support for students to avoid family circumstances becoming obstacles to their academic careers.

“The improvement of the quality of education at lower level is most important in improving the output from academic institutions.

“The institutions must also understand the disadvantaged background from which their catchment student population hails, if they must avoid a revolving door.”

The premier called for greater partnership between government and academic institutions for development in the country to take place.

He also dedicated himself to the service of the UKZN in its role in “the upliftment and development of the people of South Africa, our Continent and the creation of a better world order.”

The University of KwaZulu-Natal honoured 15 alumni — all cabinet ministers and KZN MECs — for distinguished achievements at a special dinner following the inauguration of the chancellor, Dr Zweli Mkhize, at the University’s Westville Campus last night. They were:

Siyabonga Cwele

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma

Malusi Gigaba

Pravin Gordhan

Trevor Manuel

Hlengiwe Mkhize

Aaron Motsoaledi

Blade Nzimande

Roy Padayachie

Joseph Phaahla

Enver Surty

Ina Cronje

Sibongiseni Dhlomo

Maggie Govender

Zweli Mkhize

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