How can we deal with COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy? Lessons learnt from the HIV pandemic

By Vimbai Chibango

Like any other countries in the world, South Africa’s vaccination programme has been up and running since February 2021. On the 19th of January 2022, South Africa celebrated the inauguration of a new vaccine manufacturing plant in Cape Town, the very first in Africa to produce COVID-19 vaccines and other pharmaceuticals. This is indeed a giant step towards the provision of locally made COVID-19 vaccines. However, the key question is, what will the influence of COVID-19 hesitancy and anti-vaccine philosophies towards the attainment of COVID-19 herd immunity be? Will the establishment of a vaccine manufacturing facility obtain the intended results?

The challenges associated with hesitancy to vaccinate or to take any newly manufactured drugs aimed at treating an epidemic are not new. Prior to COVID-19, the world was shaken by yet another pandemic, HIV, which came in just over 30 years ago. The hesitancy associated with HIV happened at two interconnected levels that are; at testing and also at the point of initiation of antiretroviral therapy for people that receive a positive HIV test result. There are various reasons linked to this reluctance. For example, a study conducted in Swaziland by academics Adams and Zambeira shows that some of the reasons associated with hesitancy to test or to take HIV antiretroviral therapy include fear of a positive result, concerns about early initiation of ART, stigma and discrimination, HIV conspiratorial theories and lack of trust in the commitment and financial capacity of governments. When it comes to the uptake of the COVID-19 vaccine, the reasons for vaccine hesitancy remain complex. However, a study conducted by academics Machingaidze and Wiysong in low- and middle-income countries to understand COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy show lack of information as a major hindrance to vaccine acceptance. One more worrying factor that thwarts vaccine acceptance are conspiracy theories and myths surrounding COVID-19 vaccines which portrays negative physiological consequences emanating from vaccination. We can therefore draw a similar pattern between the HIV and COVID-19 pandemics which explain reluctance to receive therapies designed to address each of the distinct viruses.

In the midst of all the uncertainties regarding ART, global and collaborated efforts were made to increase HIV testing rates and that people living with HIV receive ART. For example, the UNAIDS report of 2021 shows that globally, the number of people on ART has been rising significantly from 2000 to 2020 (0.6 million to 30 million respectively). When it comes to COVID-19 vaccinations, the South African Department of Health shows that the country is making progress though we are still yet to achieve herd immunity. To date, over 31 million people were vaccinated and 17.6 million having been fully vaccinated in South Africa since February 2021. The ratio of the fully vaccinated is about 29% of the total population. Over 800 000 people also received Booster Dose.

According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2022), vaccines help to lower the risk of getting and spreading the virus that causes COVID-19 as well as prevent serious illness and death. Also, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) considers vaccination not only as an individual asset but as an important measure against COVID-19 which benefits the whole country, which they refer to as ‘population immunity’. Similarly, we have also learnt from the HIV pandemic that for persons infected with HIV, the ART helps to stop the virus from multiplying, thereby increasing onesCD4 count. It also prevents progression to AIDS. Thus, the idea of weakening the viral load as a result of ART is central in fighting HIV.

However, delays in acceptance or refusal to vaccinate has proved to be detrimental to progress towards preventing the spread of COVID-19. News from the South African Medal Research Council (SAMRC) state the following reflections and facts about vaccine hesitancy:

  • Reports from South Africa’s biggest hospitals, show that almost 99% of hospital admissions, resulting in serious illness or death due to COVID-19 affected unvaccinated individuals.
  • [Vaccine hesitancy] can result in communities being unable to reach thresholds of coverage necessary for herd immunity, thus unnecessarily perpetuating the pandemic and resulting in untold suffering and deaths.
  • Failure to improve vaccination coverage will mean further infections that carry with them the threat of driving the development of mutations and new COVID-19 variants that can create large-scale outbreaks and be even more deadly.

The launch of the vaccine production plant in South Africa is indeed a milestone as it is intended to address many gaps specifically in the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccine, cancer vaccines cancer vaccines and other pharmaceuticals. However, there is an urgent need to address the challenge of vaccine hesitance and anti-vaccination philosophies that might be counterproductive to the success towards the fight against COVID-19. A study by academics Cooper, Rooyen and Wiysonge investigated the extent and determinants of COVID-19 hesitancy in South Africa and it demonstrates that vaccine hesitancy is likely to be influenced by age, race, education, politics, geographical location, and employment.

There are a number of lessons that can be learnt from HIV which can also be relevant in the fight against COVID-19. In the context of HIV, it was necessary to understand the problems, challenges and setbacks towards the prevention and treatment of HIV. This provided an opportunity to reach the real issues and address them accordingly. In the same vein, South Africa and other countries that are faced with vaccine hesitancy may need to look into the real causes of vaccine hesitancy and pave the way for dialogue with communities in fighting the pandemic. Such an approach is likely to facilitate progress towards the fight against COVID-19 which is expected to be aided by the production of home-grown vaccines.

South Africa’s initiative to have a COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing plant reminds us of the significant developments it made in the early years of the HIV pandemic. The country began to develop home-grown antiretroviral drugs which helped to circumvent the costs of importing drugs and other challenges associated with foreign-based pharmaceuticals for HIV treatment. To date, South Africa prides itself as one of the leading countries in the world with a high ART roll-out. It is also our hope that the objectives of the COVID-19 vaccine production initiatives be soon realised.

Dr Vimbai Chibango is attached to Gender Justice, Health and Human Development at the Durban University of Technology. This piece emerges from a RADLA (Research and Doctoral Leadership Academy) workshop. Vimbai writes in her personal capacity.


Taking collective action to reduce flood impacts

By Indrani Hazel Govender

Driving through KwaZulu-Natal following the devastating floods, one noticed an abundance of soil in places not seen before. Roads, verges, homes, entire settlements, and coastal developments were covered in soil as water coursed through long-forgotten drainage lines, developed for economic advancement. Nature sent violently angry waters through built structures, showing no mercy for human life nor for the value placed on property. Nature took the course of least resistance, and water travelled at alarming speeds, in unprecedented volumes, carrying with it displaced soil. The earth’s surface has been transformed extensively over time, due to manipulation to accommodate human needs.

The science has warned us for decades about the possible consequences of global warming and climate change. As much as we attribute extreme events such as the recent floods to climate change, we cannot deny the role humans have played in degrading landscapes for developments, to accommodate our burgeoning population. To provide for human needs, agriculture has replaced naturally vegetated areas, and hard surfaces have replaced soil which would normally allow water to infiltrate vegetated surfaces. However, the vast areas denuded of vegetation, has contributed to the devastation of homes, businesses, infrastructure and lives. The accumulated debris in rivers from human settlements, eroded material and the sheer velocity of water is a disastrous combination which has culminated in the devastation experienced during the floods.

The valuable topsoil moved in the recent floods is a resource too often taken for granted. Unlike water, which is limited and visibly so, when we see rivers dry up, soil is all around us – even though often covered by man-made structures. The transformation of this resource through human intervention, degrades the quality of available soil. Soil is the foundation of life as we know it. It is home to the myriad microorganisms which play a critical role in supporting our ecosystems, food production and sustaining the human population. Soil provides the nutrients required for plant growth to sustain food webs, ecosystems and food security. It also provides the foundation for developments, to accommodate buildings and infrastructure. This provides the basis for sound economic development.

In the last 20 years, there is a greater push to advance the sustainability agenda. Since 2016, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have been mainstreamed in government plans and policies. This needs to translate into action on the ground in the utilization of natural resources. This is especially true of soil loss due to haphazard and uncontrolled developments, and poor compliance when developments are underway. An important consideration is the adequacy of soil protection measures. With the issue of governance frequently highlighted, we need to ask a few critical questions: 1) Are there adequate regulations to cover soil protection; 2) Are staff adequately trained to enforce these regulations, and; 3) Are there resources to ensure compliance, such as information dissemination to all stakeholders. The manner in which we plan and develop land, is critical in ensuring that extreme events are considered. Strategic planning, and screening and assessment of developments for environmental impacts and environmental compliance at project level are significant processes to ensure risk minimization and mitigation against adverse effects.

The Covid-19 pandemic has made online engagement the ‘new normal’. Online global events held in the last few months, such as ‘Nature-based Solutions for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Enhancement’ and the ‘Stockholm +50 Africa Regional Multi-stakeholder Consultation’, brings stakeholders together to address common challenges facing natural resources management and environmental impacts. ‘Stockholm +50’ is a reminder of the 1972 United Nations Conference, which emphasized a healthy environment for society. Global challenges can be tackled by science and society pooling resources, through citizen science and building capacity in multi-sector stakeholders, working towards the achievement of successful natural resources management, including soil protection. South African citizens have a collective duty to protect our natural resources, by protecting intact ecosystems for flood protection, conserving vegetated streambanks and avoiding development of floodplains.

The United Nations has declared 2021-2030 the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration – a global call to terminate the degradation of ecosystems and promote the protection and recovery of ecosystems, as we progress towards achieving the SDGs. In our efforts to reverse the impacts of our activities, past floods are excellent teachers, which hold invaluable lessons to help us prepare for future disasters.

The recent flood event was inevitable as Mother Nature took charge. The events of the past week serve as a stark reminder that we humans are indeed not in charge. To adapt and survive, we must conform to nature’s agenda. Working with nature may be recognized by the terms: ‘nature-based solutions’ or ‘ecosystem-based adaptation’. This includes ensuring bare soil on banks and along drainage lines are vegetated to prevent flooding, improving soil retention and infiltration. Protection and mitigation against soil erosion are critical in avoiding the extent of the devastation that has been experienced in KwaZulu-Natal recently. Sustainable economic development, preserving ecological integrity through healthy ecosystems and ensuring a healthy society, may facilitate progress towards achieving the SDGs. Fundamental to this are intact healthy soil systems resulting from environmentally sustainable management practices and strategies. This is the responsibility of everyone, facilitated by science-policy-society partnerships.

Indrani Govender is an Academic in the Department of Horticulture at the Durban University of Technology. This piece emerges from a RADLA (Research and Doctoral Leadership Academy) workshop. Govender writes in her personal capacity.

Article published on IOL, 11 May 2022.


The World Should Provide Solidarity To All The Victims Of War, Including Ukraine – The Final Outpost

By Dr Imraan Buccus


Almost 20 years ago, Durban hosted a huge march against the looming invasion of Iraq by the US led coalition. Many activists from Durban, and others from elsewhere in the country, travelled to Iraq to act as “human shields”.

They hoped to build international support for mediation, with Durban-based Iraq Action Committee member Abie Dawjee and senior advocate of the Durban Bar Reggie Reddy being among the 40 “human shields” who included professionals, business people and housewives. The impressive activism in Durban was not unique.

The global protests against the coming war were the biggest in human history, with an estimated 36 million taking part.

This was the highest point of anti-war activism since the movement against the Vietnam War in the 196os. In both the 196os and the early 2000S, people worldwide were mobilised against imperialist wars. But today, that momentum has been lost. Every war must be opposed, and we should be in solidarity with every victim of every war. However, today there is almost total silence regarding the attacks on Yemen carried out by the Saudi Arabian regime, with US backing.

There are two reasons why one war the war in Ukraine is, quite rightly, a major issue while another war the war in Yemen is almost completely ignored. One reason is that the US supports the war on Yemen and backs the regime waging war, but opposes the war on Ukraine and backs the Ukrainian state. The other, of course, is that most of the victims of the war in Ukraine are white, while most of the victims of the war in Yemen are brown and Muslim.

As the West rushes to impose sanctions on Russia, there is silence about Saudi Arabia, Israel and other states embroiled in wars and other kinds of violence and repression. More than a million people died as a result of the USled war on Iraq, but people like Hillary Clinton and George W Bush are not treated as global pariahs. The double standard could hardly be clearer. Understandably, this leads many to conclude that the attempts to isolate Russia in business, academia and sport are fundamentally a matter of white solidarity with other white people, or a project of US foreign policy, or a mixture of both. To be clear, Vladimir Putin is a hard right wing nationalist who runs a vicious kleptocracy and has committed a criminal act in invading Ukraine. But this does not mean that we should not ask why there is such silence on the war in Yemen or why the US was not isolated and sanctioned for its illegal and criminal attack on Iraq. A life in Yemen should matter just as much as a life in Ukraine.

This is not `whataboutery’; it is a simple statement of a coherent ethical orientation to the world For as long as the global media focuses on white lives in the way that it does, and sides with US foreign policy objectives in the way that it does, the majority of the world’s population will question the sincerity of efforts to offer solidarity to the people of Ukraine. Of course, the solution is not to refuse solidarity to the people of Ukraine but to ensure that solidarity is offered to everyone who is a victim of war. A life in Yemen should matter just as much as a life in Ukraine.

This is not “whataboutery”; it is a simple statement of a coherent ethical orientation to the world. We need to restore the genuine internationalism that occurred in the 1960s and early 2000s and make sure that there is opposition to all wars no matter the race and religion of either the victims or the perpetrators.

Dr Buccus is senior research associate at ASRI and postdoctoral scholar in Gender Justice, Health and Human Development at Durban University of Technology.

Article published on the Daily Maverick, 12 March 2022.


Durban’s beauty is increasingly being marred by political gangsterism and kleptocracy

By Dr Imraan Buccus

The criminalisation of politics in SA is nowhere more glaring than in KwaZulu-Natal.

Having been born in Durban and raised for a period on the South Coast of KZN, Durban was always “the city”; my city. I love the city and all its people, all its sights and sounds and smells.

As a keen cyclist and runner, I spend a lot of time at its beachfront, a glorious space and, as many have noted, the most democratic public space in the country. A few years ago I wrote a piece about this space, and its beauty and intimation of a more open and democratic future.

This year I thought I might return to that piece. But in 2022 there is such a sense of menace in Durban that it seems impossible to write about the parts of this city that are still beautiful and hopeful.

The plain fact is that politics in this city has been captured, to a significant extent, by political gangsterism. There are still people, including in the ruling party, fighting the good fight, but they are on the losing end. The formal incorporation of the Delangokubona SA Business Forum, widely described as a mafia organisation, into the city’s tendering system is just one indication that gangsterism is now institutionalised.

The city is still reeling from the riots in July which, although they started as a classic bread riot, were soon penetrated by organised crime directly linked to parts of the ANC. Nobody here feels safe and nobody trusts the government or the state.

The future of Durban seems to be like those parts of central America and India — including the state of Uttar Pradesh from where the Gupta brothers descended on our shores like a plague of locusts — where politics is more or less fully criminalised.

In SA the criminalisation of politics is most advanced in KZN, but it is a national phenomenon and one that is not limited to the ANC. The criminalisation of politics is also strongly supported by tiny organisations with the sole function of making propaganda.

While they enjoy no membership of any meaningful size and no popular support, they regularly win prime media space — organisations like Carl Niehaus’s “veterans” association and Andile Mngxitama’s Black First Land First, which was happy to have its statements scripted by Bell Pottinger.

I have repeatedly made the point, as have other intellectuals, that while what we used to call the “Zuma faction” of the ANC has support in the ANC, and in parts of the state such as the security cluster, it does not have support in society. This remains true. But a disturbing development is the growing idealisation of people who have made their money through outright gangsterism or the looting of the state.

Recently a video showing a notorious politically connected mafia family arriving at a party went viral, to much admiration. In a similar fashion, people like Kenny Kunene and Shauwn Mkhize are treated as celebrities, as are the compromised people in the EFF leadership. The media has a lot to account for in this regard, but in a sea of unemployment, there seems to be a popular attraction to people who seem to have magically acquired huge wealth.

The contrast between this culture and the plain coffin in which Desmond Tutu was carried to rest could not be more pronounced.

These are dark days, but there is still hope. We must remember that the Guptas were brought down by superb media work — led by Daily Maverick — and a strong civil society campaign. Consistently good journalism, together with a well-coordinated political campaign that aligned the decent people in the ANC, its remaining progressive forces, the trade unions and grassroots activists could turn the tide.

But for this to happen we must be clear about the existential threat that we confront. It is no longer adequate to term it “the Zuma faction”. It is a much wider phenomenon. I have been calling it the “kleptocratic faction” for some years now, but that term is also no longer adequate. The enemy that we must defeat is the brazen criminalisation of politics.

Dr Imraan Buccus is senior research associate at the Auwal Socio-Economic Research Institute and a postdoctoral scholar in gender justice, health and human development at Durban University of Technology.

Article published on the Daily Maverick, 17 January 2021.


Beyond euphoria: What is next for municipalities?

By: Dr David Mohale

THE euphoria and hysteria of the 2021 local government elections and the subsequent farcical coalition talks are fast waning. What should be next on the agenda? Christened the fulcrum of development, the local sphere is the closest level of government to the citizen.

It is this sphere of government that has the potential to overcome the trust deficit between the government and citizens on the one hand. On the other hand, it is the same sphere of government that can delegitimise the entire government if it becomes the face and symbol of governance failure.

Below, I propose a generic programme of action for municipalities, with an understanding that dynamics differ from one municipality to another, from region to region and from province to province.

My recommendations are certainly not “a readymade package”. One of the reasons behind the growing Chinese governance success is their recognition that there is no governance model that can be universally applied.

Therefore, political leadership in different councils must lead an arduous task of institutional engineering amid the contesting multiple exogenous factors which include but are not limited to i vested and contradictory interests of their respective political parties; ii degenerative economy that produces an increasing number of poor households; iii social instability that will stem from economic exclusion and deprivation; iv dysfunctional poor intergovernmental relations.

The biggest challenge for leadership, particularly in a number of hung municipalities, is the extent to which they can and will be able to relegate into the background the partisan interests in the interest of effective and accountable governance as a prerequisite for social and economic development.

The White Paper on Local Government offers a useful definition for a developmental local government. It has to place the citizens at the centre of governance and development processes as contemplated by Section 152 of the Constitution. I further suggest that a developmental municipality must also have capacity to build and sustain internal institutional cohesiveness.

This means that a council itself must, first and foremost, work as a cohesive unit that is able to provide directional thrust over administration through approval of the Integrated Development Plan, budget, Service Delivery and Budget Implementation Plan and other policies.

Secondly, different political office bearers must have the unity of purpose to ensure the cooperation of political offices. One of the perennial pathologies of the local government system is the deleterious turf contestation between mayors and speakers.

The proliferation of fulltime office bearers in recent years, such as the Municipal Public Accounts Committee chairperson, requires that the incumbents must have the skill, maturity and willingness to navigate the inherently blurred lines of executive and legislative roles in councils.

In a democratic South Africa, the capacity to build and sustain institutional cohesiveness as a required capability also means that you have to engage deliberately and meaningfully with labour. Over the years, political leaders in municipalities tend to capture selected influential leaders of workers. That approach is short-lived. Workers are ultimately the real implementers of policies.

They have to be engaged all the time for them to buy into the strategic orientation of an organisation. Essentially, institutional cohesiveness requires that all key stakeholders purposefully work together to pursue the interest of the citizen.

Governments are not known for retrenching employees. As the new councils got installed over the past few days, they are inheriting the reality of the ravaging impact of Covid19 that has decimated many businesses. This week, Statistics SA confirmed that the country reached a record unemployment rate.

The reported increase in suicide rates in Gauteng alone is a stark reminder of the debilitating effect of Covid19 on the economy, therefore, affecting our personal income and national fiscus. Councils are notorious for passing unfunded budgets, resulting in the misuse of national transfers and grants to pay for operating costs.

Institutional cohesiveness may necessitate that all stakeholders have a conversation about the top 10 or 20 cost drivers and discuss possible savings. Institutional review does not necessarily mean retrenchment, but it may mean shepherding some staff out of the system due to natural attrition and reallocating functions elsewhere. It is true that many municipalities have tall structures instead of flat structures, resulting in many people being managers only in name while they perform clerical functions.

Besides the guaranteed 13th cheque for all other employees except for the municipal manager and managers appointed in terms of Section 56 of the Municipal Systems Act 2002 , municipalities do not incentivise their employees. From 2008, the only other discernible incentive for municipal employees was their participation in the mandatory Minimum Competency Requirements short programme.

Very few municipalities invest in staff development and training. Staff members tend to be demotivated because of routine tasks over the years.

A switch to meritocracy and consistent incentive regime can result in the reduction of outsourcing of functions. Most of the functions outsourced to consultants can be performed by internal staff members. Money paid out to consultants can then be used to fund other critical services and programmes of a municipality.

Smaller and secondary city municipalities need to link the mandate of provision of basic services to the economic value. The focus on the attraction of investment will determine which activities will receive more allocation when drawing up and approving the budget.

Maintenance of infrastructure must be prioritised, for it is a condition to lure investment. The maintenance of existing infrastructure can also minimise the phenomenon of social unrest in many communities.

Municipalities must develop and implement policies that promote procurement within their jurisdiction in a progressive manner. The progressiveness of their policies will be determined by the extent to which they support historically disadvantaged and vulnerable groups to participate in the provision of services.

This means that opportunities for participation in the local economy through procurement as a vehicle must support the youth and female-owned companies. Support in this regard does not mean the continuation of the current pattern where black companies merely act as conduits between established white companies and municipalities.

This can address the finding that IDPs have not been used strategically to transform the ownership patterns of the economy and spatial inequality. Inevitably, municipalities must increase their funding for local economic development activities and programmes.

For me, this is one area in which the newly launched District Development Model can be tested. For instance, various spheres of government can enter into Memoranda of Understanding to support women and youth businesses in the delivery of public infrastructure, taking advantage of the Cooperatives Act, with skills development agencies such as SEDA being engaged to train members of Cooperatives.

Smaller and rural municipalities are primarily dependent on national transfers. They also impose levies and taxes on properties and charge for services. They have not demonstrated any capacity to mobilise additional finances outside these traditional sources of income. There is an opportunity for municipalities to establish strategic networks with private companies, donor agencies and nongovernmental organisations.

Municipalities must establish a research and learning network with universities and Technical and Vocational Education and Training TVET colleges. On their part, the MOUs must be designed in such a way that these institutions continually take councillors and employees as students to be taught on various aspects of governance and management.

The partnership can also mean that municipalities have “in-house” research capacity to undertake various research projects. Universities and TVET colleges can, on the other hand, send their students to municipalities for experiential training as a number of academic programmes currently require this exposure as a graduation requirement. Municipalities will then be enabled to contribute to post-matric education as the crucial capability for the 21st century. The relationship will be mutually beneficial.

Every mayor must establish the Planning and Local Economy Forum. The forum must bring together the representatives of established and small businesses in the area, professional nongovernmental organisations and national and provincial government key departments.

The main focus must be the discussion on plugging the leaks in the local economy. This is one area that municipalities neglect. Local procurement may not assist if the money spent locally flows beyond the borders if synergy is not created in terms of the value chain of supply and demand of different services and products between different industries and companies in a locality.

Municipalities often suffer the wrath of communities because of their physical proximity, even on matters that fall outside their scope. But communities cannot be blamed for this lack of clarity because there is a lack of educational civic campaigns programmes.

A developmental municipality is, therefore, the one that will invest in ongoing civic education campaigns as part of building capabilities of citizens. The campaigns of this nature will also go a long way in enriching the quality of engagement during planning consultative meetings with communities as they will be empowered on how the entire government functions.

It is also possible that an improved understanding of the work of a municipality and government will also translate into improved quality and sincerity of relations between a municipality and its community.

Dr Mohale writes in his personal capacity but works for DUT and is a member of the Municipal Demarcation Board

Credit: Sunday Independent, 12 December 2021.

Pass rates for school leavers in South Africa are failing students and universities

By Dr Zamokuhle Mbandlwa

South Africa’s current basic education system and the grading standard produce poor academic outcomes. Because of this, students exiting high school don’t qualify to study further at university level. 

On top of this the bachelor, diploma and certificate passes at the matric level (the final year of high school) create false hopes for learners because they believe that they automatically qualify to study at any university. 

I wrote a paper that looked at the mismatch between the weak education outcomes of South Africa’s basic education system – including the grading practice for students in their final year of school – and what’s required of students to transition to higher education. 

I argue that the current basic education system and the grading standard produce poor quality learners who mostly do not qualify to study at a university level. In addition, the bachelor pass, diploma pass and certificate pass at matric level create false hope for learners. 

My conclusion is that the current government reduced the pass mark to obtain the higher pass rate. The high school education in most countries have a 50% pass for all subjects. But in South Africa the government has successively dropped the final pass rate. For some subjects it is now as low as 30%. Last year learners were given an extra 5% allowance for up to three subjects. 

My view is that the government has done this cynically to enable it to use the higher pass rates achieved as part of their campaigning to obtain more votes. This has been at the expense of younger people. 

The history 

The study applied desktop research methodology and the findings are based on existing literature, empirical and theoretical studies. 

I present two main arguments in my paper. The first is that the basic education system produces pupils who don’t qualify to access tertiary education. And the second is that as a result of poor schooling, academically weak students are fed into the higher education sector. 

During apartheid South Africa’s education system was racially separated. The Bantu Education Act 47 of 1953 allowed the apartheid government to construct racially separated educational facilities. The education system was designed to strengthen the apartheid laws of racial segregation. Black people had their schools of inferior quality while white people had good educational facilities and a good education system. 

Universities were also designed to racially separate people. The apartheid government system was cruel and declared a crime against humanity by the United Nations. 

One feature of the system stood out for me during my research: the way in which pass marks were managed. The system had higher, standard, and lower grades which gave learners options to choose from. Based on those options, the quality of a learner was produced. 

Most matriculants with standard and lower grade symbols weren’t accepted in many universities but were eligible for employment opportunities. The system applied to black as well as white students. 

The gaps 

There’s a huge a gap between what the high school system produces and what the higher education system expects. 

Firstly, learners in the final year of high school are allowed to pass with at least 50% in four subjects, a minimum of 40% for home language, at least 30% in the language of learning and teaching and at least 30% for one other subject. 

This is a poor system because it produces students whose academic outcomes aren’t strong enough to allow them to properly transition into higher education.. 

Universities have foundation programmes that are designed to assist students who don’t meet entrance requirements. These programmes are also called bridging courses. If students succeed with their bridging courses they can proceed and enrol in the desired academic programme. 

Another reason that the system is failing universities and students is that only one-third of students who exit high school qualify to gain entry into the higher education system. The low number of students in South Africa who do qualify to study further at university level is attributed to the weak quality of education they receive while in high school 

Some studies has tried to address the issues of transition from high school to the university education. Another prominent factor that contributes to the existing problems is the inequalities in the schooling system. 

A political game 

Most people blame the poor quality of education on the apartheid government because the education system is still struggling to recover apartheid government’s education policies. The apartheid government might indeed still be having an impact on the current education system. But it can’t be primarily blamed for the failures of post-apartheid democratic government leaders. They have the power to change and strengthen the country’s basic education. But have failed to do so. 

The pass rate is confusing and isn’t a clear reflection of high school learners’ academic capacities. South African parents need to pay attention. The 30% pass mark is a failure of the high school education system. 

The Department of Basic Education is more concerned about the proportion of pupils that pass to make school leavers and their parents happy. A lower pass rate gives them better numbers to crow about. It is doing this at the expense of the quality of education in the country. 

Please see below the link of the article published in The Conversation Africa. 

Pictured: The revised article published on the Daily News on 26 0ctober 2021.

Dr. Zamokuhle Mbandlwa, Lecturer in Public Administration, Durban University of Technology. 


Political Killings in KZN – Need to Act Now

By Imraan Buccus

KwaZulu-Natal has been the central location for political violence since the 1980s. As a number of commentators have observed the impunity for violence in the province has meant that contestation for access to political positions and tenders has started to take violent forms in other provinces, most notably Mpumalanga and the Eastern Cape. 

The recent arrest of former MEC for agriculture in Mpumalanga Mandla Msibi on two charges of attempted murder and one of attempted murder was a shocking demonstration of how the problem of political violence is spreading. The assassination of the respected civil servant Babita Deokaran in Johannesburg in August was an equally shocking development.

As we get close to local government elections two aspirant councillors have been shot dead in KwaZulu-Natal. In recent days Thulani Shangase, a candidate for the EFF in Pietermaritzburg, and Siyabonga Mkhize in Durban were both murdered in what are assumed to be political killings. Last month three women were shot dead in Durban when a gunman opened fire in an ANC meeting.

More than ten years ago Grassroots activists in Durban first blew the whistle on the growing entanglement between gangsterism and local ANC politics in Durban. Their warning proved to be astute. During the Zuma years the association between politics and gangsterism became more or less open when the then mayor Zandile Gumede was publicly associated with the Delangokubona Business Forum, widely described as a mafia organisation. 

In Cato Manor it is rumoured that the same faction of the ANC that has been behind the recent arrest and imprisonment of nine members of Abahlali baseMjondolo on trumped up charges is behind the recent assassination of Mkhize. This is not confirmed but the fact that it seems credible to many people shows just how febrile the political atmosphere is at the moment. 

Political violence is not just a threat to its victims. It drives good people out of politics and is a direct and serious threat to democratic values and practices. 

It is a matter of huge concern that, aside from some courageous grassroots activists, there has not been serious action against the political violence in KwaZulu-Natal that is now spilling into our provinces.

The Moerane Commission of Inquiry established in 2016 received useful input from academics, activists and politicians but was, in the end, a damp squib, with no real follow up. One of the points often repeated in the testimony heard by the commission was that during the latter years of the war between Inkatha and the UDF in the late 1980s and early 1980s the only effective mechanism to address the problem was to bring in high level, well-funded and dedicated police units from outside the province to investigate political killings. 

Once there is no longer impunity for political killings the situation will start to improve. However, action is not being taken to achieve this, just as action is not being taken to investigate, arrest and prosecute the people who used the massive bread riots in July as cover to organise a campaign of sabotage. This was an act of treason and the fact that there are no consequences for treasons is a damning indictment on the state.

As Ferial Hafferjee recently argued the obvious explanation for this is that Cyril Ramaphosa knows that he cannot retain his hold on the ANC, and thereby his Presidency of the country, if the KZN ANC turns against him. It seems that for this reason he is allowing political violence to continue unchallenged. 

This is a dire situation and one that all South Africans should be insisting is resolved as a matter of absolute urgency. It may be that the only way to do this to create such pressure on Ramaphosa that he fears public opinion more than the KZN ANC.

We need to act, and we need to act now.

Dr Buccus is senior research associate at ASRI and post-doctoral scholar in Gender Justice, Health and Human Development at Durban University of Technology




WE HAVE just emerged from having celebrated Deaf Awareness Month. This year, the campaign reflected on the great strides the South African Deaf community, a cultural minority group, has made since 1994.

Our exposure to deafness is often based on what we see at the bottom corner of our television screens during prime time live newscasts and televised statements of national importance.

We might not understand the sign language and gestures we see but have grown to trust that what we witness is correct.

It all changed in 2013 at late president Nelson Mandela’s memorial service when we were left with egg on our faces.

The interpreter, who rendered his services next to dignitaries that included the then-US president Barack Obama, was, in fact, a fake. Oscar-winning deaf actress Marlee Matlin tweeted about the atrocity as the organisers embarrassingly removed the fake interpreter from the stage.

The procurement and vetting faux pas made international news headlines, and some of us boasted that we smelt a rat from the start.

“What he signed just didn’t make sense to me,” and “It was very different to the SABC interpreter’s sign language” immediately became the opening lines to the national discourse that followed. We have certainly become more cautious about whom we trust in the blue box. Nowadays, we glance to the left bottom of the screen whenever the president speaks. Be it to catch a meme moment or simply to check that what is signed is correct.

Since the start of Covid19 and the president’s fortnightly “family meetings”, we have been inspired to come up with memes that make fun of serious issues.

A shot which involved the “sign lady in a blue box” depicting a person rolling a zol, smoking a zol and sharing a zol following Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma’s briefing, catapulted the memes of both women to fame.

The interpreter certainly knew how to pull a blunt in front of a nation. Be that as it may, have you ever wondered how interpreting works? WE HAVE become more cautious about sign language interpreters and their authenticity, says the writer. I African News Agency ANA Scholars in the field of translation and interpreting studies refer to simultaneous interpreting as a strenuous cognitive task.

That is because the interpreter listens to what the speaker says, deciphers the meaning of the spoken word and transfers the information into a signed language readily understood by the deaf community.

The interpreter anticipates what the speaker might say next and finds ways to adapt a linear language into a visual, gestural three-dimensional, nonlinear language. The interpreter mediates between a hearing world based on sound and phonetic nuances to a “silent” world based on visuals and nuances expressed through facial expressions. When producing a film, a director translates a carefully crafted script to the silver screen. Similarly, the signed language interpreter adapts spoken language to a visual language with the same intent as the speaker.

When the interpreter is not familiar with the subject matter, simultaneous interpreting increases in difficulty. A difficult task becomes more demanding when the interpreter must decipher unfamiliar accents or when the environment is too noisy to concentrate.

Interpreting is indeed a stressful cognitive task that requires advanced problem-solving skills, as they facilitate communication between a majority culture and a minority culture, of which, the latter continues to experience marginalisation, discrimination and disempowerment based on the lack of equal access to information.

In dealing with the societal and cultural complexities within a South African context, the interpreter must understand the psyche of both hearing and deaf members of society.

It is no surprise that simultaneous interpreting is considered one of the most stressful occupations, equal to aviation control. How then do interpreters successfully create equal access to information to both hearing and deaf people?

No, interpreters do not possess enhanced cognitive abilities because of a Darwinian evolutionary intervention. Interpreters follow a strict code of ethics that promotes professionalism, accuracy, impartiality, and continuous development. Their experience allows them to mitigate the high cognitive demand they experience.

We certainly need to appreciate the impartial conduits often confined to blue boxes in the corner of our television screens. Remember that they operate in high-demand, low-control settings.

Du Toit is the head of the Information Systems Department’s Deaf Centre at DUT and writes in his personal capacity.



By Vimbai Chibango,

The COVID-19 pandemic is a global health emergency that has taken central position in service provision – pushing HIV to the periphery. This is an issue of concern in South Africa, a country that had made substantial progress in the prevention, treatment and care of HIV.

As more focus and efforts were directed towards finding strategies of maintaining and mitigating COVID-19 and its deadly impacts, HIV services were generally side-lined. A recent study by Dr Dorward and colleagues from the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA) found that the provision of antiretroviral therapy remained constant while HIV testing, and antiretroviral therapy initiations were adversely affected. Interruptions in HIV counselling and testing have adverse impacts on the health of the infected persons as this delays their initiation on antiretroviral therapy, weakening their immune system as a result.

The hard lockdown measures were meant to ensure that the COVID-19 virus is contained, so as to reduce and prevent the spread but this has had adverse effects on HIV service provision. South Africa has wide coverage of HIV testing and counselling services which are provided at its mobile clinics and facilities. Due to the restrictions, these services were also discontinued. The questions that come to mind are around how people would know their status? Additionally, if they cannot test, they would not know if they have to be initiated on antiretroviral therapy. Of concern too is the fact that the majority of people who rely on these services to access condoms were by no means left unaffected by these measures.

The number of people infected by COVID-19 and those living with HIV in South Africa is alarming. The National Institute for Communicable Diseases states that there are 2 829 435 confirmed COVID-19 cases and about 83 899 COVID-19 related deaths. In terms of HIV, the report from Statistics South Africa states that approximately 8.2 million people in South Africa were living with HIV in 2020, which accounts for approximately 13,7% of the total population. We know that despite being one of the countries with the highest number people living with HIV in the world, South Africa has the largest rollout of antiretroviral therapy (ART) in the world. The country has documented an extraordinary progress on ART roll-out in which by 2020, 71% of HIV positive adults and 47% percent of child were on ART. In addition to this excellent result, a recent report from the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) states that South Africa became the first country in the sub-Saharan African region to approve of the Pre-Exposure prophylaxis that is given to people that are at high risk of HIV infection. Other countries in the world have documented success of their ART rollout. In comparison to South Africa, Latin America has an HIV prevalence lower (2.1million) than South Africa. However, its ART rollout is analogous to South Africa with 61% of adults and 46% of children living with HIV on ART. In order to maintain the flagship in HIV prevention and treatment, the government would ensure an interrupted supply of ART so as to prevent HIV-related deaths as well as to prevent increase in HIV incidence resulting from lack of prevention.

The link between HIV and COVID-19 is something to worry about as it points to the high health risk for people living with HIV. A report from the UNAIDS states that people living with HIV experience more severe outcomes and have higher comorbidities from COVID-19 than those not infected with HIV. The World Health Organisation disseminated the following evidence as HIV and COVID-19 is concerned:

  • People living with HIV were 13% more likely to be admitted to hospital with severe or critical COVID-19 after controlling for age, gender and comorbidities.
  • They were more likely to die after admission to hospital with COVID-19; people living with HIV had a 30% increased risk of death independent of age, gender, severity at presentation, and co-morbidities.
  • Among people living with HIV, diabetes, high blood pressure, being male or over 75 years old were each associated with an increased risk of death.

 Under such circumstances, it is expected that people living with HIV be considered as a priority in any of the COVID-19 mitigation strategies. However, it is shocking to learn that by mid-2021, globally; most people living with HIV had not received the vaccine.  In South Africa, where above 13% of the population is living with HIV, prioritising vaccination of this key population is crucial. Nonetheless this subject has not reached the national conversation in any significant way; and there have not been any campaigns to encourage people living with HIV to get vaccinated.

While most of the efforts are exerted onto maintaining and mitigating COVID-19 and less attention is given to HIV, we may run the risk of reversing the gains that were brought about in the fight against HIV over the past few decades. HIV and COVID-19 are twin pandemics which may not be treated in isolation due to the adverse effects COVID-19 can have on people living with HIV.

Dr Chibango is Post-Doctoral Fellow in Gender Justice, Health and Human Development at DUT.


Has South Africa improved since apartheid was abolished?

Original Author/Publisher: Mr. Bradley Puckree
Original Publication Date: 5 September 2017
Original URL:

Yes, it has. Being a South African citizen by birth (born in 1993 of Indian descent), I am what you would call a “born free”. Growing up in the democratic South Africa I cannot recall a time when I have been racially abused or discriminated against in the open public, be it in public transport, in shopping malls, at service stations or anywhere for that matter.

There is a sense of calm within society in general despite a few racial slurs thrown occasionally, which are widely condemned. Having been educated about apartheid laws and history in school, I would say the previous system was much harsher than it is today and can be compared to the Jim Crow laws that occurred in the United States.

BUT, there are still many flaws within this country. Unemployment is rife (about a quarter of the population) and by neglecting black education during colonialism and the apartheid era we can safely say this was caused partly by past wrong doings and also the current government failing to improve the situation (In fact making it worse). In 2017 we face problems of high-level corruption and so-called state capture. Crime is still rampant.

Widespread and sometimes violent protests take place voicing unhappiness about the current government. The state of the economy is worrying, remaining stagnant and showing little improvement.

In the apartheid era I would say it was a race war, in today’s South Africa it is every man for himself, the sky is the limit and we can be anything we set our mind to. Cheers!



Zwanga Matsila and Colin Thakur
The Star, Cape Argus and Daily News
29 September 2021

“UNHINGED” and “anarchy” were some terms used to describe the July mayhem in our beloved country.

The chaos, ostensibly triggered by the jailing of former president Jacob Zuma, spiralled into the country’s worst post-democratic era unrest. At least 330 citizens were killed and more than 200 shopping malls devastated.

The overwhelmed police could do little but stand and watch. Citizens and businesses, in hitherto unheralded acts of confluence, formed vigilante groups to protect people and property.

While the vigilante groups had the effect of mitigating some damage and violence, they also fuelled racial discordance. Vigilantism occurs when civilians act in a law enforcement capacity without legal authority.

In the aftermath, South Africa rekindled the ubuntu spirit, creating its own supply chains to freight food hampers of oil, bread and other essentials to citizens, without fear or favour.

Citizens, spurred by the pandemic-induced cabin fever, resorted to online crowdsourcing to find the perpetrators.

The process of taking vigilantism online is called digilantism. Facebook and Twitter activists swung into gear, combining their digital skills with vigilantism morphing into digilantes. Digilantism is an area we are researching.

Are there precedents for digilantism? The most recent was the FBI using digilantism to find and identify the Capitol stormers on January 6 in Washington DC. If they can, so can we, right?

The danger is that people, however well-intentioned, take the law into their hands. Distributed “evidence” is taken as factual. A likeness of a person is taken to be fait accompli. It hardly seemed to matter that some shared material was recycled from other unrests, from movies, was dated, or even fake.

Even worse, when the images are true with respect to date and geolocations, they were of such poor quality or duration that circumstantial accusations were impossible.

While humans excel at recognising faces, they appear abysmal in recognising photographic faces in photographs which is a mystery to neuroscience and psychology.

Even video surveillance is proving problematic as the US government is probing whether surveillance software can be deployed against protesters, with California considering banning the police use of such technology.

Is there any evidence of crime-sourcing events through internet images being “wrong”?

The 2013 Boston Marathon, with 26000 participants, was marred by a sadistic bombing, killing three runners and wounding hundreds. The marathon inspired digilantism, and our research, as outraged US citizens, tried all means to identify the culprits. Internet sleuths waged through photo and video-graphic footage and tried to triangulate that with available witness accounts to find the Boston Bombers.

The unintended tragic consequences were that they got the identifications horribly wrong, leaving innocent people fearing for their safety, while one person, tragically, committed suicide.

Charlie Beckett called the Boston fiasco a “media literacy seminar” and hoped that “people are learning to be less stupid. You don’t want to be the person who names a suspect who turns out to be innocent”.

Consider digilantism and the 2018 Moses Mabhida Stadium MMS soccer riots. As videos of the MMS rampage went viral and before the police asked for help, internet sleuths began experimenting with reverse image search software such as Google and TinEye to try to identify the hooligans.

People felt vindicated as the PSL and police asked for help in identifying some suspects.

The authors themselves tried and did not get many “hits” from the grainy public-posted MMS videos and photographs, although the system reported close comparisons.

However, even with the naked eye, the comparisons looked dubious, at best. This experiment demonstrated how unreliable the process could be.

The research demonstrates the difficulty of using social photographic and videographic images to apportion accusations affirming the need for a formal academic exercise to be pursued. Does this sound familiar in the current riotous context?

This is the reason unemotional police detective work is crucial. Police have a methodical process to make an accusation, which may well appear pedantic or terribly boring. Further, an allegation must be arbitrated by a court of law. These checks and balances point to a functional democracy. Social media does not need the “cry wolf effect”.

The fable belongs to the print era. Matsila and Thakur are researching digilantism at the Durban University of Technology. The views expressed are their own.


Beware those lurking on the sidelines as government and police fail

Claire Raga and Savo Heleta
Sunday Times
26 September 2021


On September 5, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that a new task team will investigate the reasons for citizens’ lack of trust in the police, particularly when it comes to the failure of the police to prevent the July riots in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, or to protect people, property and infrastructure.

Public perceptions about the failures of the police – and all levels of the government – are nothing new. Since the beginning of the democratic dispensation, SA has seen a great number of failures and setbacks in the ability of national, provincial and local authorities to govern, provide services and meet the basic needs of the majority of citizens. This, in turn, has triggered thousands of protests by desperate people demanding jobs, better pay, service delivery and livelihood improvements.

The failure to govern and provide security became particularly evident during the July unrest, when the country was appalled by the vicious cycle of rampant looting and destruction of shopping centres, businesses, warehouses and other facilities and infrastructure in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. The destruction and turmoil have affected the poor and middle class, privately owned businesses and state-run facilities, and provincial infrastructure. The impact of this on society, the economy and the country’s stability will be immense in the months and years to come.

The exact causes of these tumultuous actions remain to be confirmed. Some have pointed fingers at pro-Zuma supporters and prominent government and ANC figures, accusing them of prompting and instigating the violence and looting to expose what they see as the failures of the opposing ANC faction that is in power.

Others have highlighted the extreme poverty and inequality in SA that saw poor, hungry and desperate people, long forgotten by the government, entering shops and businesses in search of food and other basic necessities. And there were also opportunists who saw the chaos as an opportunity to steal.

Whatever the reasons for the unrest and whether any of the above is true – or there is more to it – the events over the past few weeks have shown that the government has a long way to go to transform the country, govern effectively and offer basic services to large sections of the population.

During the unrest across KwaZulu-Natal and in parts of Gauteng, one thing became painfully evident: in a time of great need, South African authorities and the police were completely absent. While this has been a reality for so many in the country for a long time – whether we consider security, social protection or delivery of basic services – the recent crisis and devastation exposed this on an enormous scale.

Where the government is absent, incapable or where it fails, there is likely to be someone else willing to take the reins and exert control and influence. Gangs have been doing this in SA for years. In many communities where the government has failed to govern and provide basic necessities, and where the police have failed to provide security, gangs have taken over, exerting a great deal of power and influence and even providing food, job opportunities and other necessities to struggling people. In essence, gangs have been able to utilise the failures of the government and police to their benefit and in the process grow their illegal enterprises.

As tensions rose across the country during the recent chaos in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, there were fears in other provinces that the turmoil and destruction could spread. In the Eastern Cape, the South African National Taxi Council stepped in to protect local shopping centres.

The taxi industry got involved after appeals from the premier, Oscar Mabuyane, who understood from the scenes of violence and looting in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng that the police and authorities were incapable of protecting property, people and institutions and providing basic security. He turned to the taxi bosses in the province, asking them to protect the communities, businesses and infrastructure.

While the actions of the taxi industry in the Eastern Cape must be commended, it is important to ask critical questions about their motives. The first observation is that the taxi industry was motivated by its own interests, as it would suffer a loss of income if looting started in the Eastern Cape, given that its primary source of income is the transportation of people.

However, other, more sinister, motives should not be overlooked. There are some who worry that the taxi industry will use its intervention to protect the province to hold the provincial and local authorities to ransom in the future. This should not surprise anyone given the numerous violent shutdowns of the cities and towns in the province by the taxi industry over the years. In May this year, the Eastern Cape was rocked by widespread violent protests by the same taxi industry that recently came to province’s rescue. And now, only two months after they helped save the day in the province, the same taxi industry is waging a war against e-hailing drivers, causing chaos in Nelson Mandela Bay.

As heroic as the Eastern Cape taxi industry’s actions in July to prevent looting may seem, it is important to consider the long-term consequences of the failure of the police, other security services and the provincial authorities to provide security and basic services, and turning to the taxi industry for help. If the South African Police Service cannot provide protection and security to communities, businesses and industries, what is the point of the police? If the government cannot govern and provide basic services, what is the point of having the government at all? Should South Africans perhaps begin to ignore the uncaring, incapable and corrupt government and instead organise progressive “solidarity councils” across the country to work towards more effective and just change and service delivery, as a recent editorial in the New Frame suggested?

SA remains the most unequal country in the world, where the inequality is rooted in the colonial and apartheid looting and oppression and the failures of the democratic dispensation to improve the lives of millions of desperate people. Unless things fundamentally, structurally and systemically change – and change quickly – the country will remain fragile, unsustainable and on the edge of the abyss.

Until the national, provincial and local authorities are seen as effective actors able to govern without corruption and nepotism, provide basic services and meet the needs of the citizens, other groups will be lurking on the sidelines, ready to jump in and “save the day”. And, in most instances, this will create new complexities and problems.

Claire Raga works at Nelson Mandela University. Dr Savo Heleta works at the Durban University of Technology. This piece is written in their personal capacity.


Opinion Piece by Dr David Mohale, Director: Special Projects at the Office of the Vice-Chancellor at The Durban University of Technology


“YOU have got so wrapped up in the sugar business you forgot the taste of the real honey”. This line comes from the 1992 movie, Scent of a Woman, that stars Al Pacino as the highly irritable, blind, medically retired army lieutenant colonel, Frank Slade.

Even though the context in which these words were expressed is different, the words themselves offer an interesting learning opportunity for diagnosis of the problems and the subsequent search for solutions, in particular regarding the perennial problem of youth exclusion in postapartheid South Africa. Three important events triggered the thought to pen this article. Firstly, South Africa commemorates the lives and times of the late Steve Biko every September. Secondly, September month is the birth month of two historically important youth organisations in South Africa, the African National Congress Youth League ANCYL and the South African Students Congress Sasco , which recently celebrated their 77th and 30th anniversaries respectively.

Thirdly, September is known for the celebration of the elusive South African heritage. It is well established that the country commemorates Youth Month in June, which also has a connection with Steve Biko because of his leadership and influence in the 1976 uprisings, his youthfulness and the reality of the youthfulness of the membership of these two organisations. Thus justification for dedication of this article to young people and their problems. Importantly, the article asks whether there is, what could be called South African youth heritage? and if that could be used by the current generation to resolve the novel and perennial problems?

At the outset, I propose that unquestionable stoicism ran through the three generations of young people whose combined efforts in each phase of the struggle ultimately birthed democracy in 1994.

The first generation was ably led by Sol Plaatje and Pixley ka Isaka Seme when they broached the idea of the formation of the African National Congress, and led the efforts toward realising the idea and formed part of its leadership.

The second generation is the founders of the ANCYL in the 1940s, which straddles the founding generation of the ANC and the generation that saw transition to democracy. The third generation is the 1970s generation that filled the lacunae that were created by the outlawing of political parties, with many leaders and activists forced to be in exile or go underground, if they were lucky to escape imprisonment and or death.

All these three generations understood the inherent responsibility of young people, which is to always surpass their elders in order for society to move forward. One would suggest that they might have heeded the whisper of Xi Jinping in his address to the Chinese youth when he said, “Young people need to boldly assume the heavy responsibilities that the times impose on you, aim high, be practical and realistic, and put your youthful dreams into action…”.

Common to all these three generations is the premium they placed on first learning and understanding the obtaining situation of the time. This explains, in part, why Alfred Xuma had referred to the smaller organising committee of the ANCYL as intellectuals. They immersed themselves in deep theoretical and ideological questions.

The often romanticised narrative of the formation of the ANCYL tends to miss this important nuance, which explains discernible intellectual differences between the 1944 Launching Manifesto and the 1948 Basic Policy Statement. Similarly, Steve Biko and his generation invested a lot of their time in understanding the concepts of Black Consciousness, and how the course in South Africa would differ from the United States and elsewhere.

Concepts should be understood for their impact on behaviour. Many times people think that results only come from behaviour. That is not entirely the case.

Human behaviour is informed by their worldly outlook. If you want to see significant changes in results, focus on changing the perspective that informs the behaviour, not the behaviour itself.

It is against this backdrop that one is suggesting that pinning the hopes of young people on what is analogously another form of trusteeship demand for quota , to resolve persistent youth exclusion is tantamount to being wrapped up in the sugar business while missing the taste of the real honey.

Young people will most certainly claim that they are adequately conscientised, and thoroughly understand the complexity of issues they are dealing with. They may well argue that they are being realistic in their approach. But what if settling for a mere quarter of leadership seats is merely acceding to being tamed because somebody feels youthfulness is synonymous with being infantile, reckless and risky?

Biko said that conscientisation involves helping people to grapple realistically with their problems so that they can provide answers for themselves. Demand for quotas is not really a quest to provide answers for youth by youth. It is nothing but cooptation, accommodation and perhaps taming the shrew in a Shakespearean way, as we recently saw in how some of the most critical voices have been disciplined by dangling carrots.

There is a problem with this approach by young people, which I argue is tantamount to being wrapped up in the sugar business instead of the real honey.

This accommodation has not translated into substantive policy change and tangible outcomes.

We saw about 20% of young people being coopted and accommodated into councils and legislatures in 2016 and 2019, with no evidence of a truly youthful voice and impact on policy. Instead, we have seen the results of sugar business: good salaries for accommodated individuals; relocation to posh suburbs; competition for latest German sedans; imported designer labels and all other instantaneous display of wealth, which is often facili tated by access to unsustainable debt.

The beneficiaries of cooption and containment become the enthusiastic defenders and advocates of the status quo, concocting all sorts of reasons for the wretched to be patient with the authorities. On the other hand, young people who daily bear the brunt of exclusion suffer from the disease called sullen acquiescence. They are honestly fed up with exclusion, but they choose inaction with a hope that one day they will be next in the queue for cooption.

Ideologically, it is curious why young people think that minimal representation in ANC and state institutions will give them the taste of real honey. Both the ANC and the state have repeatedly acknowledged that the state is meek in its relationship with business. This is what makes the possibility of a developmental state a dream deferred, if not stillborn.

Business behaves as it wishes, with little hope for the state to rein it in. Business is the real honey. This is where young people should intentionally be taking their fight. This is where young people must force their right to participate meaningfully since unemployment is essentially a youth crisis, not fight to be accommodated.

Drawing lessons from the rich history of previous generations of young people, the current generation needs to learn that sugar is shortlived and often does not require big sacrifices. Mandela and Tambo had to forfeit their law firm in order to taste the real honey, which was only realised with the euphoria of 1994.

Many young people either died, like Steve Biko or had to escape into exile and forfeited the sugar school and other niceties they were enjoying at that moment. What sacrifice is the current generation willing to make?

The taste of the real honey that young people of this country deserve is indivisible freedom. A right to vote for the government of your choice is only an end to the means. Young people need to have access to substantive freedoms that are enshrined in the Bill of Rights of the Constitution.

Poverty and unemployment deprive youth of these substantive rights the real taste of honey. These rights will not be ushered in by cooption and accommodation of the few on the table of plenty. Cooption and accommodation are mere placebos.

Pictured: Dr David Mohale

Story and picture taken from Sunday Independent.


Opinion Piece by Dr Imraan Buccus, Post-Doctoral Fellow in Gender Justice, Health and Human Development at The Durban University of Technology


The enormity of the chaos and violence that gripped Durban and other towns in KwaZulu-Natal in July is still sinking in. The death toll keeps rising, and the evidence that is coming in about the brutality of the vigilante killings is more and more sickening.

There is clarity about many aspects of what happened. We know that the unrest was triggered by small groups of well-organised pro-Zuma forces acting from within the ANC. We know that the bread riots over the first two days were a result of endemic hunger and deprivation, and were not linked to support for Zuma in any significant way. The general looting that followed was mostly a matter of opportunism, but there was also participation by organised crime and the pro-Zuma forces did open up key infrastructure to general looters. We also know that during the chaos the pro-Zuma forces targeted infrastructure with military precision.

We don’t yet know how the bulk of the people who died lost their lives, or exactly how widespread the support for the attacks on infrastructure was in the KwaZulu-Natal ANC. We also don’t know how much of the racial incitement on social media was planned, and how much was spontaneous. But some clear conclusions can be drawn. We know that the levels of unemployment and hunger are not sustainable, and if they are not addressed there will be another social explosion in due course. We know that there is a significant chunk of the ANC, and its associated tenderpreneurs in this province, that is willing to engage in violence, and even treason, to protect its access to easy money.

We also know that neither the police nor the political leadership in the province seem willing to act against these people. The best way forward for the state will have to take three forms. One is the swift arrest and prosecution of as many of the organisers of the campaign of sabotage as possible, as well as those responsible for the vigilante killings. Another is a clean out of the provincial ANC, with the expulsion of everyone who can be shown to have been part of, or in support of, the attacks on infrastructure. The third component must be a massive programme of social support for people who are unemployed and have been suffering from hunger throughout the COVID period.

The levels of unemployment and hunger are not sustainable, and if they are not addressed there will be another social explosion in due course. However, we cannot only look to the state. We also need to examine the role that society can play as we try to rebuild some sort of social cohesion. Many of the positions that need to be taken are clear. For instance, we must demand that those responsible for vigilante killings be brought to justice and that racial incitement be opposed.

But positions without real popular support are just words. One of the worrying aspects of the crisis was the almost complete absence of leadership. The ANC in the province was mostly silent, apart from a few bland pro-Zuma statements. There was also a deafening silence from the trade unions. The unions were such a powerful progressive force in the 198os, and among older people there is often nostalgia for those days. But while many unions continue to do important work around opposing retrenchments and fighting for a living wage, they are no longer able to give leadership to society. The last time they did so was when, acting in a secondary role, they supported the Treatment Action Campaign in the struggle for access to lifesaving medication.

In the July crisis, and its aftermath, the leadership that was given came from grassroots community organisations. The Phoenix Residents and Tenants Association acquitted itself well in opposing racism and vigilantism and working to build solidarity. Abahlali baseMjondolo also took carefully considered progressive positions after consultation with its members. If the unions are in the sunset of their capacity to give leadership to society, it seems that the future lies with the progressive grassroots organisations, and that this is where we need to build for the years to come.

Pictured: Dr Imraan Buccus, Post-Doctoral Fellow in Gender Justice, Health and Human Development at DUT.

Story and picture taken from the Daily Maverick.


Nalini Chitanand and Shoba Rathilal


Pic for Reflection piece

A call for Reflective Pieces regarding COVID-19 has been made by the Durban University of Technology’s (DUT’s) Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) Department.

The request is being made by CELT’s Nalini Chitanand and Shoba Rathilal, who are Academic Development Practitioners at CELT. 

This was a very different and innovative initiative that caught their attention especially in the time of rapid emergency actions.  We chatted with Chitanand and Rathilal about what drove this initiative, what is the plan on reviewing of submissions and the future plans in CELT

According to both Chitanand and Rathilal, this is what motivated them to take on this innovative initiative. “Uncertainties can be a time of great anxiety but a time of great possibility…a discourse of anxiety should give way to a discourse of critique and a discourse of critique should give way to a discourse of possibility. And a discourse of possibility means that you can imagine a future very different from the present” (Giroux, 2019).

“We consider this extract (above) by Henry Giroux to be apposite in this current moment. This era is indeed momentous. Much of what we are experiencing, we are unlikely to see in our lifetime again (well, hopefully not!).  We probably will not capture the intensity of the experience when we narrate it to future generations and of course as the story passes through generations it may become more of a rational rendition of an era. The capturing of the moment as it’s experienced is likely to be in its most authentic form at this present moment,” they added. 

Furthermore, “COVID-19 has forced us, amidst uncertainties, anxieties and disruptions to re-arrange our personal lives – how we manage our homes and families – and our professional lives – how we manage our pedagogical activities, research and engagements. But this forced moment also affords an opportunity to think anew about all these aspects of our personal and professional lives. Not a different form of the same but something new. We draw inspiration and hope from Henry Giroux (2019), that we are presented with such an opportunity to ‘imagine a future different from the present’. This may require that we disrupt our deeply held assumptions about our ways of knowing, acting and being.  As universities globally ushered in online learning and teaching, at CELT we have acknowledged the need to also focus on the curricula that we will be enacting in our multimodal platforms. This meant that we have to make choices about the selection, sequencing and pacing of knowledge. Implicit in this decision making, is the need to consider our contexts and how these contextual realities are influencing higher education plans in light of COVID-19; who our staff and students are and their realities and lived experiences; the knowledge and curriculum and what is privileged, valued or legitimated during these pedagogical encounters,” explained Chitanand and Rathilal.

In addition, the two recognise the need to capture their experiences of the current moments and reflect on them for new imaginings to emerge. Critical reflection is an important aspect of transformative learning in higher education. The Call for Reflective pieces provides an opportunity for DUT colleagues to capture and record these experiences so that they may generate their DUT story.  They invite DUT colleagues to share their experiences as they believe these can offer insights about the decisions made, their impact on the self and society and the educational agenda.

The process of creating a reflective piece also provides an opportunity to engage in a therapeutic exploration of the experience that caught us by surprise and required immediate responses with very little time to reflect and plan accordingly. 

Elaborating their work, Chitanand and Rathilal added that, “The reflective process is an activity that allows for an awareness of the self and our relationship with others so that we act in conscious and not just instinctive ways. Drawing on posthumanistic thought we include all human and non-human entities with whom we share our earth, in our deliberations. This emphasises our rationality with each other and our natural environment and this is intimately linked to our African philosophical approach of Ubuntu – ‘I am because we are’. And in this spirit of Ubuntu, we have witnessed over the last few months, the collegiality and comraderies’ among our colleagues. We have witnessed sharing and caring and co-creation of knowledge for enhancing our pedagogical encounters. And we have witnessed how the creation of opportunities for dialogue and collaboration can enable communities of practice, foster innovation and build stewardship toward our common vision, Envision 2030”.  

Their (Chitanand and Rathilal) intention is to not be judgemental. They are inviting pieces that extend beyond a descriptive narrative but rather show evidence of deeper thought. Their intention is to offer colleagues feedback, suggestions or questions that extends the reflective piece to include the self-experience, the reactions, the possible assumptions underpinning these responses, how this relates to broader societal questions, challenges and possibilities.

So colleagues will have opportunity to submit drafts, and revise if they wish. The process is meant to be developmental. They encourage creative expression of thought, emotions and critique.

CELT has adopted a multi-pronged approach to support the academic project during this time. The office has provided and continue to provide staff and students with technical support related for the various multi modal platforms. This was a necessary component to address the anxiety among staff and students that arose from the lack of preparedness to manage online platforms. In their staff development programmes, CELT has always focussed on extending the professional learning and development within a transformative approach so that the change in modalities are used as an opportunity to relook at what is being taught (in other words what knowledge and attributes CELT is legitimating in its programmes), how they assess and maintain constructive alignment in curriculum redesign particular to our contexts.

The motto is to be transformative through developmental programmes that are offered in supportive environments, so that they may contribute to higher education that is fair, equitable, inclusive and socially just. So what they are essentially concerned with staff and student well-being.  CELT contributes to this through reducing anxiety around the unknown by providing professional learning opportunities for the various online platforms, exposure to new approaches that allow staff to question their current practices and their assumptions of what is important or not, make choices and reflect on the implications of those choices. Most importantly they have and will continue to provide a collaborative space for sharing and learning through the community of practice. 

“We also need to remember that prior to Covid-19 higher education in South Africa was already confronting challenges, especially associated with the decolonial turn, epistemic and social justice. In this regard we concur with Fataar (2020) that some of these challenges are “currently being marginalised by popular educational discourses during the Covid-19 pandemic, and the socio-technical imaginaries of 4IR discourses circulating in mainstream discourse”. We encourage colleagues to reflect on these important higher education imperatives and share their reflections,” said Chitanand and Rathilal.

Fataar, A. (2020). Comments at a launch discussion of Pam Christie’s book: Decolonising Schools in South Africa: The Impossible Dream (2020). Presented at a webinar arranged by UCT’s School of Education, 23 July 2020

Giroux, H. (2019). All education is a struggle over what kind of future you want for young people.

This promises to be a fantastic opportunity to be part of the DUT history going forward.  Nalini and Shoba are keen to engage with colleagues who wish to submit and require assistance.  The deadline has been extended to the 30 September.  We strongly urge that you consider submitting a piece. 


Crispin Hemson

Put an end to stupidities of the past by Crispin Hemson

Events during apartheid made very little sense; it was all about oppression without much thought. A researcher from New York met me to understand the assassination of a friend in 1978. He knew in great detail the events of the time – he even had the Security Police records of the sae events, a mixture of useful factual information, cold hostility and paranoid ramblings. (read full article…)

— MERCURY (First Edition) 08 Apr 2013 page 6



Ever-changing force that apartheid refused to acknowledge: 29 February 2012 The Mercury

Learning the language of the forest: 21 November 2011 The Mercury

The story of humility and silence: 20 October 2011 Mail and Guardian

The challenge of moving on after a history of violence: 5 September 2011 The Mercury

There’s more to great old age than confusion and chaos: 24 August 2011 The Mercury

Peace cannot be bought with a bullet: 6 May 2011 The Mercury


Prithiraj Dullay

Travelling down the road to discord