‘Whites choose their blacks carefully’

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IOL uni transform.JPG THE STAR Professor Sipho Seepe speaks at the first anniversary of the Progressive Professionals Forum at the Pan African Parliament in Midrand. Photo: Dumisani Sibeko

Johannesburg - Whites choose their blacks carefully. This is why you get to have black leaders, particularly in the higher education sector, who are at the helm of universities for decades sometimes, but the institutions remain untransformed.

So said Professor Sipho Seepe, who didn’t mince his words while speaking at the Progressive Professionals Forum’s one-year anniversary celebrations at the Pan African Parliament in Midrand on Thursday.

President Jacob Zuma, Minister of Higher Education and Training Blade Nzimande and leaders from the business and higher education sectors were among the guests.

Speaking as part of a panel discussion that looked at the state of transformation in the country’s higher education sector, Seepe said the transformation was not just about numbers and getting the demographic profiling right.

“As far as I’m concerned, there has been a sense of collusion between black and white against black advancement.

“What you have, when you talk to some of my fellow white friends in the US, they say: ‘Here we choose our blacks carefully’.

“And in this country, white people choose their blacks very carefully.

“They choose those blacks that will not advance anything that talks about this historic mission,” he said.

“Look at Wits (University). Wits had a black person for 10 years, go and look at the transformation there.

“Look at UCT (University of Cape Town), the number of black professors is less than 3 percent and yet UCT has had black people who were vice-chancellors for 15 years, and these are the people who are paraded around as the best of us, but what they did was to make sure that transformation does not take place,” Seepe added.

He said higher education institutions were fixated with “internationalisation” and trying to be on par with universities in other countries, while they were failing to find their place in the local context to address and deal with domestic issues.

“We have in Africa the benefit of solar energy. But because the Europeans were not doing it because it’s cold out there and the Americans were not doing it because they don’t have much sun, our universities were not doing solar energy research.

“But now that there’s a crisis all over the world and people are looking into solar energy, now you see our universities mimicking what they should have been leading in,” Seepe said.

Speaking about the Department of Higher Education and Training’s interventions in dealing with discrimination, inequality, racism and the like, Nzimande said the post-schooling sector needed to be diversified.

He said the department was working towards opening community colleges from next year so that even people without formal schooling would be able to enrol and learn practical skills.

Nzimande said technical and vocational training must be just as viable and appealing to students as going through a traditional university and getting a degree.

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