Prof Loyiso Nongxa has been appointed as vice-president of a top maths organisation (more…)
By Nokuthula Manyathi, Emelia Motsai and Shandukani Mulaudzi
Professor Adam Habib was officially installed as Wits vice chancellor and principal on Saturday. Habib took over the position from Prof Loyiso Nongxa at the beginning of June. Before moving to Wits Habib was deputy vice-chancellor for research,innovation, library and faculty Coordination at the University of Johannesburg (UJ).
Guests at the event included Moeletsi Mbeki, George Bizos, Mamphela Ramphele, Given Mkhari and Ahmad Kathrada. Habib’s wife Fatima and their two sons were also present.
Guests were treated to a cocktail party on the library lawns after the installation.
The Wits Student Representative Council (SRC) is pulling out all the stops to get misconduct charges dropped that could result in the dissolution of the SRC.
The incident under scrutiny relates to the disruption of a musical recital by the Israeli born pianist Yossi Reshef. The disruption was part of a protest during Israeli Apartheid Week. Nine members of the executive of the SRC are charged for not going through proper processes for protests, creating a hostile environment and refusing to obey orders from the university.
These are among other charges such as pushing members of university security, aggressively stomping feet, shouting, chanting, failing to respect the rights and freedom of the attendees at the concert. In addition, they “demeaned and/or humiliated and/or created an environment of intolerance”.
SRC president, Sibulele Mgudlwa said: “According to the SRC constitution if you are found guilty, then you can’t be a member of the SRC.”
Outgoing Vice Chancellor Loyiso Nongxa, issued a statement saying senior counsel has been appointed to act in lieu of a student discipline committee to chair the hearing, and to carry out all of its functions. And “as such, he or she will make a decision as to whether or not to publish details of the disciplinary proceedings”.[pullquote]“It’s just an environment that is not conducive to student governance.” [/pullquote]
Nongxa said if someone is found guilty, the person presiding decides on “the appropriate sanction”.
The SRC as a whole could not be disbanded, but it will work on a “case by case” basis. If enough members are found guilty and asked to step down, re-elections could be held or the vice chancellor can appoint a temporary SRC council.
SRC Vice President External, Joy Phiri said: “Finding a guilty verdict directly suggests that it is inappropriate for student leaders to fight just causes and that in itself is a negative message that I don’t think the university wants to tag along to.”
Phiri said that the charged members would take all the legal recourse in their power. SRC vice president internal , Tokelo Nhlapo suggested that they won’t just step down but will appeal the case.
Mgudlwa said: “It’s an intimidating experience and it really hampers how you do your job.” He added that students come and ask for assistance but between assisting students, the SRC have to address the charges, organize protests, put together press releases and organize responses.
It’s just an environment that is not conducive to student governance.”
If there was an emergency SRC, it would take a whole month to organise as new nominations of candidates have to be called for, as well as submissions and manifestos.
The university has to check whether the students are registered students at Wits and if they are legitimate and credible candidates. After the nominations have been approved, the circuses and the voting process would follow.
It now has more than 100 endorsements to call for the university to drop the charges against them. The endorsements come from a range of organisations including the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and South African Students Congress (Sasco).
ELEVEN members of the Wits community, including eight SRC members, have been charged for disrupting the performance of an Israeli-born pianist.
“The university can confirm that it has charged 11 members of the Wits community for a possible contravention of the university’s codes of conduct,” read a statement issued by Vice Chancellor Prof Loyiso Nongxa.
SRC Internal Vice President Tokelo Nhlapo said eight of the 11 people are SRC members. Five of those SRC members charged are also part of the executive: President Sibulele Mgudlwa, External Vice President Joy Phiri, Secretary Tasneem Essop, Treasurer Justice Nkomo.
Nhlapo is also a member of the SRC executive and is among those charged.
Nhlapo said members of the Palestinian solidarity movement on campus had also been charged.
Nongxa said the matter would not go before a Student Disciplinary Committee and, instead, senior counsel had been appointed “to chair the hearing, and to carry out all of its functions and to exercise all its powers.”
The vice chancellor said the university did not want to make any judgement about the outcome of the investigations as the legal process needs to take its course.
The disciplinary proceedings are the result of a protest during a March 12 performance by Yossi Reshef, a pianist who was born in Israel. Members of the Progressive Youth Alliance, Muslim Students Alliance, Wits Palestinian Solidarity Committee and the SRC entered the venue singing songs, blowing vuvuzelas and brought the concert to a halt.
Nhlapo said the charges against them were without basis and were “in the interest of racism of Zionism.”
“Not only is the university threatening us with charges but doing so in the interest of racism and Zionism. Legal office has become a political tool in which Nongxa and his cronies can continue to sing and play pianos while Palestinians die,” said Nhlapo.
He claimed the charges had come only after the SRC complained of racial profiling at the concert.
“Only white people were allowed into the venue and our colleague who had bought tickets was not allowed in because she was Indian and presumed Muslim,” said Nhlapo.
He said the protestors had been called names such as “barbarians, terrorists and many other degrading terms by the organisers of the event.”
THE NEW vice chancellor of Wits, Professor Adam Habib, said Witsies are in for “one hell of a ride” when he officially takes up the university’s top job in June 2013.
Habib was offered the position in December of last year and takes over from Professor Loyiso Nongxa, who is ending a 10-year tenure.
Growing up in Pietermaritzburg, Kwa- Zulu Natal, Habib was imprisoned for his political activism in the labour movement in the 1980s. He said he had not lost his activist roots just because he was now in a nice office in management.
“I see management as part of my activism,” said Habib.
Habib outlined his vital goals as transforming Wits to create critical citizens that are both African and cosmopolitan, achieving cutting-edge research and providing a way out of poverty for the country’s brightest students.
“Those are for me activist goals, they’re not managerial and administrative goals,” said Habib.
Habib is currently the deputy vice-chancellor for research, postgraduate studies and the library at the University of Johannesburg. Often appearing in the media commenting on a range of issues, Habib has become a recognisable face in South Africa.
During the selection process for Wits vice chancellor, Habib became a favourite among the three short-listed candidates with various media predicting his triumph.
Last year the Mail & Guardian reported that a source close to the process said the delegation was leaning towards Habib because the university needed “a new lease on life” and had faith that he could bring change to the university.
Habib emphasised that for change to happen he needs the help of the whole Wits community. He said Wits is a great institution that has the capacity to go world-class but he could not single-handedly make the necessary changes to achieve this goal.
Habib arrives at Wits after numerous showdowns between management, staff and students that culminated in many strikes in the last couple of years. Habib said he was aware of some of the “huge tensions” at Wits. He plans to prioritise meetings in the Wits community so he can get a better understanding of the issues.
Speaking at Wits in November, Habib said he wanted to focus on increasing incentives in order for Wits to retain its staff and to make Wits into an institution that was “global but not foreign”.
Habib emphasised the need for a “university pact” that can encourage “a shared vision and sacrifice but for shared gains”.
The Chairperson of Wits Council, Sakumzi Macozoma, who also chaired the selection committee, said in a press release: “We believe [Habib] has the capacity, professionalism, and credentials to lead Wits into the future.”
After a three month transitional period that starts in March 2013, Habib will take over formally from Nongxa, who was the university’s first black vice-chancellor, in June 2013.
Nongxa said he believed Habib’s goals were in line with the goals that Wits has outlined in the 2020 vision and that he believes he will be a great leader for the university.
A colleague of Habib’s from UJ, Professor Angina Parekh, said she wished him well and affirmed Habib had an ingrained activism.
Parekh said although Habib had a caring side he was a “tough debator” and those in discussions with him would have to stand their ground.
Published in Wits Vuvuzela 1st edition, 6th February 2013
The dispute between Wits management and unions is not a short-term fix, and should be addressed “very consciously and deliberately” by incoming members of the Senior Executive Team, according to Prof Rob Moore.
The Deputy Vice Chancellor (DVC): Advancement and Partnerships was speaking at a Leadership Forum, organised by the Academic Staff Association of Wits University (ASAWU) on Monday, to debate the type of leadership needed at Wits.
Vice Chancellor Prof Loyiso Nongxa will end his extended five-year term in May 2013, and his post has been advertised as a vacancy.
Speaking in his personal capacity, Moore said the dispute had created a stressful time, but it was commendable that academics could have heated debates with management in Senate meetings, and still enjoy tea and sandwiches “in a perfectly amiable manner at tea time”.
Witsies at the forum said the new members of the SET needed to focus as much on the practical needs of the university as they would on strategic planning.
Pontsho Pilane, 1st year BA, said the ideal vice chancellor was someone who had been a student and a lecturer long enough to know what the “gist” of Wits was.
“We need a leader who values the fact that the academic staff and students run the university, and if it wasn’t for them, there wouldn’t be a Wits University.”
The race is on
Short-listed candidates for the DVC: Academic post delivered public presentations on Tuesday.
Prof Kuzvinetsa Dzvimbo, currently Executive Dean of the College of Education at the University of South Africa, said he was “very, very” interested in having a childcare facility for staff use on campus: a joint demand by Wits’ three unions in the current dispute.
Dzvimbo, who holds degrees from Sierra Leonean and Nigerian universities, said Wits needed to strengthen its relationships with other universities on the continent.
Prof Tahir Pillay, former Deputy Vice Chancellor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, said Wits must also look eastwards, and not forget that all of the top 100 universities are not in Europe and North America.
Prof Andrew Crouch, Dean of Science, said Wits was nearing the end of a phase of heavy infrastructural investment (R1.5bn in the past few years), and needed to build “academic proficiency on top of that infrastructure”.
There has been no resolution to the dispute between Wits management and unions, and the Academic and Support Staff Association of Wits University (ASAWU) has announced another one-day strike.
Last minute negotiations between management and the Academic and Support Staff Association of Wits University (ASAWU), National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (NEHAWU) and the Administration, Library and Technical Staff Association (ALTSA), to prevent the one-day strike on August 2 failed.
ASAWU members will also boycott admin meetings and performance management from August 20, in addition to the withdrawal of services on August 28.
In a meeting on Tuesday August 14, members were given ballots to vote for additional action, with an indefinite strike being one of their options.
The unions had demanded a signed agreement to their demands, but “chose to walk out of the mediation process before it was concluded”, according to vice chancellor Professor Loyiso Nongxa. ASAWU President David Dickinson denied this, saying Nongxa was not present at the negotiation sessions.
The unions are demanding a 9% salary increase for support staff and payment to academics at the 75th percentile of the tertiary education sector. They also demand the establishment of a childcare facility for Wits employees, an end to overselling of parking permits in non-designated parking areas and access by their auditors to the university’s financial system.
Union decries silent treatment
Dickinson said they were met with silence after the strike.
“The first communication of any kind from management is the letter sent out today [August 13] by the vice chancellor to all Wits employees. This message fails to engage with the issues raised by the three unions and their members. It is a slap in the face of Wits lecturers and support staff.”
Nongxa said management did not have a mandate from the Wits council to grant the 9% increase, but proposed a shift from the July-to-June pay cycle to a January-to-December pay cycle. Staff could get a pay rise in January 2013 together with the increase received in July.
Nongxa said the proposals made by management were realistic and asked for “similarly constructive responses” from the unions.
“In the current context of declining state subsidies, the cost of higher-than-average salary increases may have to be carried by already heavily-burdened student fees.”
ASAWU seeking solidarity
ALTSA and NEHAWU are consulting with their members on further action. Dickinson said he hoped they joined ASAWU’s strike and boycotts.
During the previuos strike, Nongxa said the university could not be coerced into meeting the unions’ “unsustainable” demands.
“One would have assumed that, in an environment where we think about these things, that you can come with reasoned solutions to these problems, rather than resorting to a strike.”
Photos: Jay Caboz
The Wits academic staff union have pressed ahead with their planned strike today, after last-minute negotiations yesterday failed.
Members of the union, ASAWU, have gathered at the entrances to Wits main campus in small groups, holding signs that read “We love Wits, do you?” and “Stop imposing – negotiate.”
Member of ASAWU and Senior lecturer in the School of Mining and Engineering, Carl Beaumont, said,“Our aims for today are to get our message across to Wits University management, that staff have had enough. We’ve had enough of managerialism, we’ve had enough of imposed pay-rises and poor salaries. It’s something that’s been brewing for years, not something that’s just happened in 2012.”
David Dickinson, President of ASAWU (pictured above) said, “People have to stand up for their rights, and more importantly they have to stand up for the good of Wits University. We believe the management is running this university into the ground.”
Management announced a 7.25% increase for academic staff, but the Administration, Library and Technical Staff Association (ALTSA) and the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (NEHAWU) have demanded a 9% increase.
ALTSA and NEHAWU, as well as Academic Staff Association of Wits University (ASAWU), also made non-wage related demands in a memorandum to management.
The three unions demand:
– a 9% salary increase for support staff, to be paid at a higher scale at the 75th percentile of the tertiary education sector benchmark
– decent salaries to be given before performance regulations were initiated;
– a resolution of the dispute on shift allowances
– an agreement on sliding scales to advance equity
– the establishment of a childcare facility for Wits employees
– an end to overselling of parking permits in non-designated parking areas;
– an increase in individual research incentive
However, Wits vice-Chancellor and principal Prof Loyiso Nongxa says that meeting these demands are complicated, and formal investigations need to be concluded prior to reaching an agreement.
Nongxa said that Wits academics are missing the bigger picture in their fight for better pay and working conditions, in an article he wrote for Business Day last week.
A rally for staff is set to take place on the Library Lawns at 12:00.
School’s out: Wits lecturers on strike
The contract appointments of four members of Wits’ senior executive team will end over the next twelve months.
It has been confirmed that the vice-chancellor and deputy vice-chancellor (DVC) of finance and operations will leave Wits by May next year.
In addition the DVC: academic, Prof Yunus Ballim’s term ends in December 2012. He had extended his contract by two years following a five-year term, and his post will have to be re-advertised in line with Wits policy.
The Wits Council approved a two-year contract extension for DVC: advancements and partnerships, Prof Rob Moore.
Moore said Wits was one of the most exciting universities to work at.
“No other campus in this country has got this extraordinary infrastructural development going on at the moment,” he said.
Fitzgerald, whose five-year term of office ends in December 2012, had the option to reapply for the post but chose not to.
“I feel released … like a great burden of responsibility is shifting from my shoulders,” he said.
Fitzgerald said he would enjoy having his freedom of speech on leaving the post.
“If council gives a view, that is the view. You take the view or you resign … I’m going back to a life where I can say whatever I want.”
Fitzgerald said he was proud of the university’s financial turnaround, and its infrastructure projects, which are a “common legacy of the entire management team”.
Fitzgerald plans to return to academia, and said he would “probably” join the Academic Staff Association of Wits University (Asawu), whose demands could afford him a relatively relaxed time and “a good salary.”
The positions of DVC: academic and DVC: finance and operations, will be finalized over the next three months.
Published in Wits Vuvuzela 13th edition, 11th May 2012