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Assessing and promoting civil and minority rights in South Africa.

[Source: Daily Maverick by Adam Habib.]

In the last 10 days, a racial controversy erupted at Wits University when a group of medical students took a class photograph with a banner stating that the medical school was racist. I took a firm view against this small group of students on social media, as did the university when it released a public statement a few days later. 

We believe that it is imperative that a noble struggle to transform our public institutions is not in any way compromised by opportunism on the part of individuals to advance their own careers or attempts to bypass assessment processes, using lack of transformation as an excuse.

Transformation is an imperative at Wits University and within its medical school which is why, three years ago, we developed a comprehensive transformation plan that involves, among other aspects, diversifying our student enrolment, changing our staff demographics, addressing the living standards of the poorest of our employees, creating a cosmopolitan environment in our university and residences, implementing a new language policy, transforming our curriculum, and renaming our buildings and spaces. We rigorously implement this plan, track progress on a monthly basis and release regular reports on indicators. Read the latest report. 9

To advance transformation in our medical school, we changed our admissions processes three years ago, enabling special access for students from rural schools and quintile one and two urban schools, provided that they meet our rigorous standards for admission. Yet we recognised that individual acts of racism would continue. We are also aware of racism’s subtle manifestations. This is why we have both a Transformation Office and a Gender Equity Office with the mandates to investigate and prosecute acts of racism and sexual harassment by individuals within our university community. We have had many such investigations in the last year, some of which have culminated in mediation and others that have resulted in severe disciplinary action. Why then were we so firm with these students who alleged racism in our assessment processes?

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South Africa at a Glance
56 500 000 (mid 2017 estimate)
4.6% y/y in November 2017 (CPI) & +5.1% y/y in November 2017 (PPI)
2% q/q for the 3rd quarter of 2017
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