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Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Remains of the Social explores the post-apartheid condition

Remains of the Social is an interdisciplinary volume of essays that engages with what ‘the social’ might mean after apartheid; a condition referred to as ‘the post-apartheid social’.

The volume grapples with apartheid as a global phenomenon that extends beyond the borders of South Africa between 1948 and 1994 and foregrounds the tension between the weight of lived experience that was and is apartheid, the structures that condition that experience, and a desire for a ‘post-apartheid social’ (think unity through difference).

Collectively, the contributors argue for a recognition of the ‘the post-apartheid’ as a condition that names the labour of coming to terms with the ordering principles that apartheid both set in place and foreclosed.

The volume seeks to provide a sense of the terrain on which ‘the post-apartheid’ – as a desire for a difference that is not apartheid’s difference – unfolds, falters and is worked through.

Remains of the Social is nothing less than a kaleidoscopic critical philosophy of postapartheid as it took shape in South Africa and as it reverberated across the globe. The collection features a splendid ensemble of thinkers drawing upon a brilliant intellectual palate, including continental philosophy, psychoanalysis, contemporary critical theory, literary theory and poetics. This is political theory for the 21st century — crossing hemispheres with ease, promiscuous in its scholarly touchstones, yet disciplined and pedagogical.
– Wendy Brown, University of California, Berkeley

Gayatri Spivak, University Professor in the Humanities, Columbia University on Remains of the Social:

To translate apartheid into globality shares the problem of all translation: it is necessary yet impossible. Remains of the Social inhabits this problem brilliantly, moving from high theory to punk in Afrikaans, from the grand staging of the Moses of Michelangelo to the Moses Twebe Great Hall in subaltern Dimbaza. Again and again, I was transported into ‘a memory of the future’. In this brief comment I will mention three: the careful unpeeling of ‘empathy’, a word that plagues top-down philanthropy; the anguish of the last letters from Dimbaza to the International Defense and Aid Fund; and the murder of education as ‘the desire to learn’ recounted in the very last chapter. A witnessing book, moving and instructive.

Book details

  • Remains of the Social: Desiring the Post-Apartheid edited by Gary Minkley, Maurits van Bever Donker, Premesh Lamu, Ross Truscott
    EAN: 9781776140305
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Book launch – The Backroom Boy: Andrew Mlangeni’s Story by Mandla Mathebula


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Join the June and Andrew Mlangeni Foundation and Wits University Press for the launch of The Backroom Boy: Andrew Mlangeni’s Story on Thursday 11 May at Melrose Arch. Former president Kgalema Motlanthe will be in conversation with Mathebula. RSVP by Tuesday 9 May.

Event Details


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Grahamstown launch of The Unresolved National Question: Left Thought Under Apartheid

TheThe Labour Studies Seminar Series, in partnership with Wits University Press, the Institute for Social and Economic Research, and the Research Office, will launch The Unresolved National Question in South Africa: Left Thought under Apartheid edited by Eddie Webster and Karin Pampallis.

THE BOOK: Debates on the decolonisation of knowledge has revived interest in the National Question, which began over a century ago and remains unresolved. What “nation” means in a South Africa riven by race, class, colour, ethnicity and gender forged under capitalism has posed major challenges to progressive nationalist, liberal, socialist and feminist thought for over a century. Tensions suppressed and hidden in the past are now being openly debated again. The goal of one united nation living prosperously under a democracy remains elusive.

SPEAKERS: Mazibuko Jara (discussant), Basil Brown, Mallet Giyose, Nicole Ulrich, Robbie van Niekerk, Lucien van der Walt, Edward Webster

THE EDITORS: Eddie Webster, founder of the Society, Work and Development Institute (SWOP) at Wits University, has played a key role in South African labour studies. An award-winning scholar, with eight books and hundreds of papers and reports, he has a long history of work with the unions. He was recently awarded an honorary doctorate by Rhodes University.

Karin Pampallis is an editor and publications manager of the Hidden Voices Project located in the SWOP, supported by the National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIHSS). She authored Nelson Mandela: They Fought for Freedom (2000) and Lilian Ngoyi: They Fought for Freedom (1996, with Dianne Stewart). She worked at the Solomon Mahlangu Freedom College in Tanzania in the years of exile.

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Nigel Gibson on Lenin, Workers’ Day and national liberation

In the light of Workers’ Day, Nigel Gibson, the author of Fanonian Practices in South Africa: From Steve Biko to Abahlali baseMjondolo, wrote an opinion piece on communist revolutionary Vladimir Lenin for online publication, The Con Mag.

An extract from Gibson’s article reads:

The centenary of the Russian Revolution of 1917 is being marked in the dark days of a seemingly global counter-revolution. In the time of Recep Erdoğan, Theresa May, Narendra Modi, Vladimir Putin, Michel Temer, Donald Trump, Jacob Zuma, and all the rest, communist confidence in the future often appears as a form of faith unhinged from reality.

The philosophical foundations of that confidence lie in a reading of Hegelian dialectics considered as a triadic system of thesis-antithesis-synthesis moving toward a definite end. Marxism, it is often said, repeats the logic of this abstract system in the material realm with each epoch of production understood to be laying the basis for its negation on the march to communism.

But if there is a general sense of movement in 2017 it is in a very different direction. Amid the gloom of the present it is perhaps a propos to return to the bleak period when Lenin faced the holocaust of the First World War, and the betrayal of European social democracy. In 1914, after the Marxist parties across Europe voted in support of the imperialist war, Vladmir Lenin spent a year reading Hegel in the public library in Bern.

He discovered a critical conception of dialectic that had appealed to Marx. Rather than a synthesis of opposites, Lenin now underscored the transformation into opposite as a moving principle. He emphasized that dualities within every social formation were not only products of external pressures but also, and more importantly, internal contradictions.

Lenin wanted to understand how radical political movements and parties transform into their opposites and become chauvinist, conservative and authoritarian. The Russian revolution is not the only moment of rupture with oppression that transformed into a totalitarian society. On the contrary counter-revolution from within the revolution has been so commonplace that it almost seems like an iron law of history.

Yet we are shocked every time.

Critique is often little more than new cycles of denunciation of ‘the treason’ of new parties of liberation. There is an urgent imperative to move beyond this moralism and develop a properly philosophical-political critique of why revolution after revolution has come to mirror much of what it initially set out to oppose.

April Days

On 3 April 1917, Lenin stepped off a train, sealed by the Germans who did not want him fermenting revolution on the way, and gave a speech at the Finland Station in St Petersburg. Standing on top of an armoured car, and illuminated by a searchlight, Lenin greeted the revolutionary Russian proletariat, and the revolutionary Russian army, commending them on starting a social revolution.

He added that the proletariat of the whole world needed to turn the imperialist war into civil war.

The next day he presented what came to be called the April Theses at two meetings of the All-Russia Conference of Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies. Some members of his party thought he had become an anarchist. Apparently his wife thought he had succumbed to madness. But he continued to dismiss the mentality of the ‘old Bolsheviks’ and to upset vanguardist assumptions and dogmatic concepts. Lenin underscored the revolutionary role of the peasantry.

He insisted that the workers and peasants were vastly more revolutionary than the Marxists in the party. This was, in Marcel Liebman’s arresting phrase, the time of ‘libertarian Leninism’. Lenin insisted that the revolution could only be the product of mass insurrection and certainly not the work of a self-appointed vanguard: “we don’t want the masses to take our word for it,” Lenin argued, “we want the masses to overcome their mistakes through experience.

Continue reading ‘The Libertarian Lenin’ 100 Years On: A May Day Reflection here.

Gibson’s latest book, Fanon: Psychiatry and Politics, co-authored with Roberto Beneduce, will be published by Wits University Press later this year.


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Co-editor of Sol Plaatje’s Native Life in South Africa discusses the book on Africa Past and Present

Janet Remmington, Regional Director, Africa for Taylor & Francis/Routledge, recently discussed Sol Plaatje’s Native Life in South Africa on the African Studies Association podcast, Africa Past and Present.

First published in 1916, Sol Plaatje’s Native Life in South Africa was written by one of the South Africa’s most talented early 20th-century black leaders and journalists. Plaatje’s pioneering book arose out of an early African National Congress campaign to protest against the discriminatory 1913 Natives Land Act. Native Life vividly narrates Plaatje’s investigative journeying into South Africa’s rural heartlands to report on the effects of the Act and his involvement in the deputation to the British imperial government. At the same time it tells the bigger story of the assault on black rights and opportunities in the newly consolidated Union of South Africa – and the resistance to it.

Originally published in war-time London, but about South Africa and its place in the world, Native Life travelled far and wide, being distributed in the United States under the auspices of prominent African-American W E B Du Bois. South African editions were to follow only in the late apartheid period and beyond.
 
 
 
 
The aim of this multi-authored volume is to shed new light on how and why Native Life came into being at a critical historical juncture, and to reflect on how it can be read in relation to South Africa’s heightened challenges today. Crucial areas that come under the spotlight in this collection include land, race, history, mobility, belonging, war, the press, law, literature, language, gender, politics, and the state.

Listen to the podcast here.

Book details


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Roger Southall reviews The Rise of Africa’s Middle Classes: Myths, Realities and Critical Engagements

Roger Southall, based at the Department of Sociology, University of the Witwatersrand, and a Research Associate in Political Studies at the University of Cape Town, recently reviewed The Rise of Africa’s Middle Classes: Myths, Realities and Critical Engagements edited by Henning Melber, for Pambazuka News.

An extract from Southall’s review reads:

Institutions such as the World Bank and African Development Bank regularly propagandise that as a product of ‘Africa Rising’, the African middle class is also rising. Albeit spread unevenly across different countries, this new version African middle class is said to be becoming more prominent, more visible and more influential with the spread of market capitalism. In turn, Africanist scholarship has built upon this narrative, placing heavy emphasis upon such key issues as definition, consumption and the fragility of the ‘new’ middle classes across the continent. This book, the latest such offering amidst a burgeoning literature, confirms this trend, and is set to become a standard work of reference.

It would seem from the title of the book that the African middle class is unambiguously ‘rising’, yet that assertion is questioned by at least three of the authors. Henning Melber, in both his introduction and conclusion, takes strong issue with the rather curious income or expenditure definitions of middle class-ness adopted by the global institutions, some of which label Africans living just above the poverty line as ‘middle class’. He queries whether it is growing as fast as is usually implied, suggests that it may have declined in size since the global crisis in 2008, and wonders whether it is meaningful to refer to it as ‘middle class’. Even so, he concludes that the current engagements with ‘the phenomenon called the African middle classes(es) is anything but obsolete’ as ‘they signify modified social relations in African societies which deserve attention’ (p9). That rather lukewarm endorsement must be taken as the justification for the collection, even if the editor might usefully have impressed upon the publishers the need for a question mark in the book’s title.

The outstanding chapter in the book is offered by Carola Lentz (Ch. 1) who provides a superb overview of the literature, historical and contemporary, dealing with those groups in African societies today customarily referred to as ‘middle class’. She too bewails the poverty of definitions provided by the global institutions. However, she moves beyond that to explore the rich troves of literature dealing with the African middle classes while urging the necessity of relating this to the vast body of work dealing with middle class formation in Europe, America and the global South.

Continue reading the review here.

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An important new book on the political, economic and social effects of Marikana: New South African Review 5

The latest volume of the New South Africa Review is a testimony to how this series has established itself as an important touchstone for informed debate about South Africa’s volatile present; poised between the country’s full-fledged recolonisation by global capital, on the one hand, and attempts to revitalise resistance and a fresh struggle for a more meaningful liberation, on the other.

- John S Saul, author of A Flawed Freedom: Rethinking Southern African Liberation

New South African Review 5New South African Review 5: Beyond Marikana, edited by Devan Pillay, Gilbert M Khadiagala, Prishani Naidoo and Roger Southall, takes as its starting point the shockwave emanating from the events at Marikana on 16 August 2012 and how it has reverberated throughout politics and society:

Some of the chapters in the volume refer directly to Marikana. In others, the influence of that fateful day is pervasive if not direct. Marikana has, for instance, made us look differently at the police and at how order is imposed on society. Monique Marks and David Bruce write that the massacre “has come to hold a central place in the analysis of policing, and broader political events since 2012 …”

The chapters highlight a range of current concerns – political, economic and social. David Dickinson’s chapter looks at the life of the poor in a township from within. In contrast, the chapter on foreign policy by Garth le Pere analyses South Africa’s approach to international relations in the Mandela, Mbeki and Zuma eras. Anthony Turton’s account, “When gold mining ends”, is a chilling forecast of an impending environmental catastrophe. Both Devan Pillay and Noor Nieftagodien focus attention on the left and, in different ways, ascribe its rise to a new politics in the wake of Marikana.

The essays in Beyond Marikana present a range of topics and perspectives of interest to general readers, but the book will also be a useful work of reference for students and researchers.

CONTENTS
Introduction by Prishani Naidoo
PART 1: NEW POLITICAL DIRECTIONS?

1 Post-Marikana Reconstituting and Re-imagining the Left: Prospects and Challenges by Noor Nieftagodien
2 Labour and Community Struggles in Post-apartheid South Africa by Marcel Paret
3 The Numsa Moments and the Prospects of Left Re-vitalisation in South Africa by Devan Pillay
PART 2: ECONOMY, ECOLOGY AND LABOUR
4 The South African Economy by Samantha Ashman
5 Between a Rock and a Hard Place: State-business Relations in the South African Mining Sector by Ross Harvey
6 From Wiehahn to Marikana: The Platinum Belt Strike Wave and the Breakdown in Institutionalisation of
Industrial Conflict by Crispen Chinguno
7 Pulling a Rabbit from the Proverbial Hat: Dealing with Johannesburg’s Slow Onset Uranium Disaster
by Anthony Turton
PART 3: THE STATE AND SOCIETY
8 Constitutionalism in South Africa: An ‘Unqualified Human Good’? by Pierre de Vos
9 People’s Parliament? Do Citizens Influence South Africa’s Legislatures? by Samantha Waterhouse
10 Corruption in South Africa: Perceptions and Trends by Ivor Sarakinsky
11 Groundhog Day? Public Order Policing Twenty Years into Democracy by Monique Marks and David Bruce
12 ‘In December We Are Rich, in January We Are Poor’: Consumption, Saving, Stealing and Insecurity in the Kasi by David Dickinson
PART 4: SA IN THE INTERNATIONAL ARENA
13 The Evolution of South Africa’s Foreign Policy: A Thematic Essay by Garth le Pere
14 South Africa, the BRICS and Human Rights: In Bad Company? by Karen Smith
15 Trading with the Frienemy: How South Africa Depends on African Trade by Rod Alence

Book details

New South African ReviewNew South African Review 2New South African Review 3New South African Review 4
  • New South African Review: 2010: Development or Decline? edited by John Daniel, Prishani Naidoo, Devan Pillay, Roger Southall
    EAN: 9781868145164
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Adam Habib explains why Wits invited private security onto campus after last week’s protests

South Africa's Suspended RevolutionInguqukombuso YeNingizimu Afrika Eyabondwa YashiywaNtwa ya Boitseko e Fanyehuweng ya Afrika BorwaRewolusie op ys

 

Professor Adam Habib, vice-chancellor of Wits University and author of South Africa’s Suspended Revolution, has released a statement on the Wits Senior Executive Team’s decision to bring private security onto campus.

Last week, members of the “Fees Must Fall” movement interrupted registration for first-year students, leading to face-to-face registration being called off and students being urged to register online.

Habib says the use of private security was preferable to public order policing for a number of reasons. The use of public order police would have required a court order, he says, adding that in addition “once they are invited onto campus, one is not allowed to limit their operations or influence their tactics and strategies”.

Habib says that with private security, Wits has the power to impose limits on operations, including banning the use of guns.

Read the statement in full:

Response to critique of campus safety and security arrangements
18 January 2016 – Adam Habib

Open letter by Professor Adam Habib on behalf of the Senior Executive Team:

I write to you in my capacity as Vice-Chancellor and Principal, with the full support of the Senior Executive Team (SET).

In the past week, some of you have bluntly expressed concerns in public and directly to me about the decision of the Senior Executive Team to bring private security onto campus. For those of you who have raised these concerns, please allow me the privilege of being as bold and blunt in my response, in the interests of identifying the options that are available to us as a university community. Please also forgive me for the length of my reply, but I do think that it is necessary for everyone to comprehensively understand from where we are coming.

One of you has suggested that you cannot understand why we would have brought private security and police to the university. It would have been useful – perhaps even necessary – for this person to have determined this before pronouncing so categorically on our decision, and attempting to begin a global campaign on the issue. Nevertheless, let me provide some details. On Monday this past week a small group of students were not simply peacefully protesting and dissenting. Instead, they were actively preventing registration from taking place. They were abusive of people, threatening them, and in some cases people were locked up in their offices. There was one male protester who told a female staff member that he knows where she lives and will take her out. In addition, I received a number of written requests, including one from a student leader expressing fear about being violently targeted by the protesters. These actions represented ‘violations of rights’ and the abuse of other members of our university community. These actions and countless others by the protesters forced us to bring an end to face-to-face registration.

Consequences of postponement of registration

Let me explain the net effect of stopping the registration process. We have two forms of registration, online and face-to-face, with telephone registration as a back-up to be instituted when required. Forcing us to cancel face-to-face registration adversely affected the poorest of those who wanted to register. Online registration enabled the middle and upper middle classes to continue with the process. They have online facilities and they have credit cards. They were not adversely affected, even if some may have been slightly inconvenienced. But the old man from Limpopo, who scraped whatever monies he could raise from family, friends and his community to ensure that his grandson registered, was severely impacted. He and his grandson travelled for hours, only to be told that he could not register because some group of activists had decided that they would shut down registration unless all historic debt had been cancelled and free education immediately granted. There were many such people on that day, and there were many more throughout the week. All attempts to get protesters to allow the registration to proceed came to naught.

Protecting the rights of all

Were this grandfather and his grandson, as well as the countless others, not victims? Do they not require our sympathy and outrage? Do they not require our best institutional support to register and embark on an academic career? I have heard some academics express unhappiness at our use of private security both now and at the end of last year, but I have never heard any of these same academics express public outrage at the violation of the rights of others – whether those be the staff member whose life is threatened, the ill staff member who could not make a doctor’s appointment to obtain medication for a life threatening disease, or other student leaders who have been threatened and now feel silenced and unsafe. Are these not also members of our University community? Do we decide to ignore them simply because they do not carry the correct ideological line? Maybe it has to do with the fact that these individuals do not figure prominently within our networks or community, from whom we draw political affirmation. Is this why some of us are not concerned about their rights?

For those who have raised the security concerns, the challenge that we believe you need to consider is: how would you have enabled the grandfather from Limpopo to register his grandson? How else would you have protected the staff members and students that were being harassed and threatened? In fact, we are aware that some concluded in private conversations that took place regarding the security arrangements that they did not know what should be done and had no alternatives to suggest. Nevertheless, they still remain opposed to the security arrangements that have been made. The net effect of this position is that the poor student must be denied the right to register, and that the interests of staff and students who have been threatened should be ignored.

We are aware that this view is reflected by a minority of our academic colleagues only. The vast majority of our academic and professional and administrative staff have expressed support for our actions and we have the emails and correspondence to prove this. We know the typical response to this: they are seen as conservatives, opposed to the transformation of the University. Is this response not a tad arrogant? Should we allocate ourselves the right to label all those we disagree with as conservatives? And even if they are conservatives, why should their rights not be protected by the university like those of all others?

Decisions around security arrangements

I want to assure you that we did not make the security arrangements lightly. I understand the disempowerment that one experiences from security arrangements that are outside of one’s control. I probably understand this more than many colleagues because I personally experienced what it meant to be imprisoned under state of emergency conditions. I experienced what it meant to be in solitary confinement, to be interrogated and to feel the fear that you may not see your loved ones again. I understand what it means to be deported by a foreign government without any just cause, or to be strip-searched in an airport in another country. I understand about being disempowered by arbitrary security actions. Other colleagues on the executive have had similar harsh experiences. Professor Tawana Kupe lived in Zimbabwe and has an acute understanding of the arbitrary use of power. Professor Zeblon Vilakazi grew up in Katlehong and has very real personal experiences of arbitrary violence. This is why we collectively would not make decisions like this lightly.

I also want to assure those who are concerned that claims that security assaulted students are untrue. We have viewed the video footage of last week’s events and we have not found anything that supports these claims. On the contrary, there is video footage in which students can be seen to be engaging in threatening activities against security.

Many have asked why private security was brought in and not public order policing? The answer is simple: public order police would have immediately required a court order to become operational on campus. More importantly, once they are invited onto campus, one is not allowed to limit their operations or influence their tactics and strategies. With private security, such limitations can be imposed. We have insisted that no guns must be used in any operations. We therefore decided to deploy private security on campus, with public order police on standby. For those who were worried about this arrangement, would they have preferred that we brought the public order police onto campus immediately? Would that not have allowed for the use of rubber bullets and other actions as have happened in other university settings in recent weeks? Or would they have preferred that we simply have no one, and deny protection to both the staff members and students who were threatened and the grandfather from Limpopo who wanted to register his grandson?

Some may ask why we did not use our own campus security? This answer is also simple: they are not sufficiently trained for this scale of protest. We could bring in a more adequately trained campus security team but do we truly want a ‘militarised’ campus all year round when this scale of security and protection is not required? Does it not make sense to use the campus security that we have – perhaps more efficient and better trained – and bring in the enhanced security arrangements as and when they are required? This was the case this week and given this, we simply cannot accede to the request of some to remove our security arrangements, at least until we are guaranteed that registration will continue without disruption and that the safety and security of all staff and students will not be threatened.

Some of you have also requested that we should publish the contracts with the security companies, including the associated financial costs. We are not averse to making these contracts available at the appropriate time given that we are a public university. This information should be received bearing in mind that we have to balance our expenses on security with the academic, financial and reputational consequences of not having had any. It is also worth noting that a significant portion of the associated costs of our security arrangements may be covered by our insurance cover

Complacency around violence

I should perhaps sign off now that I have responded to the immediate issues, but I beg your indulgence to also raise some related matters. Many academics, now and before, have been involved in solidarity actions around the student and worker protests. This is legitimate and should be respected and valued at a university such as Wits. All of these individuals have also been critical of the executive’s decisions around the management of this protest and our willingness to accede to the demands. Again this is their right. At some point we need to engage on how we understand social action and how social outcomes are realised; the balance to be struck between protest and institutional engagement; the necessity of trade-offs and who should be responsible for these; and our response on the rise of racial essentialism within the midst of the protesting community. But those are debates for another time

More immediately, I want to engage all of you on the complacency of some regarding violence or the threat of it within our protesting communities, and the political project of some actors to delegitimise institutional structures and replace them with revolutionary alternatives.

Many have stood firm against the presence of private security and public order police on campus, but have been shockingly sanguine about violence within the community of protesters. Many have simply turned a blind eye to violence or threats thereof, and some have even advocated violence as a legitimate means in a revolutionary moment. Really? At a university? In this moment, in a democratic era, whatever our criticisms of it? Is there not a romanticising of violence by middle class activists and academics? Have we truly considered the consequences of allowing violence to prevail within our community? I worked in the townships around Pietermaritzburg – Mpophomeni, Sobantu, Imbali and Edendale – at the height of the ANC-Inkatha wars in the 1980s. The near civil war decimated the communities and undermined the possibility of any egalitarian project. If this is true of communities under economic pressure, how much more is it true of the University itself which is meant to be a free and safe space for all ideas? Can we truly extrapolate that because of the presence of structural violence as a result of neoliberalism and racial exclusion, personal violence can now be justified both within and outside of a university community? Even if one holds this view, is one not in violation of one’s implicit and explicit social compact with the University community to protect all within it, and its broader project of learning?

For many, these protests are a struggle for free education for the poor. This is a legitimate struggle, as I and many of the Wits executive have so often argued. But many are also aware that for some, this struggle is more than that. It is a means to achieve other political ends, whether those are constructed around the upcoming elections, or to create a systemic crisis that collapses the Zuma administration. Again, those agendas are legitimate and allowed in a democratic environment dependent on how they are undertaken

I have personally also been publicly critical of this government, probably more than most have. However, as Vice-Chancellor of this institution, it is my responsibility to ensure that this University survives intellectually and is not a casualty in a broader political struggle within the society. Our individual social contracts with the University and with the broader academy are to protect the academic community and the learning project itself, whatever our other political agendas. We cannot sacrifice this institution or this academic project to the vagaries of our other political agendas. This is what governs our actions as an executive.

The need to learn from past mistakes

Some may know that I worked at UDW in the 1990s. I was a general secretary of the union movement and an integral member of the concerned academic group. I, like some of you today, took positions against private security on campus, and to be fair, I too was sanguine about the violence perpetrated by the protesters and dissidents with whom I associated. Then too, a moment emerged when some believed that they could replace the university structures with revolutionary alternatives, where non-violence was a bourgeois distraction, and where the university could be sacrificed to the broader political project for egalitarianism. Then too, colleagues ignored the capability and legitimacy of the state to respond. I did not believe in and was not comfortable with the tactics used, although I must say that I did share (and still do) the commitment to the broader project of egalitarianism and free education for the poor. However, even though I was uncomfortable with the strategies and tactics, I was complacent about the violence and did not firmly enough register my opposition. Eventually the protesters did bring the university to a standstill through violence or the threat thereof. They did try to replace its statutory structures – the SRC, management, Senate and Council – with revolutionary alternatives. In the end, the state did move in, acted against the protesters and brought back stability to the campus. But the damage had been done. The university was intellectually decimated as its top students and academics had abandoned it. The middle and upper middle class student and academic activists, some with trust funds, slunk away. Some of the academics with second passports simply moved back to their home countries. By the time I left, the Faculty of Humanities had a single professor, who served as dean. The real casualties of this experiment were not the activists and academics who had romanticised violence, even though some of them individually suffered. It was the poor black students who had no other alternative but to continue to go to that university.

This is the real fear I have. I vowed then never to repeat that mistake. I will never remain silent and allow a culture of violence and ungovernability to prevail within an institution of learning. I will never remain silent when a university and its learning project is being sacrificed to broader political goals, however attractive they may be. I learnt then, through hard experience, the real responsibility of the academic in a transforming university.

Preventing an egalitarianism of poverty

I urge you to consider one other point. Many of us had the privilege to study in the universities of North America or Western Europe, some even in the Ivy leagues like Chicago and Yale. But if we are to address the inequalities of our world, including those in the academy, then it is essential that we establish our own research intensive universities. Wits should be one of these, not only because of our strong intellectual legacy, but also because of the fact that we are far more demographically representative than any of our research intensive peers. For us to succeed in our research intensive goals, however, we need to protect this institution as we navigate the current turbulent political times. We need to ensure that we make decisions and undertake trade-offs that do not unravel the foundations of our research intensive capabilities. We must not pursue a strategy of realising an egalitarianism of poverty for it would reinforce the very inequalities of our world. To avoid this, it is important to know our history, especially in higher education. It is important to learn about our experiments, failed and successful, at transformation and institutional reform. It is important to know this simply so that we can collectively learn from the mistakes of our past. I have seen some of the proposals recommending institutional reform, and I was struck by how often they seemed ignorant of our past experiments and de-contextualized from our realities.

Finally, the issues facing the entire university system are access and funding. These cannot be resolved immediately and independently by Wits as an institution. We do not have the resources to do so. The issue needs to be dealt with in a coordinated way – involving students and management and other actors in the national system. The current strategy of shutting down the University is, in our view, detrimental to the task of building a transformed and academically excellent institution. While we support the overall aims and want to build a powerful alliance, the current strategy is not one that the University management can support. While we respect and will protect the right to protest, at the same time we have to ensure that the University is able to continue with its core activities. This is our responsibility. There will be times when protesters embark on actions that challenge the functioning of the University in ways that have far-reaching effects. We then have the unenviable task of making difficult decisions in order to protect the rights of all students but particularly the poorest students who cannot afford the loss of the academic calendar. We have to facilitate access of all students to the University, even while protest unfolds.

I urge you to think through some of these issues, and I would be happy to engage further with any of you should you want to do so.

Professor Adam Habib on behalf of the Senior Executive Team of the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

17 January 2016

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“I think Zuma is going to be with us long after he has left office” – Susan Booysen in The Economist

Dominance and DeclineThe Economist refers to Dominance and Decline: The ANC in the Time of Zuma by Susan Booysen in an article speculating on the next president of South Africa.

The Economist names Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Cyril Ramaphosa as likely successors to Zuma’s throne.

Ramaphosa is described as having “a sober, Mr Fix-It reputation”, but The Economist believes he would have to build support “softly-softly”.

Dlamini-Zuma, on the other hand, is criticised for her record in government, as health minister, foreign minister and home minister.

The Economist quotes Booysen’s opinion on the tenacity of Zuma’s presidential legacy:

Ms Dlamini-Zuma has said nothing publicly about what she might do if she becomes president. Susan Booysen, author of the book “Dominance and Decline: The ANC in the Time of Zuma”, predicts that she would be much like her ex-husband. That worries liberals, who fret that Mr Zuma has undermined institutions that check presidential power and tolerated widespread corruption. “I think Zuma is going to be with us long after he has actually left office,” says Ms Booysen.

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“The ANC is Not at the Point of Collapsing” – Susan Booysen at the Launch of Dominance and Decline

Susan Booysen

The launch of Dominance and Decline: The ANC in the Time of Zuma by Susan Booysen, political analyst, media commentator and academic in the Wits School of Governance, was another excellent event held at The Book Lounge in November. The author was joined by Judith February, a senior research associate at the Institute for Security Studies, in an insightful discussion on the contemporary political scenario.

February reflected on Booysen’s first book, The African National Congress and the Regeneration of Political Power, and wondered whether Booysen seemed a little less upbeat in her latest publication about the ANC’s prospects for regenerating itself.

Susan BooysenDominance and DeclineBooysen started writing her first book in 2009 shortly after the election that brought Jacob Zuma to power. She had been taken up with the promise of regeneration, the need to reconnect with the people of the ANC that had been lost under Thabo Mbeki. Yet, as the first drafts of that book took shape, she found herself revising substantially and taking stock of what was materialising.

Dominance and Decline was initially going to be a second edition of Booysen’s first book, to be completed during a sabbatical, but it became a sequel. Booysen says she realised that this period of Zuma’s dominance over the ANC was becoming very tangible with multiple effects on the ruling party and on the citizens of the country. “The trends were there. Little details were continuously being filled in. As I finalised this book I was holding my breath, wondering if there was going to be some definitive event that would change my analysis.”

February articulated the inherent contradiction of the ANC which is both dominant and in decline. She invited Booysen to comment on the paradoxical fragility and strength.

Booysen observed that one cannot get away from the ultimate electoral verdicts and the immense power of its electoral campaigns. “Courtesy of those elections it still maintains – despite the decline and the damage it has sustained to its fibre – very close to a 40 percent point edge over its closest opposition, and that is immense. It is incredibly dominant. It is so well entrenched in state power, to the extent that it will be difficult if the ANC loses electoral power, even if it is 40 percentage points away at last count, to dislodge it from power,” she said.

Booysen continued: “So much happens in the student revolts around us. Each time one of these events happens, like when the EFF forms, there’s a little chip that falls off the sturdy ANC block. But the block remains even though the block has feet of clay. It is not at a point of collapsing.”

 

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Liesl Jobson (@LieslJobson) live tweeted the event using #livebooks:


 

 

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