UKZN embroiled in racism fracas

2017-01-15 06:01
Professor Albert van Jaarsveld.

Professor Albert van Jaarsveld.

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Durban - The University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) should suspend and initiate incapacity proceedings against five senior academics who accused the institution’s vice-chancellor of incompetence and racism.

This is a recommendation contained in a report written by Advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza, who was appointed by the university’s council in December 2015 to investigate allegations against Professor Albert van Jaarsveld.

In their letter to university chancellor Ayanda Ntsaluba, the seven said their working relationship with Van Jaarsveld had broken down.

“We are yet to see any transformation project led by him or to hear anything about his plans to drive transformation at the university,” they wrote.

“There is a complete breakdown of trust in the executive management committee. We have no trust in the vice-chancellor and he has no trust in us. We do not believe that we can continue to work under his leadership.

“He takes criticism personally and has demonstrated a total lack of ability to lead a diverse university such as UKZN.”

Three university council members told City Press a few days ago that Ntsebeza’s report, which was finalised last month, had cleared Van Jaarsveld of all the charges against him.

“Instead, [Ntsebeza] has turned the tables on the complainants and is recommending that they be fired. I have never seen something like's complete madness,” said one council member who asked not to be named.

“It’s like they are being sanctioned for complaining. The report has found that the source of the problems is the complainants and not the vice-chancellor. It has also found that they are incompatible with the vice-chancellor.”

Black executives

In November 2015, seven members of the university’s executive management committee wrote a five-page letter of complaint to the university council, outlining 11 allegations against Van Jaarsveld.

The seven include four out of seven of the university’s deputy vice-chancellors: humanities head Professor Cheryl Potgieter, head of agriculture, engineering and science Professor Deo Jaganyi, law and management studies head Professor John Mubangizi, and respected academic and head of teaching and learning at the university Professor Renuka Vithal.

They also include executive director for corporate affairs Lesiba Seshoka as well as two staff members who have since left the institution: former chief financial officer Bulelani Mahlangu and student affairs executive director Dr Sibusiso Chalufu.

UKZN chancellor Ayanda Ntsaluba did not respond to questions sent on Friday morning.

A council member sympathetic to Van Jaarsveld said many people would be surprised by Ntsebeza’s report which held former vice-chancellor Professor Malegapuru Makgoba, who left the institution in 2015, “partly responsible” for the disputes between the black executives and his successor.

“The report concludes that Makgoba appeared not to support Van Jaarsveld’s appointment,” the council member said, adding that Makgoba allegedly told unions on campus that when Van Jaarsveld took up the position, “they should take him on”.

The report also found that Makgoba sent a text message to one of the complainants, expressing the view that white people in general have a deep rooted hatred for Africans. Makgoba was not available for comment.

One of the allegations the seven detailed in their letter was that Van Jaarsveld decided to exclude Mubangizi, the head of the university’s business school, from a “whites only” steering committee which Van Jaarsveld had established to look into the relocation of the university’s business school from Westville to Umhlanga.

In their letter, the seven executives alleged that Van Jaarsveld excluded Mubangizi so as not to “scare off the team of whites-only investors” who were going to finance the construction of the new business school campus.

The proposed relocation of the R300 million business school to Umhlanga is causing a lot of strife among university management, said another council member, adding that many believed it was unwise to move a “no-name brand of a business school to Umhlanga to compete with the University of Pretoria’s Gordon Institute of Business Science”.

“The deputy vice-chancellors and executives which Ntsebeza has recommended for suspension are opposed to the relocation of the business school,” said another council member.

“What is more worrying is that the relocation of the school will be handled via the UKZN Foundation” – which is the fundraising arm of the university.

City Press understands that Ntsebeza’s report deals with further racism allegations against Van Jaarsveld.

During hearings which Ntsebeza chaired into the matter, he was told that Van Jaarsveld held two heated meetings with black executives in December 2015 and January 2016. The black executives accused Van Jaarsveld of changing his WhatsApp profile picture to that of two monkeys with the caption “monkey business”, which the executives interpreted as his being racist towards them.

But Ntsebeza found that the picture could not be interpreted to be racist because Van Jaarsveld posted it to his WhatsApp profile before the meeting took place.

UKZN is one of South Africa’s top universities. In 2015 at the end of Makgoba’s tenure, the department of higher education and training declared it the most transformed university in the country. It was also rated the top research institution in the country for three consecutive years.


Do you believe that racism is rife at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and influences its appointments?

SMS us on 35697 using the keyword UKZN and tell us what you think. Please include your name and province. SMSes cost R1.50

Read more on:    dumisa ntsebeza  |  ukzn  |  racism

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Inside News24

Competition regulation for a growing and inclusive economy

ADVERTORIAL: The Competition Commission of South Africa is conducting advocacy work in the South African automotive aftermarket industry and has gazetted a Draft Code of Conduct for public comment.


Man scores date with tennis superstar after Twitter bet

It’s a modern day Cinderella story, but one American man took ‘shoot your shot’ seriously in 2017.


You won't want to miss...

6 myths about male cancer
Who are the highest paid models of 2017?
10 gorgeous plus-sized models who aren't Ashley Graham
5 top leg exercises for men
Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.