||Reprieve for UKZN civil society centre
Primarashni Gower Mail&Guardian 15 August 2008
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
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
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
University to keep civil society centre
Faculty meeting gives overwhelming support
By Sinegugu Ndlovu (The Mercury) 15 August 2008
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
This was revealed in a statement by the centre's director, Patrick Bond,
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
"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
"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.
NOTICE TO THE UNIVERSITY COMMUNITY FACULTY BOARD RECOMMENDATIONS ON THE CENTRE FOR CIVIL SOCIETY 14 August 2008
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
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
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
UKZN to clip Bond's wings
By Primarashni Gower (Mail&Guardian) 12 August 2008
The embattled Centre for Civil Society at the University of
KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) will not go down without a fight. So vowed its
director, Professor Patrick Bond, after a university announcement that
the centre is to be closed.
However, the university has back-pedalled and now says no final decision
has been taken.
"We will fight for survival and the centre will emerge strengthened and
hopefully more autonomous within this institution, as recommended in a
university research review," Bond told the Mail & Guardian. "Since it
opened in 2002, the centre has become important to Durban."
The announcement that the centre will close has sparked local and
The South Durban Community Environmental Alliance, representing schools,
women's groups and subsistence farmers, said that if the "devastating"
closure went ahead "you will see us at the homes of these
decision-makers, challenging them".
The centre gives advice and has been a home for learning by impoverished
people, the alliance said.
Immanuel Wallerstein, a senior sociologist at the United States's
prestigious Yale University and a former president of the International
Sociological Association, told UKZN head of corporate relations,
Professor Dasarath Chetty, in an email that he is "appalled" to learn of
the centre's imminent demise.
Wallerstein said the centre is UKZN's "single most prestigious activity"
and "the jewel in its crown".
"Those of us who try to follow what is going on in South Africa have
come to rely upon [it] as the best single source of wide information.
Closing it down would not only damage severely UKZN's reputation but
would set back research worldwide on contemporary South Africa."
The centre draws hundreds of low-income community residents to campus
each month through its Harold Wolpe lecture series and other events.
Dean of humanities Professor Donal McCracken informed staff that the
centre would close at the end of December, according to a report in
Durban's Mercury newspaper. Bond would resume his tenured chair in the
school of development studies, which hosts the centre, McCracken said,
and all other staff contracts would be terminated.
McCracken is said to have read out a letter signed by deputy
vice-chancellor Fikile Mazibuko.
However, Chetty told the Mercury: "This is incorrect information." Only
the university council could close the centre and Mazibuko knew nothing
about the decision, he said.
On the contrary, Bond said, 30 people had heard the letter being read to
them. The reason he and his colleagues were given for the closure was
that "the long-term financial viability of the centre was not secure,
that we do not have permanent funding in perpetuity".
But he said: "We witnessed an unusual degree of hostility earlier, such
as vice-chancellor Malegapuru Makgoba's 2005 banning of Ashwin Desai
from doing even voluntary research work at the centre."
Bond said the centre was one of the most productive units in UKZN, with
50 refereed publications a year since 2005.
The university research review, released in February, was not altogether
flattering to the centre, however. It points out that until 2006 there
was tension over research priorities and output between staff of the
centre and of the school of development studies.
The review recommends the centre be made a more independent entity
within its host school or that the school of sociology and social
studies be a potential host. Another option is that the centre could
become autonomous, with the director answerable to a faculty board and
keeping channels open to the school of development studies.
Bond said: "We have half a dozen donors who say they will continue to
fund us. Ideally we would like to stay where we are, in Howard College.
But if the authorities intend to evict us we think we might readily find
another institutional base."
He said that local and international support has been pouring in and
that the job losses after closure would affect the university's
employment equity goals.
A source who did not want to be named said the centre, through its
advocacy and human rights work, has been a thorn in the flesh of
KwaZulu-Natal and national government and is viewed by some of UKZN's
management as being too left-wing.
Bond had, for example, provided expert testimony in the recent case in
which the Johannesburg High Court ruled Johannesburg Water had violated
the constitutional right of access to free water by installing prepaid
meters in Soweto.
The university responds Chetty told the M&G that on the basis of the
review and of discussions between senior academics, it was recommended
that the centre "will cease to exist in its current form at the end of
2008 due to questions surrounding the sustained financial viability of
the centre and the appropriateness of the way in which it is currently
structured as an academic unit.
"It was recommended that a refocused civil society programme be
established and integrated into the school of development studies. All
programmes within the university are located in schools and are led by a
"It was further recommended that contracts of all the staff at the
centre … are to be honoured until they expire at the end of this year.
They may then apply for other positions within the university should
they choose to do this.
"These recommendations are presently being discussed in university
structures, notably, the Centre for Civil Society, the faculty board,
the academic affairs board and council. After following these internal
processes, council will take the final decision on the centre. Only
council has the power to establish and dissolve centres of the university."
Civil society unit at risk: Cosatu joins fight to save the University of KwaZulu-Natal's centre devoted to social justice
By Maureen Isaacson (Sunday Independent) 10 August 2008
South Africa's first Centre for Civil Society (CCS) at the University of
KwaZulu-Natal may be forced to close its doors because of political
pressure. With it will go the jobs of 12 black staff and the prestige it
has brought to the university.
The centre has developed a profile for its leftwing views which did not
sit easily with the university management. This week, Patrick Bond, the
director of the CCS, said that he had been pressured to make more of a
home for rightwing academic scholarship.
But Bond appointed Dennis Brutus, a well-known leftwing activist and
writer, as honorary professor.
Now Cosatu has joined in the fray, calling on the university to keep its
hands off the CCS.
It issued a statement saying it hoped "the university administrators
will realise their mistake and support this valuable institution".
The university's reason for its imminent closure, inadequate funding,
"is paltry and possibly spurious", said Cosatu. "If there is a genuine
problem of finding funds for the unit, the government must step in to
fund this important institution."
Bond said that the centre had funds to carry it through the next two
years. "It is not unusual for academic research in institutions to be
conducted with 'soft money' - money which has to be continually raised."
At Cosatu House on Friday, Bond had come to present to the federation's
central executive committee research that he is conducting with
colleagues at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health on the costing of
Cosatu's national health insurance strategy.
Dominic Tweedie, the editor of The Shop Steward, Cosatu's journal, said:
"When CCS was a political nuisance to Cosatu, harassing us from the
left, its existence was no problem to the powers that be. I am not
saying that Cosatu has jumped into bed totally with CCS, but we are
It is, after all, the job of the centre to generate knowledge by
observing contests for power.
CCS claims to push for socioeconomic and environmental justice, which
happens "by developing critical knowledge about, for and in dialogue
with civil society".
Such a push is unlikely to come from rightwing scholars. Tweedie said
that the command was prescriptive. "Telling people which scholars to
include in their organisations has nothing to do with academic freedom.
You have to be able to accommodate people who make you feel
uncomfortable, whatever else are universities for?"
If CCS goes, the monthly Harold Wolpe debates, the seminar series,
conferences and workshops and the transfer of experience from
communities to academics could go, too.
The CCS was launched in 2001 by Adam Habib, a political scientist. Bond
began his tenure as director, on October 1 2004. His contract with CCS,
originally set for three years, was extended while the review of the
centre was conducted.
"In early 2007, I said that, when my directorship ended, I ideally
wanted to be replaced by an African - who can bring us into new areas.
The university slogan is 'Premier University of African Scholarship'.
And already we do a lot on the continent, including working against
Bond, who has tenure as a professor at the university and who will not
lose his job, says this closure, which would put 12 black people out of
work, is "disastrous for race, class and gender. It is a hit to our
diversity and equity programme".
The university's latest review of the centre, completed in February,
pointed to flaws in the CCS, such as teaching - which it said should be
taken more seriously, even as a subsidiary activity. However, it said
CCS was "the leading academic-based centre in Africa devoted to
citizen's initiatives for social/environmental justice". Strengthen the
centre and give it more autonomy, it said.
The CCS links activism with academia, publishing its rigorous research
in peer-reviewed academic journals. "It would be foolish of the
university to lose the contributions made by Bond to its research
profile," said the review.
While the pressure against left-wing academics at the University of
KwaZulu-Natal has been building, so has resistance. Bond says the
imminent closure of the centre, and its integration in a new form into
the School of Development Studies is not unique. Ashwin Desai, the
radical academic was fired, banned and barred from the university after
leading the 1996 strike against its corporatisation.
Although the banning was lifted in 2003, Malegapuru Makgoba, the
vice-chancellor, again banned Desai in 2005. This was protested by
leading international academics, including Noam Chomsky. Makgoba said
Chomsky was suffering from "dementia".
Now Makgoba will have Cosatu to deal with. He was not willing to comment
on the CCS matter on Friday.
Anger at UKZN plan to shut unit
By Fred Kockott (Sunday Tribune) 10 August 2008
UNIVERSITY of KwaZulu-Natal management has evoked the wrath of the
intellectual left, worldwide, and Cosatu, over moves to close down a
feisty, vibrant research unit, the Centre for Civil Society.
The centre is a voice for leftist thinkers - from anarchists to
socialists, black nationalists to social democrats.
Now its appears UKZN management is backtracking. It said on Friday a
decision on closure of the CCS had not been made, but "recommendations"
to integrate the CCS into the school of development studies were "under
This follows CCS staff going public with a formal appeal against a
management announcement that it had decided to close down the centre.
CCS director, Patrick Bond, said he and his staff were summoned to a
meeting last week and advised the centre was being closed at the end of
the year. All CCS staff contracts, besides Bond's, would be terminated
as of December. Bond said the reason - that long-term financial
viability of CCS was not secure - was a red herring.
"With our healthy reserve and incoming funding commitments for core
staff for 2009-10, there is no financial basis for closing us," said
Bond in the appeal supported by other UKZN research units, peers at Yale
University in the United States, Oxford University in Britain, and
"Hands off the CCS," was the message this week to UKZN management from
Cosatu's national spokesman, Patrick Craven, who described it as a world
leader in researching socio-economic and environmental justice issues.
Craven said inadequate funding appeared to be a "possibly spurious
reason" for closing the centre. "If there is a genuine problem of
finding funds, the government must step in to fund this important
institution," he said.
Yale University's Prof Immanuel Wallerstein, a world renowned
sociologist, wrote a letter to UKZN communications head, Dasarath
Chetty, this week, stating that he was "appalled to learn of the
imminent closure of the CCS".
"This," said Wallerstein, "would not only damage severely UKZN's
reputation but set back research worldwide on contemporary South Africa.
"The single most prestigious activity of the UKZN, as seen from a United
States vantage-point, is the CCS.
"Those of us who try to follow what is going on in South Africa have
come to rely upon the centre," said Wallerstein.
Similar messages from eminent peers at UKZN and around the world
continue to be posted on the CCS website, which also carries a formal
University Review of CCS carried out between September last year and
February this year.
The review says: "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."
"So why close the unit?" was the question Bond and his colleagues were
grappling with this week.
"The announcement came out of the blue. It makes it very difficult to
comprehend. All follow-up discussions have only left us more confused."
Bond said closure would result in the services of one white man
(himself) being retained, and the firing of more than a dozen black and
"This is a repudiation of the UKZN's commitment to employment equity."
Bond said UKZN vice-chancellor, Prof Malegapuru Makgoba, disapproved of
some of the centre's work, going as far as banning "UKZN's best-known
scholar, Ashwin Desai" who had worked at CCS.
"The vice-chancellor also has an unusual view of politics. He once
suggested we inject more right wing views," said Bond.
"That's an antithesis of what the centre is about. It's like asking the
Business School to hire Marxist scholars."
Makgoba's office declined to comment on the future of the unit,
referring queries to deputy vice-chancellor and head of humanities and
development studies, Prof Fikile Mazibuko; the dean of humanities, Prof
Donal McCracken; and head of the school of development studies, Prof
These queries in turn were referred to the UKZN's public affairs
department which issued a statement saying that a final decision had not
been taken, but that the future of the unit was "under discussion".
Bond said this was clearly a backtracking tactic in the wake of the
public furore around the move to close down the unit.
Bond said he was interested to know who was having discussions about the
future of the centre, as he and his staff were completely in the dark as
to what was going on, and had not even received acknowledgement of their
Like Cosatu, Dr Timothy Quinlan, research director, UKZN health
economics and Aids research division, said the funding argument was
flawed. "Our division does not have funding in perpetuity, nor does the
medical school's flagship HIV/Aids project, Caprisa, or a host of other
"There is need for clarity from UKZN management as to why this threat
was made - because it is absurd," he said.
Cosatu said it hoped that "university administrators who want to close
the CCS will realise their mistake."
UKZN centre 'will cease to exist in present form' Academic unit may be integrated
By Latoya Newman (The Mercury) 8 August 2008
THE University of KwaZulu-Natal's Centre for Civil Society could be
integrated into the school of development studies from the end of this year.
University officials said yesterday that a recommendation had been made
that it "will cease to exist in its current form at the end of 2008".
University pro vice-chancellor Dasarath Chetty said yesterday that a
review of the centre had been undertaken and a report was produced in
"On the basis of the review report and of discussions held between the
deputy vice-chancellor and head of college, the dean, and the head of
school in which the centre is located, it was recommended that the
centre will cease to exist in its current form at the end of 2008 due to
questions surrounding the sustained financial viability of the centre
and the appropriateness of the way in which it is currently structured
as an academic unit," he said.
Chetty said it was recommended that a "refocused civil society
programme" be established and integrated into the development studies
The Mercury has a copy of the report. The review panel outlines concerns
over the centre's financial sustainability, including that staff are on
contract and are not all engaged in activities that will generate
However, in its recommendations, the panel says: "Closing down or
removing the centre from the university 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 this
university on a world map in social science, a position the university
dare not risk to lose."
Regarding incorporating the centre, it noted: "This would remove some of
the present administrative ambiguities, but would severely curtail
autonomy and (international) status of the centre. Although favoured by
some school of development studies staff, this option was resoundingly
rejected by other interviewees and the panel."
Among the final recommendations, the panel said: "The centre should be
made a more independent entity within its host school. The school of
sociology and social studies appears to be another potential suitor as
The panel also presented a possible model for the centre as an
"autonomous entity" within the humanities faculty.
According to the centre's income and expenditure report for last year,
while it ran at a slight deficit of more than R91 000, it had an
accumulated balance of about R5.8 million.
There has been outrage at news of the developments.
Jane Duncan, of the Freedom of Expression Institute, said the
organisation had been "concerned about academic freedom of expression at
the university" for some time.
"The centre has been a force of progressive scholarship. Their research
output has been remarkable and any university would consider them an
asset. So even if, for argument's sake, the centre is struggling
financially, the university should fight to keep it alive. One cannot
ignore that there has been conflict between the centre's academics, the
municipality and university management. And one cannot help harbouring
suspicion that there may be other dynamics at play. The university needs
to explain why they would want to convert the centre into one of their
programmes," she said.
Yale professor Immanuel Wallerstein, the former president of the
International Sociological Association and founder of the World Systems
School of Analysis, was appalled.
"The single most prestigious activity of the University of
KwaZulu-Natal, at least as seen from a US vantage point, is the Centre
for Civil Society. Those of us who try to follow what is going on in
South Africa have come to rely upon the centre as the best single source
of wide information. Closing it down would not only damage severely the
university's reputation, but would set back research worldwide on
contemporary South Africa," he said.
Future of UKZN centre in balance
By Latoya Newman (The Mercury) 6 August 2008
THE survival of the Centre for Civil Society hangs in the balance after
staff recently received notice that it would be closed as of December
31, by order of University of KwaZulu-Natal officials.
Staff were led to believe that the UKZN senate would officially hear
this announcement when it met today. However, UKZN management said it
knew nothing about the decision to close down the centre.
Centre director Patrick Bond said yesterday that the centre was first
told of the decision by UKZN dean of humanities, Prof Donal McCracken,
on July 30.
The centre is a civic rights advocacy group that has conducted extensive
research and has been at the head of debate and action on issues of
environmental justice, and global and African integration. It has also
been at the helm of action groups like Abahlali baseMjondolo, an
advocacy group for housing for the poor.
"On July 30, the staff of the centre and our host institution, the
School of Development Studies, were summoned by McCracken, and told that
as of 31 December 2008, we would be permanently closed. We filed a
letter of appeal within hours of receiving that information but we have
not had a response," said Bond.
Staff were told that Bond would resume his tenured chair within the
development studies school, and the other staff contracts would be
In his appeal, published on the centre's website, Bond said he was
"ignored" despite several attempts to meet the authorities on the matter.
"A few minutes time with Prof McCracken on July 16, and repeated
(ignored) requests for follow-up discussions only leave me more confused
about whether this decision has been made on financial grounds, as
suggested, or on some other basis," wrote Bond.
He wrote that the only reason given at the staff meeting was that ". . .
the long-term financial viability of CCS was not secure, ie that we do
not have permanent funding in perpetuity. But that argument applies to
many other projects, centres and UKZN entities, and we have communicated
to Prof McCracken that there is no problem in guaranteeing core jobs and
many of our projects into 2009/2010".
As of December 2007, the centre had a reserve of more than twice its income.
Yesterday, UKZN pro-vice chancellor Dasarath Chetty responded to the
allegations. "We have ascertained that this item is not on the senate
agenda. This is incorrect information. Decisions regarding the
establishment or closure of university centres are the prerogative of
the council. When such decisions are taken after due process,
appropriate communication would follow," he said. Chetty said he had
spoken to the head of the college of humanities, Prof Fikile Mazibuko,
and she also knew nothing about the alleged decision to shut down the
Bond said the university could not deny what the centre's staff were
told, as about 30 people had heard the letter being read to them.
Notice to the University Community, 8 August 2008
A review of the Centre for Civil Society was undertaken and a report
produced in February this year by Peter Krumm. The review Panel was
comprised of: Dr Thabisile Buthelezi(Education), Dr Peter Krumm
(Physics), Prof Gerhard Maré (Sociology), Prof Relebohile Moletsane
(Education), Karen Read (Diakonia) and Prof Derek Wang (Architecture).
On the basis of the Review Report and discussions held between the
Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of College (Prof Fikile Mazibuko), the
Dean (Prof Donal McCracken), and the Head of School (Prof Vishnu
Padayachee) in which the Centre for Civil Society is located, it was
recommended that the Centre for Civil Society cease to exist in its
current form at the end of 2008 due to questions surrounding the
sustained financial viability of the Centre and the appropriateness of
the way in which it is currently structured as an academic unit. It was
recommended that a refocused Civil Society Programme be established and
integrated into the School of Development Studies. All Programmes within
the University are located in Schools and are led by Programme Coordinators.
It was further recommended that obligations to contracts of all the
staff at the Centre for Civil Society are to be honored until they
expire at the end of this year. They may then apply for other positions
within the University should they choose to do this.
These recommendations are presently being discussed in University
structures, notably, the Centre for Civil Society, the Faculty Board,
the Academic Affairs Board and Council. After following these internal
processes, Council will take the final