Transformation about 'changing a space' as well - UCT vice-chancellor

Cape Town - Transformation is not just about employment equity, but also about transforming the "space", prof. Mamokgethi Phakeng, vice-chancellor of the University of Cape Town, said on Friday at the Africa Women Innovation & Entrepreneurship Forum.

"It is not enough just to bring people in, they must also feel at home in the space. Often in this country when we talk about transformation, we talk about correcting the imbalances of the past. The fact that we are not happy with the present is OK, but the truth is we also have a future and that is why we talk about transformation," she said.

"We need transformation because it enables us to do much more. If transformation drives an institution it makes available strengths it never knew existed or thought it needed before. Sometimes a crisis - like the Rhodes Must Fall and Fees Must Fall campaigns - is just an important bump that forces us to look at transforming our space."

She said sometimes a crisis forces spaces and companies in SA to be transformed and for "things that are not comfortable" to be confronted.

"What happens if they employ more people with kinky hair, but then find other things they do not like about them - like their values? I think when it comes to transformation we have to look at what else we want from that person," said Phakeng.

"Transformation must not only be about wanting black people. Black people bring much more than just the colour of their skin. They have to be comfortable to know they were hired for their talent."

She emphasised that it is "not just about hiring any black person you see in the street". That is not transformation. It is about creating an environment where those you do hire can excel.

"I expect excellence from everybody. We create an environment where they can run and I then say 'now let's run'. For me that is transformation with integrity where people with a disadvantaged background are respected despite their gender or race," she explained.

"I don't want a job where I am hired just because I am a woman or because I am black. I offer much more than that. Transformation should not be done because we are feeling guilty or because government wants it. We must want to drive transformation because excellence without transformation is not sustainable and will then always be undermined due to a history such as ours."

For her driving transformation is ultimately about ensuring a sustainable future.

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