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UKZN library, victim of decolonisation.

In his recent piece on The Daily Vox entitled “Those Who Are Against Decolonisation Are White Supremacists” Luke Waltham, whose disclaimer says that he is a social justice writer, rejects the need for a comprehensive, respectful and plural views particularly on a topic such as decolonisation. There appears not even a possibility of debate and facts. And if it would be possible for individuals to defend the debate without being labelled as white supremacists, even more conspicuous his piece denies the particularities of black people who may not share his views.

But if indeed we are to have a frank discussion, I believe our ideas should be geared towards persuasion, contestation and the rehabilitation of freedoms. Of a misinformed conviction, the intimated author’s article commits what novel The Trial later conceives as ‘Kafkatrapping.’

At The Daily Bell Wendy McElroy briefly explains it as follows: “Kafkatrapping twits reason and truth into self-parodies that serve victimhood ideologues who wish to avoid evidence and reasoned arguments upon which truth rests”, and this among other things, applies a single standard to everyone, which the author does par excellence. A true believer in kafkatrapping becomes increasingly isolated from people who are seen as “the enemy” because they disagree; the true believer becomes increasingly unable to even communicate with or have empathy for a broad spectrum of people. He makes the following assumptions:

“This superiority argument can be seen as racist and dehumanising towards black Africans…”

As an applied sciences sophomore in my high school days, I never felt offended nor dehumanised learning about Isaac Newton. He, like many physicists, put forward theories that could probably be proven otherwise with the evolution of time, respectfully his geographical ancestry or race mattered less to me. As a learner, this was important for my intellectual growth and not for the attrition of my black identity. And it is for the former that some of my previous classmates pursued the engineering discipline after school.

Instead, we need to create an inclusive, open system that composes of African ideas, African education and African knowledges.”

Waltham probably attempts to remind us to do less with Eurocentric curricula but dares not to define what “African ideas” mean, conveniently because him and proponents do not even agree what decolonisation should be about. Some, such as Chumani Maxwele in an interview with Chris Barron on the Sunday Times believe: “I don’t have to justify anything to a white male or a white institution. Nothing whatsoever”. But, interestingly, China has been involved in building campuses along with the European and US partners in order to increase access that the decolonialists want to destroy.

It therefore comes as no surprise that Waltham’s ambitious guilt-quenching would see it fit to sucker decolonisation dissidents into the “white supremacy” box yet never bothered to ask black people, like me, who share different views on the subject matter.

Perhaps all is met with goodwill, but we have here a cri de couer which is misguided and illustrates why the silencing of views makes for bad activism.

It is difficult to spot the differences between Waltham and the ignorant individuals he seeks to admonish because to him giving in to his view is all that matters, even if it is at the expense of debate and accuracy. What should matter is not who is right but what is right. With that said, his piece is the antithesis of what he wants to achieve – “opportunity to learn crucial, vital lessons and ideas”.

The premises of the decolonisation campaign is that of self-styled social justice activists, politically-correct ideologues and racial identitarians who believe that transformation can only ever be secured if dissenting voices are silenced. To make transformation work, however, we must sit down with those we differ, make rational arguments, and change their minds, lest we are called supremacists.

  • kdj

    What interests me is that it has become like a religion with a dogma which may not be questioned and anyone who disagrees is an apostate who is immoral and condemned to hell

    • Paining

      Won’t be long before they clamour for burning at the stake.

      • kdj

        The way people like Zille and Alister Sparks have been treated (and Penny Sparrow), it is pretty much a modern version of burning at the stake

  • Tim Crowe

    Let’s have a go at Mr Waltham.

    “If someone were to ask you for the name of a well-known black scientist, professor or academic, you would most probably find yourself stuck, unable to answer.”

    They can be found just by sampling at the University of Cape Town.

    Prof. Anusuya Chinsamy-Turan is THE global expert on the microscopic
    structure of the bones of extinct and extant vertebrates – especially
    dinosaurs. She:

    1. burst on to the scene in the 1990s with an National Research Foundation P-rating (for
    outstanding young researchers);

    2. formed a highly productive research/post-graduate-educational team;

    3. resuscitated first-year biology teaching;

    4. served superbly as HoD of newly merged Zoology and Botany Departments;

    5. received multiple awards for constructively popularizing science;

    6. earned the prestigious National Research Foundation A-rating (for internationally competitive researchers); and

    7. is the architect and key presenter in the recently launched massive open online course (MOOC) Extinctions: Past and Present.

    Prof. Edmund ‘Ed’ February is a plant archaeologist/ecologist originally from the Iziko South African
    Museum. Ed’s main interests are in understanding where plants get their resources, how this affects vegetation structure and how humans have influenced the environment for many thousands of
    years. To foster these interests, he has collaborated with a range local and international students and colleagues, focusing on ecological and conservation/management research in the savannas of
    the Kruger National Park and the winter rainfall shrublands of the Cedarberg and Cape Peninsula. By the way, he is also a world-class mountain climber.

    Prof. Batmanathan Dayanand (Daya) Reddy is an internationally respected applied mathematician. He is: A-rated by the NRF, a Fellow of the Royal Society of South Africa, a Fellow of the University of Cape Town, a Member, Academy of Science of South Africa, a Fellow, South African Academy of Engineering, a Fellow, Academy of Sciences of the Developing World (TWAS), a Fellow, African Academy of Sciences, a Fellow, International Association for Computational Mechanics (IACM), and a Founding Fellow, Academy of Engineering and Technology of the Developing World (AETDEW). He has also been awarded the National Order of Mapungubwe (Bronze) bestowed by the President of the Republic of South Africa.

    He is a member of nine national and international mathematical societies and has supervised the post-graduate research of > 60 students.

    He has served as Dean of Science and currently is a Deputy Vice chancellor.

    He has 175 peer-reviewed publications including four monographs and three edited volumes of invited papers

    Cardiology Professor Bongani Mayosi is the Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences. He was awarded South Africa’s highest honour, the Order of Mapungubwe (Silver) and is an A-rated National Research Foundation researcher.

    Recently, the Black Management Forum in the Western Cape celebrated its Black Excellence Awards designed to showcase outstanding business owners, industry experts, professionals, students and entrepreneurial success stories in the Western Cape. Mayosi was the winner of the category of Thought Leader of the Year.

    He and a team from Health Sciences have been studying the inherited heart muscle disease called
    arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy or ARVC. In this disease, the muscle of the right side of
    the heart is lost and replaced by scar or fat. As a result, the heart is prone to beating irregularly and fast, causing sudden death because blood is not being effectively pumped to the rest of the body.

    The importance of the team’s genetic discovery is twofold. It helps to clarify the genetic mechanisms underlying ARVC which will assist with future research to develop drugs which could prevent sudden death. On the other hand, it makes possible the early detection of many unsuspecting people who are
    affected by ARVC.

    I can provide more examples.

    “All the best inventions, discoveries and ideas have come from Europe and the West.”

    Also from UCT, we have Prof. Chris Barnard and Nobel Laureates Profs Max Theiler, Allan McLeod Cormack, Sir Aaron Klug,and J. M. Coetzee.

    Do they qualify as African?

    “What many do not realise is that Africa is rich in history, knowledge, education and ideas.”

    Why haven’t pro-decolonization academics written books and developed academic programmes to
    garner this knowledge so that it may be included in curricula?

    “Our society and our education system is based solely off of (sic) Eurocentric ideas.”

    It is not. All South African centres of tertiary education, the CSIR and many of its natural history museums and statutory conservation bodies have significant Afro-relevant entities that have falsified Eurocentric hypotheses and come up with new ones. At UCT, we have the Centre for African Studies and my FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology which rank with the best in the world. For example, in early July, Dr Tshifhiwa Mandiwana (University of Limpopo) and I presented research that demonstrated that the European Partridge Perdix perdix (perdix is Greek for partridge) is NOT a partridge, but a ‘pheasant’, and a newly discovered African gamebird, the Udzungwa Francolin, is not an African francolin (as its European discoverers thought). It is an African ‘partridge’ that is the evolutionary remnant of the ancestral lineage leading to virtually all Northern Hemisphere gamebirds: quails, pheasants, peafowls, grouse and
    turkeys. To put it lightly, without it, there would be no Kentucky Fried Chicken.

    “We need to create an inclusive, open system that composes (sic) of African ideas, African education and African knowledge.”

    Does this mean exclude ideas from elsewhere that are demonstrably academically superior?

    “Original, unique forms of medication and sciences have been developed in Africa and by Africans.”

    Many of these are already incorporated into modern medicine. But, should those that are demonstrably inferior, or are even harmful, be perpetuated and preferred to treatments from elsewhere?

    “To believe that there is nothing we can gain from Africa and the people of Africa is, in itself, white supremacist because this argument implies that Eurocentric, Western knowledge is more (sic) superior to African knowledge.”

    No, it’s just stupid. Please provide a list of powerful white supremacists who are undermining local research by pushing Eurocentric. Evidence to the contrary comes from UCT Prof. Tim Noakes who argues that his dietary research is superior because it more closely mimics that of our African ancestors.

    “It [rejection of useful African-sourced knowledge and good research] is extremely closed-minded and is the complete opposite of what academics are supposed to believe in.”

    In my 40+ years as an academic biologist in Africa, the close-minded academics I’ve encountered are rarer than hen’s teeth. Please provide your list.

    “The move towards decolonisation is definitely an important one.”

    That depends on what is meant by “decolonization”. If it’s intended to be Soviet-like, Afro-exclusive academic ‘cleansing’ which allows politically correct ideas to predominate over ones that work better, it
    will be a suicidal move. If it is to be Afro-relevant, then it could improve the world rankings of South African
    universities.

    “Uplift and equalise the ideas, knowledge and sciences of both black and white people.”

    No! Let them compete with one another on the basis of their ability to withstand rigorous testing and make valid predictions.

    “A consensus needs to be reached as to the extent to which we are going to decolonise the system.”

    No! Consensus seeking too often results in mediocre compromises.

    “Involve all stakeholders who influence and determine the education systems and societal structures such as the government, universities, school representatives and students.”

    No! The last thing South African tertiary education needs is to be strongly influenced by politicians and populists. One, arguably unlikely(?) consequence of such a “determination” would be to replace evolution teaching/research with “creation science.

    Students should be involved to the extent that they express their ‘wants’. In the end, academics need to come up with curricula and pedagogies that produce quality graduates in the allotted time. It’s their job.
    If they fail, they should be replaced by ones who can deliver.

    Worse than the ”last thing”, is to ‘adapt’ education to allow educationally ‘disabled’ matriculants to become disabled university graduates.

    In short, academically unjustified decolonization will just add to the Fallist fires.