21 July 2008

Transformation at UCT

On 23 June, the Cape Argus published a letter apparently written by a UCT staff member in which he or she claims that UCT is appointing unqualified African staff members at the expense of whites and coloureds. Here is the response by Professor Martin Hall, DVC responsible for transformation, to this letter, which has been sent to the Argus for publication.

Dear Sir

On 23 June you published a letter from a self-identified "white South African" who claimed to work at UCT and who complained that "I am continually confronted with racism where under-skilled black people are given jobs over better - qualified coloured and white applicants". We have not been able to match the name and address of the author of this letter with a current employee at UCT. Nevertheless, it is important that we respond to this fallacious statement, which is insulting to many of the more than 3 000 people whom we value as the staff of our university.

As with all organisations with more than 50 employees, we have an Employee Equity Plan and report regularly to the Department of Labour on our progress towards meeting our targets. We regard diversity as an asset and we aim to get to a situation where the overall demographic profile of our staff is much the same as the overall demographic profile of our wider society. We employ staff over the widest possible range of skills and professional expertise - plumbers, paediatricians, secretaries, engineers, librarians and philosophers. In each and every appointment we try and match experience, qualifications and potential with the needs of the particular job. While in every case we try and make an equity appointment we do not have quotas, do not exclude any applicant on the basis of race or gender, and do not compromise on quality.

In reality, the situation at UCT is the opposite of your correspondent's assertion. Despite our efforts, we are still not moving fast enough in transforming our staff profile. As with many organisations, we are still employing white South Africans in greater numbers than their representation in the population as a whole. As the just-published StatsSA General Household Survey shows, white South Africans are much more likely than black South Africans to complete high school, graduate from university, find employment and to hold down top jobs. Like many other institutions, UCT has a way to go in attracting the full range of talented people who can contribute to our objectives as a university. In the meanwhile, there is no basis for your correspondent's claim that white and coloured South Africans are unfairly treated in our employment practices.

Martin Hall
Deputy Vice-Chancellor

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