South Africa's activist social justice research centre under attack

By Dennis Brutus and Patrick Bond

August 6, 2008 -- Durban's University of KwaZulu-Natal vice-chancellor Malegapuru Makgoba is expected to deliver an edict that the Centre for Civil Society will close on December 31. The reason given by dean Donal McCracken to a sceptical School of Development Studies (where the centre is housed) is that staff do not have "permanent" funding. But neither do most of the university's research units, and there is money in centre reserves for at least a couple of years, plus ongoing donor support for many of our projects.

Hence this "execution" will be doggedly resisted because UKZN still has many staff and students who remember the struggle for non-racial democracy and don't mind speaking out to challenge misguided decisions.

As the two most senior academics in the centre, holding an honorary professorship and tenured research chair, respectively, we will resist, despite what a UKZN internal report recorded -- an environment of "intimidation and bullying", in which management "deploys power rather than intellect", as Rhodes professor Jimi Adesina put it.

The decision is misguided for many reasons, not least for overturning the official recommendation of a five-month University Research Review finalised in February, which advocated strengthening the centre and giving it more autonomy: "Closing down or removing the centre from UKZN does not appear to be an option as it was rejected by all interviewees and panel members. Through its international recognition and standing, the centre has put UKZN on a world map in social science, a position the university dare not risk to lose."

Newsmakers

On the local map, the centre has offered nearly 100 free events a year, including seminars, conferences, micro film festivals, literary celebrations and the Harold Wolpe Lecture, Durban's main lecture series.

In Howard College, several hundred community residents join academics on the last Thursday of each month to debate newsmakers and intellectuals, global and local -- such as, this year, commentator Xolela Mangcu, Soweto activist Trevor Ngwane, filmmaker John Pilger, Kenyan feminist Eunice Sahle and Zimbabwe democracy activists Judith Todd and Joy Mabengwe, as well as local anti-xenophobia campaigners Baruti Amisi, Pierre Matate and Orlean Naidoo.

Among our inspirations is Fatima Meer, whom we host this Sunday in Chatsworth in celebration of her 80 years of commitment and wisdom, as well as her decade of support to the "new social movements" in the original Concerned Citizens Forum which in 1998 helped renew urban justice advocacy across South Africa.

Meer's Wolpe lecture last year called for a progressive, post-nationalist liberatory politics to emerge from the grassroots, like the creative spark generated in 2001 when the World Social Forum in Brazil rose against the World Economic Forum in Switzerland.

With our centre's assistance, the Social Movement Indaba network and Diakonia Council of Churches hosted a local equivalent in January, drawing 400 community and labour leaders. Among those present were many who resisted Inanda Dam displacement, Treatment Action Campaigners and Congolese inner-city traders who hang in against all odds.

Evidence of abuse in the authorities' diktat to shut the centre ranges from a flawed process, to extreme race and gender implications, since contract termination affects a dozen black staff, most of whom are working class. The only paid staffer who should retain his job, McCracken told us, is the sole white expatriate (a writer of this article, Bond, whose government research subsidies more than pay his salary).

In addition to UKZN's threat to this centre and a generation of new critical scholars, a great deal of concrete research activity is now at risk.

UKZN claims it has South Africa's "second best" research profile (after the University of Pretoria).

A modest contribution comes from our centre staff's peer-reviewed articles, chapters and books -- 58 in 2007 with an average 50 a year since 2005 (and no, these fortnightly Mercury columns don't count) -- which rank us at the top of the university, measured per academic employee.

High productivity arises from documenting and interrogating the social laboratories of Durban, South Africa, Africa and the world, where contradictions generated by globalisation and the flawed character of post-colonial politics create conflict.

We have sought sites and research areas -- climate, energy, water/sanitation, global and national political economy, survival strategies and community philanthropy, the rise of social movements in Africa -- where these contradictions tell us more about society, politics, economy, gender, race, environment and other social relations than we would normally get from our academic armchairs.

Conflicts

Beyond merely trying to understand the conflicts, serious scholars will contribute to addressing them in a non-violent manner, such as through international legal strategies that the other writer of this article, Brutus, contributes to.

He does this with the Jubilee and the Khulumani Support Group, aiming for US$400 billion (R2951billion) in reparations to be paid by apartheid-era US and EU corporations -- which hopefully will frighten them enough to think twice about their next investment in the Sudan, Zimbabwe, Burma and the like.

The danger of the centre's approach to knowledge production, "praxis", is that the research generated sometimes threatens the privileges of power.

Two years ago, the same authorities banned Ashwin Desai from continuing employment at the centre and at UKZN, amidst a haze of confusion and weak excuses. We lost a major Human Sciences Research Council "Race and Redress" grant as a result of this interference. In 2003, the US Agency for International Development retracted a multimillion-rand donation after centre founder Adam Habib spoke out against the Iraq war.

That sort of style the centre encouraged from the outset: honest and courageous, combining the left brain's love of rigorous detail, and the left side of the body's beating heart.

UKZN management has stabbed this centre, but it cannot be allowed to die.

So this is really all about politics, and whether a university can host a critical mass of professional academics and community scholars devoted to social justice.

The formal appeal against CCS's closure is posted here http://www.nu.ac.za/ccs/default.asp?2,68,3,1575#letter

If you have testimonials about the wisdom of closing CCS, please let us know, at dennisbrutus2002@yahoo.com and pbond@mail.ngo.za and these will be posted at http://www.ukzn.ac.za/ccs. [Please post them in the comments box below as well.]

[Patrick Bond directs the Centre for Civil Society at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Dennis Brutus is a veteran anti-apartheid activist, having been jailed on Robben Island, as well as being a renowned poet. This article first appeared in the Durban Mercury at http://www.themercury.co.za/index.php?fArticleId=4544608.]

Submitted by Terry Townsend on Sun, 08/10/2008 - 08:17

Permalink

COSATU is dismayed to hear that the University of KwaZulu-Natal is considering closing its world-renowned Centre for Civil Society (CCS) on 31 December 2008 for what sound like paltry and quite possibly spurious reasons – that staff do not have "permanent" funding.

The CCS's objective is "to advance socio-economic and environmental justice by developing critical knowledge about, for and in dialogue with, civil society through teaching, research and publishing" It was established at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in July 2001, with the mission of "promoting the study of South African civil society as a legitimate, flourishing area of scholarly activity". A related goal was "to develop partnerships within civil society aimed at capacity-building, knowledge sharing, and generating reflection and debate".

All such research institutions as the CCS are precious to COSATU, especially those like the CCS that are products of the 1994 democratic breakthrough, and not relics of the apartheid past.

The working class, which is the largest, most technically, socially and politically advanced component of civil society in our country, is acutely aware of the value of intellectual labour. COSATU sincerely hopes that the university administrators who want to close the CCS will quickly realise their mistake and instead of muttering threats, will now support this valuable institution.

If there is a genuine problem of finding funds for the unit, the government must step in to fund this important institution.

For more information on the CCS, please visit the CCS website at http://www.nu.ac.za/ccs/default.asp?2,40,5,1633

Patrick Craven (National Spokesperson) Congress of South African Trade Unions
1-5 Leyds Cnr Biccard Streets Braamfontein, 2017

P.O. Box 1019 Johannesburg, 2000 SOUTH AFRICA

Tel: +27 11 339-4911/24 Fax: +27 11 339-5080/6940/ 086 603 9667 Cell: 0828217456 E-Mail: patrick@cosatu.org.za

Submitted by Terry Townsend on Sun, 08/10/2008 - 08:20

Permalink

Dear University of KwaZulu Natal authorities

On behalf of the Soweto Electricity Crisis Committee, an affiliate of the Anti-Privatisation Forum, I would like to put on record our shock and feeling of outrage at the news that you are planning to close down the Centre for Civil Society. From what we have gathered on this matter and our own experience of working with this institute we strongly believe that this is a politically motivated attack on progressive and relevant scholarship. What a shame! What is happening to our country? At a time when South African society finds itself in a crisis of legitimacy, leadership, socio-economic security and political stability, we need clear-headed, relevant and committed scholarship that will shed light on the issues and suggest viable and just solutions. Instead the UKZN management is deciding to unilaterally close down one of the few remaining centres of committed and progressive scholarship in the country.

CCS has over the years given grassroots organisations such as ours support and hope that the academic establishment can and sometimes does contribute to the struggle to stop the rich richer and the poor poorer; and taht it can and sometimes does conduct research aimed at improving the lives of the poorest of the poor. CCS's work indicated to us that academic institutions are not mere ivory towers conducting work that benefits the ruling class and the rich. For example, the CCS's Prof Patrick Bond made expert submissions in the recent court case to assure water for all. The community of Phiri, organised by our organisation, and getting support from the Coalition Against Water Privatisation, won the court case against pre-paid water meters. Judge Moroa Tsoka ruled that pre-paid water meters are unlawful and unconstitutional and are a violation of human rights. CCS has also given crucial support to communities around Durban under attack from oil-producing companies which are intent on making profits at great cost to the environment and threatening people's lives.

CCS has also organised ground breaking research into social movements such as ours, the Treatment Action Campaign and others, research that helped our organisations to understand themselves and the context in which we operate thus helping us in strengthening our struggles.

We urge you to reconsider your decision of closing down the CCS. We see this as nothing else but an attack on the struggle to better the lives of the working class and the poor through research. We also see it as an attempt to divorce academic scholarship from the problems faced by millions and millions of ordinary people ground by the pro-big business neoliberal policies of the government. We say: Hands off the CCS!

Thank you.

Yours in struggle

Trevor Ngwane, organiser of the Soweto Electricity Crisis Committee

Submitted by Terry Townsend on Tue, 08/12/2008 - 09:15

Permalink

Statement by Professor Patrick Bond, Centre for Civil Society director (Monday evening, August 11)

The closure of CCS, as dictated in a July 30 statement by Deputy Vice Chancellor Fikile Mazibuko and read to our staff and our School of Development Studies colleagues that day by Dean Donal McCracken, has been effectively negated, and is now overridden by a genuinely collegial process amongst intellectuals, it was agreed this afternoon.

The academic process we now embark upon means that no binding official university decision has been taken, and that fellow scholars will make recommendations about the Centre's future in coming days and weeks, in a far more democratic manner where merit not political ideology prevails.

Prof Mazibuko and Dean McCracken may still believe that CCS should be closed on December 31 this year - for they refused to deny or confirm the status of the July 30 death sentence when we met this afternoon - but Vice Chancellor Malegapuru Makgoba has ensured, in an earlier meeting with me today, that a series of other scholars will make their inputs prior to any decision: the School of Development Studies Board; the Howard College Faculty Board of Humanities, Development and Social Sciences; the Academic Affairs Board; the University Research Committee; and finally the Senate. (If CCS is to be closed, Council would also become involved.)

These are committees whose senior academics will, we trust, bring perspective and wisdom to the matter. They will carefully consider the alignment of Centre work to the university's broader mission and goals. They will properly assess our accomplishments and faults rather than dismiss the Centre's future based on a financial red herring.

The SDS Board has already expressed their solidarity with the Centre's appeal against the July 30 ruling. The Faculty Board meets on August 13, and will be asked to form a subcommittee to rapidly assess the official report of the University Review Committee of the CCS, chaired by Dr Peter Krumm, who filed it on February 29 this year. (The report is here: http://www.nu.ac.za/ccs/files/CCS%20UKZN%20Review%2029%20February.pdf )

Several months have been lost (recall that this process began in March 2007), and we are back at square one. Still, this is more than a stay of execution, it is a negation of the death sentence and a chance to have genuine scholars carefully consider the Centre's relevance to academic enterprise and community service.

Below, find Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Corporate Relations) Dasarath Chetty's communique this evening to the university community. On August 6, Prof Chetty was quoted in The Mercury newspaper as saying Prof Mazibuko knew nothing of the threat to close CCS, which was not correct; and on August 8 Chetty sent a confusing note to the university community and press that implicated Dr Krumm, his committee (all named), and Professor Vishnu Padayachee (head of the School of Development Studies) in the "recommendation" that CCS should be closed. In discussing these problems with Prof Chetty today, I am convinced he was misled by colleagues, and that he recognises that Prof Mazibuko did indeed call for CCS's closure on July 30; and also that Dr Krumm's Review Committee and Prof Padayachee are on record, decisively, against CCS's closure. CCS is committed to working together with Prof Chetty, to ensure that university statements reflect the facts on this matter.

So we now continue our campaign to resist closure, and to preserve what scholars, civil society constituencies, and the general public - in Durban and across South Africa, Africa and the world - consider useful about CCS. Our campaign will be thoughtful, and make the case in a reasoned way. We encourage further brief testimonials about CCS, and how what we do can be improved. We are far from a perfect site of knowledge production, we make many mistakes, and it is only through constructive critique that we can best serve civil society.

A huge thanks goes to the many people and institutions offering their solidarity and sympathy. Without exception, you have encouraged us to continue the campaign to keep CCS alive and well. (Just by way of illustration, more than 600 low-income people spent all afternoon yesterday in Chatsworth celebrating the local community's decade of organising and Prof Fatima Meer's eight decades of vibrant life, and all of us from CCS were privileged to cohost, and heartened by the commitment of all present to continue forging a unifying vision of social justice.)

Please see our website - http://www.ukzn.ac.za/ccs - for more, including upcoming events such as the August 28 Wolpe Lecture on water access as taught by Sowetans who defeated Johannesburg Water and the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry in the High Court a few weeks ago.

FURTHER READING:

Some of the testimonials about CCS that have arrived so far are uploaded, at http://www.nu.ac.za/ccs/default.asp?2,68,3,1575 and a further website (including a petition) was set up by trade unionists who support CCS: http://groups.google.com/group/handsofftheccs <http://groups.google.com/group/handsofftheccs>

For more analytical material (including three new journal articles), see http://www.ukzn.ac.za/ccs/default.asp?2,40 and also the five-year review for our funders conducted by David Sogge: http://www.ukzn.ac.za/ccs/default.asp?3,28,10,2776

(Note - although in issuing this statement to the many concerned friends of CCS, I have consulted only our Research Director, Prof Sufian Bukurura, this afternoon - two staff meetings with colleagues in CCS and SDS this morning convince me of their unanimity in opposing CCS's closure, and their support for our appeal to reason. Further meetings tomorrow will add to the next stage of our strategy, and we will issue another statement by Wednesday about how we hope academic colleagues view our situation.)

***

*Notice to the University Community

Centre for Civil Society

Following a meeting between Professor N Mazibuko, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Humanities, Professor D McCracken, Dean of Humanities and Professor Patrick Bond, Director of the Centre for Civil Society, it was agreed that the Faculty Board be requested to consider the Krumm report on the future of the CCS at its meeting on Wednesday, 13 August 2008.  As a way forward the Board is to be requested to consider appointing a sub-committee which should, in a reasonable time, come up with recommendations relating to the future of the Centre.

Recommendations would then be forwarded to the Academic Affairs Board on 12 September, to the University Research Committee on 16 September and to Senate on 12 November 2008.

Professor  Dasarath  Chetty

Pro-Vice-Chancellor

Corporate Relations

11 August  2008

Submitted by Janet Cherry (not verified) on Thu, 08/14/2008 - 17:23

Permalink

I am dismayed to read about the threatened closure of the CCS, and I am sure my colleagues at the NMMU Development Studies Department will support me when I say that it is absolutely critical to the field of development studies that we have excellent cutting-edge researchers working in and with civil society, such as our colleagues at CCS. There is little enough of this kind of research, activism and dialogue going on in South Africa - please let us as civil society activists, academics and researchers come together to defend our hard-won spaces of intellectual freedom...
Janet Cherry
Developent Studies Department
Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University
Port Elizabeth

Submitted by Terry Townsend on Thu, 08/14/2008 - 20:20

Permalink

Dear Friends,

The initial pushback on the proposed closure of the CCS has eliminated the institution's death sentence, and created an opportunity for a serious review of the Centre's achievements and role.

Those of us outside of the university -- and especially outside of South Africa -- can help defend the CCS by writing short, 1-2 sentence testimonials. The ideal testimonials will relate your particular perspective on CCS, and any professional interactions you've had with the Centre (including relying on the website or CCS materials). It will be particularly useful for academics to offer testimonials. The CCS team will put these to good use.

A committee from the university's professoriate will study a prior review of CCS and make recommendations to various faculty committees in coming weeks. Hence the testimonials you send will be part of a crucial package aiming to convince fair-minded authorities that UKZN would suffer harm if CCS were closed.

Many on the Debate list have already sent testimonials, to the list, or to Patrick. This is the time for everyone on the list -- including the many, many international lurkers who benefit from the list posts and exchanges -- to weigh in.

You can post these on the list, send them to Patrick, or forward them to me (rob@essential.org). I will compile whatever I receive and send on to the CCS team.

Please also encourage colleagues not on the list to offer testimonials. Below is a short overview of the CCS situation, which may be useful to forward to those not familiar with recent developments.

We will also soon be circulating a sign-on letter for academics in support of CCS.

Robert Weissman
Multinational Monitor/Essential Action, USA
email: rob@essential.org

--------

CALL TO DEFEND SOUTH AFRICAN ACADEMIC FREEDOM

- Protect the Centre for Civil Society (CCS) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal -

The Centre for Civil Society (CCS) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa is a unique academic institution in Africa, and in the world. The Centre was established in July 2001, with the mission of promoting the study of South African civil society as a legitimate, flourishing area of scholarly activity. A related goal was to develop partnerships within civil society aimed at capacity-building, knowledge sharing, and generating reflection and debate. Many academics and civil society activists around the world know CCS Director Patrick Bond.

CCS is extraordinarily productive by conventional academic measures, generating scores of peer reviewed journal articles, reports and books on topics ranging from climate justice to social movement theory, from global political economy to African regional economic integration. The top-quality works range from high theory to community-based empirical investigation.

What is unique about CCS, however, is that it not only studies civil society, but engages civil society. It holds public lectures, conducts community development workshops, sponsors videos that receive global distribution over the Internet, and undertakes research collaborations with trade unions, NGOs and community groups.

CCS is a treasured voice and asset for South Africa, and the world.

Unfortunately, despite a university review panel concluding that "Through its international recognition and standing, the centre has put this university on a world map in social science, a position the university dare not risk to lose," top university administrators declared in July that CCS would be closed, or at least "cease to exist in its current form." Only spurious claims of financial uncertainty were offered as justification -- though CCS has already secured funding to cover its next two years.

Made public, the administration's declaration met with uproar on campus and in South Africa. The university has announced that the closure decision has been shelved, and says it will launch a new review of CCS's achievements and role in the university.

For background on the CCS controversy, see news clips and other materials posted on the CCS site at: <http://www.ukzn.ac.za/ccs/default.asp?2,68,3,1579>.

If you are familiar with and benefited from the work of CCS, then CCS now needs your help. Short testimonials -- just one or two sentences is enough -- from academic or civil society colleagues from South Africa and around the world will help the Centre demonstrate its importance. The ideal testimonials will relate your particular perspective on CCS, and any professional interactions you've had with the Centre (including relying on the website or CCS materials).

Please send testimonials to <rob@essential.org>. Comments will be compiled and forwarded to the CCS team.

Robert Weissman
Multinational Monitor/Essential Action, USA
email: rob@essential.org

Submitted by Terry Townsend on Sun, 08/17/2008 - 11:08

Permalink

http://www.themercury.co.za/index.php?fArticleId=4560020
The Mercury
August 15, 2008 Edition 1

University to keep civil society centre
Faculty meeting gives overwhelming support

Sinegugu Ndlovu

THE fate of the Centre for Civil Society, based at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, was secured by overwhelming support at a meeting of the faculty board responsible for humanities, social sciences and development on Wednesday evening.

The centre said its next project would be to explore whether the eThekwini Municipality was vulnerable to legal challenges on service provision.

This was revealed in a statement by the centre's director, Patrick Bond, yesterday.

A landslide vote of 33 to one was recorded in favour of retaining the centre, with six abstentions.

"We had a chance to debate this matter because of vice-chancellor Malegapuru Makgoba's mandate to the deputy dean, vice-chancellor Fikile Mazibuko, and dean Donal McCracken to take the debate over the centre's future back to university scholars, instead of treating the matter as a fait accompli," he said.

Bond said that he had "unfairly" anticipated that the faculty would not have the chance to debate the centre's retention, given a closure announcement made in June.

"As Makgoba put it, the academic voice should be loud and clear, but more importantly it should inform decision making. It is hard to think of a louder shout of support, and we are very grateful for the vote of confidence," he said.

Bond said his colleagues at the centre, a dozen of whose jobs were threatened, were delighted that other scholars had given their overwhelming support.

"We thank Makgoba for his insistence on a fair process so as to hear the academic voice. Our plan now is to get back to hard work and continue building a centre the university can be proud of," he said.
However, the threat of McCracken's imposed ban on the centre's external fundraising remains. Although McCracken could not "unsign" a letter prohibiting the faculty from fundraising, Bond said the faculty was confident that any spurious claims that the centre would be closed because of financial challenges would be refuted by donors and partners committed to the faculty.

University spokesman Dasarath Chetty said in a circular that a subcommittee had been established, which would submit its recommendations relating to the centre's future on or before September 13 for consideration and recommendation by several university bodies, including the council. It would also discuss the issue of funding.

Bond said the centre's next step would be to bring Soweto community activists and lawyers who successfully sued the City of Johannesburg last year to Durban to interact with community groups at the Harold Wolpe Lecture panel on August 28.

The centre had supplied technical evidence in the case in which the Johannesburg High Court had decided, on April 30, in favour of Soweto residents, doubling the supply of free basic water to 50 litres a person a day.

"Petra Sindane, Dale McKinley and Jackie Dugard, of the Wits Centre for Applied Legal Studies, will explore with low-income civic groups whether the eThekwini Municipality is also vulnerable to legal challenges on service delivery," said Bond.

sinegugu.ndlovu@inl.co.za

***

Mail&Guardian
15 August 2008

Primarashni Gower

The University of KwaZulu-Natal's Centre for Civil Society (CSS) has been saved from closure for now, after a spirited defence of the high-profile human rights advocacy centre.

Last week the Mail&Guardian reported that staff had been told that the CSS would close at the end of December for financial reasons.

There was a public outcry about the proposed closure of the centre, which does research and advocacy into human rights, political economy and the environment.

The university initially denied the announcement, saying that it had plans for a refocused civil society programme to be established and integrated into the school of development studies. This followed discussions between senior academics and recommendations of a review committee. The final decision would be taken by the university council.

However, the proposal ran counter to the review committees's recommendation that the centre be given more support and more independence, whether in the school of development studies or the school of sociology.

This week the faculty board responsible for humanities, social sciences and development studies voted 33 to one for the centre's retention.

The university confirmed that a subcommittee was established and will make recommendations on, among others, the financial sustainability, governance and future of the centre. The recommendations of the subcommittee will go through various structures including senate and council.

CCS director Professor Patrick Bond said: "The reason we had the chance to debate this matter was vice-chancellor Malegapuru Makgoba's mandate to [deputy vice-chancellor Fikile Mazibuko] and dean Donal McCracken to take the debate over CCS's future back to fellow UKZN scholars, instead of deciding the matter as a fait accompli."

He said: "I had unfairly anticipated that we would not have this chance to make our argument to colleagues for retaining CCS at UKZN. But as Makgoba put it, 'the academic voice should be loud and clear but more importantly should inform decision-making'. It is hard to think of a louder shout of support and we are very grateful for the vote of confidence."

***

NOTICE TO THE UNIVERSITY COMMUNITY
FACULTY BOARD RECOMMENDATIONS ON THE CENTRE FOR CIVIL SOCIETY

The Faculty of Humanities, Development and Social Sciences Board meeting held on the Howard College Campus on Wednesday 13 August 2008 recommended, in principle,
support for the continuation of a Centre for Civil Society.

In addition, the following actions were recommended by the Board:

1. A Sub-Committee comprising Professor M Chapman, Professor N Gqaleni, Professor R Teer-Tomaselli, Professor P Zulu, a representative from the School of Development Studies, a representative from the School of Sociology and Social Studies and a representative from the University Research Committee be established.

2. That the Terms of Reference be articulated at the first meeting of the Sub-Committee, using the Krumm Report and other submissions as a basis.

3. That the Chairperson be elected at the first meeting of the Sub-Committee.

4. This Sub-Committee submit its recommendations, on or before 13 September 2008, for consideration to:

i) The Faculty Exco (observers will be permitted to attend)

ii) The College of Humanities Academic Affairs Board

iii) The University Research Committee

iv) The Senate of the University

v) The Council of the University.

Professor Dasarath Chetty
Pro-Vice-Chancellor
14 August 2008
EXEC 003/08

Submitted by Terry Townsend on Sun, 08/17/2008 - 11:57

Permalink

15 August

To our friends and colleagues,

Many thanks for your interest in the Centre for Civil Society during this difficult time. We have overcome at least one major threat, namely the announcement on July 30 by our Dean and Deputy Vice Chancellor that we would be closed at the end of the year.

Upon review by our Faculty Board on Wednesday (following a welcome instruction by the Vice Chancellor), and a 33-1 vote, that decision appears to have been reversed.

We think that this is due to an extraordinary outpouring of support in the form of testimonials and petitions, from other academics and civil society groups, local to global. We are still very grateful for such testimonials, which next Tuesday we would like to package and present to the Faculty Board subcommittee that will take the process forward. If you are so inclined, please send a sentence or two to me by late Monday, at pbond@mail.ngo.za, and we will put them on our website as soon as we can: http://www.nu.ac.za/ccs/default.asp?2,68,3,1575#handsoff (and do also please send critical feedback, which is helpful as we plan our future).

We will keep you posted with respect to statements that CCS makes to the Faculty Board subcommittee in coming days. Our major plans are to continue with work on social justice, political economy and environment. As you see at http://www.ukzn.ac.za/ccs ("Events Index"), a few seminars are scheduled in coming days, as well as the monthly Wolpe Lecture panel: on August 28 we introduce Durban civil society to the lawsuit - and its community proponents - that recently defeated Johannesburg Water's prepayment meters, discriminatory services provision and inadequate lifeline water.

Depending upon progress through UKZN's next set of committees, we hope to hire a new Director, as has been our intention since early 2007. Following paternity leave in November, I may continue as director, or CCS may appoint an acting director, until our next phase firms up. We are certain, though, that the comradeship displayed the last week or so will be repaid, as our next period shapes up as one of intense work and more rapid social change.

Amandla,
Patrick
pbond@mail.ngo.za
phone: 27 83 425 1401
skype: patricksouthafrica
http://www.ukzn.ac.za/ccs

***

TIMETABLE OF EVENTS RELATING TO THE RECENT THREAT TO CCS

? In March 2007, the School of Development Studies (SDS) Board of Studies requested a University review of the Centre for Civil Society (CCS) to establish a firm footing for subsequent developments (including the anticipated end of Professor Patrick Bond?s directorship in October 2007), a review which only began in September 2007, led by Dr Peter Krumm (Department of Physics).

? On 29 February 2008, after hundreds of hours of deliberations, the Krumm Committee issued its Report, which included the conclusion that ?Closing down or removing CCS from UKZN does not appear to be an option as it was rejected by all interviewees and panel members. Through its international recognition and standing, CCS has put UKZN on a world map in social science, a position the University dare not risk to lose.? The report is here:

? Until mid-July 2008, no written communications were offered by Dean Donal McCracken, in spite of repeated (unanswered) queries, about the status of the Krumm Committee Report, and no effort was made to address the Report?s analysis or recommendations in the Faculty Board or Faculty ExCo, and no further communications were made to CCS or SDS requesting reactions.

? On July 16, Dean McCracken informed Professors Vishnu Padayachee (Head of the School of Development Studies) and Professor Bond that due to financial reasons the Centre would be closed, but upon notification of new funder commitments and a reserve, acknowledged that "negotiations are still open".

? On July 17, Professor Bond sent Dean McCracken the audited 2007 Financial Statement which showed a healthy surplus of twice the Centre?s annual income or expenditures, as well as an indication of funder commitments to core administrative expenses for 2009-2010.

? On July 23, Dean McCracken sent Professor Padayachee a letter instructing him not to permit further surplus expenditure or fundraising by the Centre for Civil Society, while refusing to reply to ongoing emails from Professor Bond requesting information about the process.

? On July 30, Dean McCracken did not answer requests by Professor Bond for a briefing prior to his own announcement to an SDS and CCS staff meeting, that Deputy Vice Chancellor Fikile Mazibuko had decided that CCS would be closed as of December 31 2008; that existing staff contracts would be terminated at year end (with staff invited to apply for other UKZN jobs); that Professor Bond would resume his tenured SDS chair; and that the ?good? projects (unspecified) of CCS would be brought into a ?refocused? civil society programme in SDS.

? On July 30, the staff of CCS sent a written Appeal to Dean McCracken and then on July 31 and again on August 4, to Deputy Vice Chancellor Mazibuko, an Appeal which was never acknowledged or answered;

? On August 4, the staff of SDS met and endorsed the CCS Appeal and made their own written request to Professor Mazibuko for a rationale for the closure of CCS, a request that was acknowledged but not answered.

? On August 6, the Mercury newspaper carried a statement - never corrected - that Deputy Vice Chancellor Mazibuko "knew nothing about the alleged decision to shut down the centre". Professor Bond continued to make written requests for written copies of the July 30 letter, a letter which has been kept secret, as well as for the CCS Appeal to be answered, without success.

? On August 8, an official University statement claimed that it was on the basis of the Krumm Committee Report and deliberations with Professor Padayachee that the decision to close CCS was taken ? and notwithstanding repeated requests for a public correction of that incorrect information, Pro Vice Chancellor Dasareth Chetty?s office never complied.

? On August 11, Vice Chancellor Malegapuru Makgoba confirmed to Professors Padayachee and Bond that the CCS decision-making process to date was inappropriate, and the ?academic voice? was yet to be heard, and that henceforth the correct process would be immediate consideration of the Krumm Report in Faculty Board and in other committees of academics.

? On August 13, the Faculty Board for Humanities, Social Science and Development voted 33 to 1 (with a half-dozen abstentions) to support "the continuation of the Centre for Civil Society", and the Board established a subcommittee to come up with solutions, to report in no more than a month's time.