Khaya S Sithole
In the middle of it all, the most extraordinary interview was on SAfm last Thursday when William Makgoba went on a rampage against university vice-chancellors calling them all thoroughly incompetent and stating that ONLY ONE of the country's 26 vice-chancellors should even be employed. This was obviously very confusing to most of us who were the marginalised bystanders as Makgoba spent 10 of his finest years showing us precisely how NOT to run a university - and succeeding with some distinction. Makgoba went as far as comparing the VC's to Riah Phiyega (the one who is currently unemployed but on a full salary funded by you) as they signed up for jobs they were (apparently) unsuited for.
Anyway - my strong suspicion was that a certain Gareth van Onselen would find a way to call Makgoba to task. Just to remind you, this is no ordinary feud. Gareth van Onselen is the son of that famous historian - Charles van Onselen and Belinda Bozzoli. Charles van Onselen is the sworn enemy of Makgoba and Belinda's daily job is to attack the Minister of Higher Education - the previously sharp Blade Nzimande in her capacity as a member of the Portfolio Committee on Education. Makgoba and van Onselen went head to head in the spring of 1995 and the focus of the feud was that Makgoba took exception to the anti-transformational nature of the Wits Senate and launched an attack on the white cabal led by Onselen and June Sinclair. After all the blood had dried on the floor, Makgoba was demoted and Onselen and Sinclair were poached by that citadel of progress - the University of Pretoria. It was after this demotion that Makgoba found his way to Durban - to begin his reign as the principal of the University of Natal. The great irony is that Charlon had set out to find a black replacement for himself - which is how Makgoba ended up in South Africa. But - as a consequence of all this drama, Charlton's successor ended up being Colin Bundy, a white professor whose enduring legacy was the introduction of outsourcing at Wits - which is precisely why the institution remains on shutdown today. Meanwhile, the Wits employees campaigned for a certain Njabulo Ndebele from the North West to replace Charlton - and he lost out on the job and went to an institution called UCT and - you can't make this up - he introduced outsourcing at UCT! Anecdotally, the highlight of the feud was the day Makgoba attended his first Senate meeting at Wits and walked into a room made up of white professors and wore his traditional Pedi regalia to announce his arrival and the introduction of the African agenda. His reception didn't work out as expected. The Vice-chancellor - Robert Charlton - completely forgot to introduce him to the Senate as he had promised. Today - 20 years later, the Senate of Wits University is meeting to deal with the crisis of the past 2 weeks. It's demographic profile - over 60% white...