Note on the Status of CCS within the University of KwaZulu-Natal
On 30 July, the staff of the Centre for Civil Society and our host institution, the School of Development Studies (SDS), were summoned by Dean Donal McCracken, and told that as of 31 December 2008, CCS would be permanently closed, that Professor Patrick Bond (CCS director since October 2004) would resume his tenured chair within SDS, and that the other CCS staff — all on contract — would be terminated, with CCS’s “good” projects moved to SDS.
CCS staff are unanimous that this decision should be reconsidered, and a letter of appeal was sent within hours to Dean McCracken. As of 1 August, no reply was received, and with word now out about the proposed closure, we deem this necessary to publicise on the CCS website. Our objective is to retain the Centre as it now operates, and indeed to strengthen and make CCS more autonomous (as recommended in the official UKZN Review of our activities on 29 February 2008). We appreciate the solidarity of colleagues, communities, donors and supporters, and your comments — supportive and critical alike — will be published on this website. Please send to <email@example.com>.
IN SUPPORT OF THE CCS
Hands off the CCS!
COSATU is dismayed to hear that the University of KwaZulu-Natal is considering closing its world-renowned Centre for Civil Society (CCS) on 31 December 2008 for what sound like paltry and quite possibly spurious reasons — that staff do not have “permanent” funding.
The CCS’s objective is “to advance socio-economic and environmental justice by developing critical knowledge about, for and in dialogue with, civil society through teaching, research and publishing”. It was established at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in July 2001, with the mission of “promoting the study of South African civil society as a legitimate, flourishing area of scholarly activity”. A related goal was “to develop partnerships within civil society aimed at capacity-building, knowledge sharing, and generating reflection and debate”.
All such research institutions as the CCS are precious to COSATU, especially those like the CCS that are products of the 1994 democratic breakthrough, and not relics of the apartheid past.
The working class, which is the largest, most technically, socially and politically advanced component of civil society in our country, is acutely aware of the value of intellectual labour. COSATU sincerely hopes that the university administrators who want to close the CCS will quickly realise their mistake and instead of muttering threats, will now support this valuable institution.
If there is a genuine problem of finding funds for the unit, the government must step in to fund this important institution.
For more information on the CCS, please visit the CCS website at <www.nu.ac.za/ccs/default.asp?2,40,5,1633>.
Patrick Craven (National Spokesperson)
Congress of South African Trade Unions
1-5 Leyds Cnr Biccard Streets
CCS Has Given Grassroots Organisations Support
Dear University of KwaZulu Natal authorities
On behalf of the Soweto Electricity Crisis Committee, an affiliate of the Anti-Privatisation Forum, I would like to put on record our shock and feeling of outrage at the news that you are planning to close down the Centre for Civil Society. From what we have gathered on this matter and our own experience of working with this institute we strongly believe that this is a politically motivated attack on progressive and relevant scholarship. What a shame! What is happening to our country? At a time when South African society finds itself in a crisis of legitimacy, leadership, socio-economic security and political stability, we need clear-headed, relevant and committed scholarship that will shed light on the issues and suggest viable and just solutions. Instead the UKZN management is deciding to unilaterally close down one of the few remaining centres of committed and progressive scholarship in the country.
CCS has over the years given grassroots organisations such as ours support and hope that the academic establishment can and sometimes does contribute to the struggle to stop the rich richer and the poor poorer; and that it can and sometimes does conduct research aimed at improving the lives of the poorest of the poor. CCS’s work indicated to us that academic institutions are not mere ivory towers conducting work that benefits the ruling class and the rich. For example, the CCS’s Prof Patrick Bond made expert submissions in the recent court case to assure water for all. The community of Phiri, organised by our organisation, and getting support from the Coalition Against Water Privatisation, won the court case against pre-paid water meters. Judge Moroa Tsoka ruled that pre-paid water meters are unlawful and unconstitutional and are a violation of human rights. CCS has also given crucial support to communities around Durban under attack from oil-producing companies which are intent on making profits at great cost to the environment and threatening people’s lives. CCS has also organised ground breaking research into social movements such as ours, the Treatment Action Campaign and others, research that helped our organisations to understand themselves and the context in which we operate thus helping us in strengthening our struggles.
We urge you to reconsider your decision of closing down the CCS. We see this as nothing else but an attack on the struggle to better the lives of the working class and the poor through research. We also see it as an attempt to divorce academic scholarship from the problems faced by millions and millions of ordinary people ground by the pro-big business neoliberal policies of the government. We say: Hands off the CCS!
Yours in struggle
Organiser of the Soweto Electricity Crisis Committee
The CCS Is the Jewel in Your Crown. Why Would Anyone Want to Close It Down?
The single most prestigious activity of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, at least as seen from a US vantage point, is the Centre for Civil Society. Those of us who try to follow what is going on in South Africa have come to rely upon the centre as the best single source of wide information. Closing it down would not only damage severely the university’s reputation, but would set back research worldwide on contemporary South Africa.
Senior Research Scholar, Yale University