Unisa management’s unwillingness to confront racial tension – Solidarity

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The trade union Solidarity today expressed its shock and disappointment on the way in which the University of South Africa (Unisa) has dealt with sensitive complaints of victimisation related to racial hatred.

This follows after the trade union had been forced to take urgent steps on behalf of Prof Melodie Labuschaigne against Benny Morota, a law lecturer at Unisa, who had opposed the her reappointment as dean at a meeting with Mandla Makhanya, Vice Chancellor and other academics on 30 June 2017, because apparently it was unacceptable to appoint a white woman as dean.

According to Johan Botha, Deputy General Secretary of the Professional Industry at Solidarity, it became clear to Solidarity that Unisa wanted to manipulate the circumstances of the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) process from the outset so Labuschaigne would be exposed to verbal abuse in an open forum, while Morota and many other members of the Black First Land First movement (BLF) would use the platform created by Unisa to promote their racial campaign against white people. Therefore, the trade union had to intervene in the process.

“We could convince the SAHRC to change the framework of the process in such a way that the process could have a degree of integrity, to place the focus of the investigation on the true problem, which is racism and racial hatred. This framework will also address Unisa which is trying to justify racism and racial hatred under the banner of transformation and affirmative action. We hope that unilateral discussions can now be more balanced and rational so real facts can be exposed and investigated,” said Botha.

Solidarity contends that Unisa has each time yielded to political pressure from Morota and his corps of supporters despite numerous letters on behalf of members to address the hate speech and victimisation Labuschaigne has had to endure from Morota. “Labuschaigne even had to go as far as obtaining an interim injunction against harassment from Morota,” Botha added.

Botha is of the opinion that Unisa is caught in the grip of a group of radical employees led by Morota who are advancing an agenda which is openly racist against colleagues. “The inadequate way in which Unisa is dealing with our complaints and the open racism towards and victimisation of white colleagues are grave cause for concern. A once proud tertiary institution such as Unisa is now being held to ransom by a small group of radical employees with a racist agenda,” Botha said.

From now on, Solidarity will assume a watchdog role at all tertiary institutions to avoid similar situations and to support our members.