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VUT boasts four faculties covering the fields of Computer Sciences, Engineering and Technology, Human Sciences and Management Sciences.
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The above subject may appear to be very miniscule and unimportant to some people but to those who are committed to building an Institutional Culture which adheres to our values will find it very instructive.
Ordinarily, I would not wish to respond to each and every negative e-mail that reaches my office but in order to negate and rebut the statement “Silence means Consent”, it is sometimes advisable to set the record straight for the benefit of all those who may find themselves being the victims of the corridor talks and back-stabbing.
The above background having been sketched, it is prudent to advise staff and students regarding the following matters:
(i) Renewal and/or Extension of Contracts
This matter has nothing to do with the Vice-Chancellor, as the same is processed as per the Agreement which Management signed with the Organised Labour.
It follows therefore that anyone who goes about spreading false rumours that the Vice-
Chancellor has resolved not to RENEW and/or EXTEND Contracts of some members of staff is mischievous and divisive. In any event the renewal of contracts is an HR matter together with the HODs, subject to the normal HR Policies and Procedures.
Because this matter has been brought to my attention and some colleagues want to know what I am going to do about it, I wish to state that much against my Christian principles, I have regrettably decided to pursue a legal route on this matter against the person who goes about spreading such false rumours which seek to destabilise the University and I will exercise my right to sue the person concerned in my personal capacity.
(ii) Racism on Campus
In all of the engagements I have had with both staff and students, I have repeatedly advised that RACISM has neither place nor space at VUT and that to those who practise it and there is prima facie evidence to that effect will regrettably have to face the might of our Disciplinary Processes or even the might of the Law as Racism has been declared a heresy against man and equally a sin against humanity – it is “Man’s Inhumanity to Man!” Those of you who may have been on the receiving end of this monstrous act of inhumanity to man should not hesitate to report their experiences to their Line Managers and/or HODs or even the Executive Deans or Executive Directors so that immediate corrective measures could be taken. We cannot have a campus which is fraught with pockets of Racism in the midst of the present democratic space where social cohesion has been so much emphasized. We should, in our endeavours to do the best we can do for the University, always remember the words of Mahmood Mamdani : “When Victims become Killers” and I only hope that Racism from whichever angle it comes is not a confirmation of the statement.
This is a two-pronged challenge, viz:-
(a) Sexual Abuse;
(b) Discriminating people based on their Sexual Orientation
Let me address these two evils as follows:
(a) Sexual Abuse
Everyone of us has a right to self respect, private space and dignity, and so, no person should be sexually abused. This abuse is so serious that whoever is accused of the same can in fact face criminal charges in a Court of Law. When a person says “NO”, to any sexual advances by whosoever, his or her right to dignity and respect should be observed. This is the rule of law which I hasten to add that the same should be respected and observed as failure to do so may have dire consequences and deleterious effects. Can we please show mutual respect towards one another, especially in the pursuance of the spirit of humanism.
(b) Discriminating people based on their Sexual Orientation
May I advise colleagues that there is no one who has a right to judge other people as we are all protected by the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa. People who are different to others because of their Sexual Orientation have a right to exist and to co-exist with others and here I refer to the rights of the LGBTs, etc. We cannot be judgemental to other people and again, one of our values speak to “Mutual Respect” and we thus need to uphold our values, if we are committed to creating a caring
As you are aware other Universities do have Charters and Rights for LGBTs but our University does not and to this end I am requesting Mr Mvalo, the Director of Social Justice and Transformation to develop the same for broader consultation discussion and approval.
(iv) The Vice-Chancellor is Anti-White
This is the most ridiculous, laughable and abominable allegation I have had. The fact even to respond to it casts aspersions on my integrity and those who go about spreading this rumour should in fact examine their own stand on social cohesion which is a fundamental principle of our existence as a Human Race. I have articulated my stand, not only at SENATE but equally on the very many platforms of engagement I have shared with both staff and students on what it means to be a member of the Rainbow Nation. Even though this allegation is laughable, given my History, Track record and Background in Higher
Education, I do not just want to REJECT the said allegation but want to state quite CATEGORICALLY that there is no RIGHT-MINDED Vice-Chancellor who can sow seeds of discord and dissension amongst the very colleagues he/she leads, as such an approach would be disastrous to the Institution. Being Pro-Black does not translate to being Anti-White, as these two, in the South African context are like Siamese-twins and so the allegation is abominable as it is obstreperous.
I have been informed that there are allegedly some people who go about threatening and boasting to other people about the fact that there is a HIT-LIST of people who will be purged out of the VUT System as the Vice-Chancellor is cleaning up the University and that those people (the ones to be purged out), are not on the Vice-Chancellor’s slate; and again colleagues, as we close the year, I want to state quite categorically once again that I do not have camps and/or slates and that I have been placed in this Leadership position to lead the Institution and to be answerable to Council and to all Stakeholders irrespective of their political persuasion and/or background and so, I want to reject the allegation of slates and camps in the most strongest terms. I am here to lead the Institution for all stakeholders and I regard it as an insult to my integrity and independence to be accused of being “Captured” by certain group. This is malicious and divisive and does not augur well for the all inclusive culture we want to build. I hope this would be the last-time that I would be addressing the University Community on this very toxic mentality and vilification.
(vi) Abuse of Face-Book and Twitting
Another creeping culture that is destructive and has a potential of destabilising the Institution is that of insulting people/colleagues on face-book. This is not only a sign of cowardice but it is also a sign of immaturity of people who are not able to confront the realities and talk directly to those people who they disagree with but use a platform which is open to the public for blackmailing other people. Again, this culture and practice does not only infringe on people’s dignity and rights but it equally violates the Human-Rights of those who are the targets of the Face-Book posting. I want to leave it to the consciences of those who have been posting negatively about other people on Face-Book, to cease
and desist from this practice as its continued use, notwithstanding this warning may have serious legal implications for the perpetrators of this nefarious and amorphous act of monstrous negativity to man’s inhumanity to man. When the rule of law crushes, it will pulverise the perpetrator and please be advised and be warned to cease and desist for your own sake and for the sake of your families. Whilst there are colleagues who have been victims of this practice, I too have had a taste of it and therefore the insulting nature and tone of the posting has left me with no option but to institute and open a civil case against the said person. This, I will do in my personal capacity.
(vii) The “Moruti” or “Priestly” soft Attitude of the Vice-Chancellor
For the record, may I advise that I do not hide and/or shy away from the fact that I am a Preacher of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa and that this calling was echoed during my Inauguration on the 12 August 2017. I make no apologies about this as even Robert Sobukwe died still being proud of his calling as a Methodist Preacher and so, I am no exception.
However, I want it to be known LOUD and CLEAR that being a Preacher does not in any way suggest that i will not be able to take strong decisions if I have to and that my softer approach should not in any way be misconstrued and be mistaken as a sign of weakness
– in fact St Paul in his 2nd letter to the Corinthians says:-
“…..my strength is made perfect in my weakness – I am strong when I am weak….”
To those who probably think that my softer approach is a sign of weakness, should better think twice!. Those who attended the Chancellor’s and the Vice-Chancellor’s Inauguration, are REMINDED of Rev, Dr and Prof Charles Mehana’s words of wisdom when he advised of the “Guju Principle”, i.e. being “Hard” and at the same time being “Soft” as a Leader.
This communication is coming at a time when the University is faced with many challenges which are above the petty things, I have had to respond to, and so, I want to put it on record that we should all focus on what is in the best interest of this University and by so doing work towards building a vibrant Institution we can all be proud of.
As I conclude, in our attempt of being a RESPONSIVE Management, I want to REMIND the VUT Community of the following projects which we have PROMISED to EMBARK upon in Building and
Strengthening staff and students relations on Campus:-
(i) Listening Sessions
(ii) Institutional Public Engagement Summit
(iii) Budget Speech
(iv) State of the University Address
(v) Engagement with Traditional Leaders
(vi) Engagement with Business and Industry
(vii) Building Intercontinental Relations and thereby Promoting, Strengthening and Enhancing Pan-Africanism and Decoloniality
(viii) Building a sustainable, viable and resourceful University
(ix) Building a culture of ownership and inclusivity and responding to the 4th Industrial Revolution
(x) Ensuring that we all live and breathe the values of the Institution and also focusing on promoting Research and developing a cohort of New Academic.
The above and many more are what we should be concerned about as a University rather than working against one another and trying to destroy the very system of what is at the epicentre of Humanity.
Professor Gordon N. Zide (PhD)
Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Emeritus (Anthropology) UNISA