UKZN Is Still A Colonial Institution


Last month, the Witness published a story of one Mr Vincent Luxolo Mtyende, a lecturer at the University of KwaZulu Natal, who according to the report has ‘gone rogue’ and this apparently resulted to, almost half of the English class to fail and all this is blamed on him. This albeit that Vincent had given his section to other two colleagues because of family problems and apparently his section was not examined in the exam. As a student zealous about decolonisation I thought I must share my thoughts on this matter and believe Vincent is a victim of institutionalized anti-black system at UKZN, writes S’BONELO RADEBE. 

What this debacle reveals, is how we as blacks are easy to deal with our own and this is because of the entrenched coloniality in institutions of higher learning. UKZN remains a colonial institution and these are signs of it besides blacks being part of it and being the majority. At its merger in 2004 when the former vice chancellor Professor Malegapuru Makgoba tried to fix this problem he was fought very much and called all sorts of names. Among other things he said all lecturers must pursue doctoral studies, some old people did not fathom this well. However, he was consistent and understood that he was fighting a ‘mafia’ of Indians and Whites who wanted the status quo to endure. 

In this case of English studies, the truth can never be found on students and the lecturers who are all gunning for Vincent’s head and even that investigation is a systematic way of wanting to vilify the man without proper probe into the matter. 

What is off-putting is that black academics are victims of a system that does not recognise them for their capacity but treats them as some beneficiaries of affirmative action and its toxicity is deadlier and some black academics have ended their lives as a result. But why an investigation on Vincent and not others? By other, I mean the following few, which I either witnessed, or was privy to as an SRC member at the institution:

  • In 2015 in the SRC and management negotiations amid the students protests which was led by SASCO, in the presence of Dr Van Jaarsveld (Van nton nton as he was known to students) and other senior management, we presented a case of student who have for many years complained on a geography department member and there was never an inquiry to this. Many students believed the man was a racist and was failing them and many students have even changed their majors or delayed their degree completion because of him. 
  • In the Agric campus again, black students wrote a letter to the SRC complaining of racism that some lecturers were calling them kaffirs and lazy black kids, the students further claimed that in a planned field trip for a week, white students went to their lecturer and pleaded the trip be a day because they cannot travel with black students because they are unhygienic. Again, there was never an inquiry to this.
  • In the School of Law students have complained about a Delict Lecturer and how some students have repeated the module more than twice, resort to changing campuses because of this module but there was never an inquiry. 

Student must understand that Universities in their creation were never built for Blacks but only whites so that we as black will continue being substandard. Therefore, decolonisation remains pivotal and students must be advocates of this. We must comprehend that the opening of doors of learning did not mean these institutions were no longer colonial. 

Vincent is no problem the problem is the systematic exclusionary colonial and anti-black commodified education engineered by Whites and Indians academics, thus investigation must be broadened to investigate institutional racism, not Vincent. 

The whole UKZN is degenerating and leadership is now a scarce thing at the institution, it has turned out a looting river for many. We cannot expect a lecturer that is paid R3,400 to R4,000 to teach 300 students and produce exceptional result without even proper resources for such. Black academics must unite and together with students defend Vincent and pave a way forward on decolonising the institution and fight the epistemic violence. 

We need to understand that a university is not a factory for producing certificates it is a centre for knowledge production, and for years in that knowledge was used to exclude blacks, projecting them as fools incapable of learning and logic, whiteness is never pleased with us as blacks occupying these spaces, we therefore need not to fall into their trap, our fight is that of dealing with the coloniality of knowledge so we will further deal with coloniality of being and that of power using knowledge centres as strategic spaces for our broader decolonial project. We must defend Vincent and defending him is defending blacks and legitimising and reaffirming blacks as humans capable of everything. 

Sbonelo “Star” Radebe is a political science Master’s student at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, and also an intern at the Mzala Nxumalo Centre for the Study of South African Society.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policies of The Daily Vox.

Featured image by Lizeka Maduna