The #FeesMustFall Movement calling for Black South African Academics, Black Academics fighting for recognition: The role of the Constitution, 1996

Paper presented at the 2017 CLEA Conference in Melbourne

Ntombizozuko Dyani-Mhango
University of the Witwatersrand

The Fallist movements have called for the decolonization of the curricular, free and quality education and black Academics who reflect the demographics of South Africa. The media has focused only to the call for free and quality education and decolonization. The demand for Black Academics is not well publicized. The call for the visibility of black senior Academics is not something new. Some black Academics have been writing about their lived experiences in the universities and the need to for diversified and inclusive faculties.
The South African Constitution, 1996 is known as the transformative constitution – a term coined by Prof Karl Klare. According to Klare, the Constitution ‘is a long term project committed to transforming our country’s political and social institutions and power relations through participatory and democratic processes. The late former Chief Justice Langa saw the Constitution as an ideal that envisages a society that will always be open to change and contestation.
South Africa’s Constitution, requires the state to make provisions for remedial equality in order to redress the injustices of the past. In other words, the Constitution allows for unfair discriminatory practices on the grounds of race and gender for this purpose.
In the recent constitutional Court decision of SAPS v Solidarity obo Barnard, Moseneke DCJ reminded us that the Constitution was designed to do more than record or confer formal equality. The Constitution requires that active steps be taken in order to achieve substantive equality, particularly for those who were disadvantaged by past unfair discrimination. It has been over 21 years since the adoption of this new transformative constitution. Why are we still having debates about our universities’ academics not reflecting the South African demographics? How transformative is the Constitution, 1996? Whose role is it to ensure that there are black South African academics in the universities? The proposed paper will attempt to answer these questions. Besides looking at the provisions of the Constitution, it will analyse measures that have already been taken by the government and some universities to ensure diversity.

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