[OPE] Patrick Bond's Centre for Civil Society under attack

From: glevy@pratt.edu
Date: Wed Aug 06 2008 - 09:27:41 EDT

---------------------------- Original Message ----------------------------

Subject: Patrick Bond's Centre for Civil Society under attack 
From: "michael a. lebowitz" <mlebowit@sfu.ca> 
Date: Wed, August 6, 2008 8:37 am 




UKZN may snuff out its left brain 
What's next
for Durban's best-known institute of social and 

August 06, 2008 Edition 1 

By Dennis
Brutus and Patrick Bond 
Eye on Civil Society Column 

University of KwaZulu-Natal vice-chancellor Malegapuru Makgoba is 
expected to deliver an edict that the Centre for Civil Society will 
close on December 31. 

The reason given by dean Donal
McCracken to a sceptical School of 
Development Studies (where the
centre is housed) is that staff do not 
have "permanent"

But neither do most of the university's research
units, and there is 
money in centre reserves for at least a couple
of years, plus ongoing 
donor support for many of our projects. 

Hence this "execution" will be doggedly resisted in the
Memorial Tower 
Building, because UKZN still has many staff and
students who remember 
the struggle for non-racial democracy and
don't mind speaking out to 
challenge misguided decisions. 

As the two most senior academics in the centre, holding an honorary 
professorship and tenured research chair, respectively, we will resist,

despite what a UKZN internal report recorded - an environment of 
"intimidation and bullying", in which management "deploys
power rather 
than intellect", as Rhodes professor Jimi Adesina
put it. 

The decision is misguided for many reasons, not least
for overturning 
the official recommendation of a five-month
University Research Review 
finalised in February, which advocated
strengthening the centre and 
giving it more autonomy: "Closing
down or removing the centre from UKZN 
does not appear to be an
option as it was rejected by all interviewees 
and panel members.
Through its international recognition and standing, 
the centre has
put UKZN on a world map in social science, a position the 
dare not risk to lose." 


On the
local map, the centre has offered nearly 100 free events a year, 
including seminars, conferences, micro film festivals, literary 
celebrations and the Harold Wolpe Lecture, Durban's main lecture series.

In Howard College, several hundred community residents join
academics on 
the last Thursday of each month to debate newsmakers
and intellectuals, 
global and local - such as, this year,
commentator Xolela Mangcu, Soweto 
activist Trevor Ngwane, filmmaker
John Pilger, Kenyan feminist Eunice 
Sahle and Zimbabwe democracy
activists Judith Todd and Joy Mabengwe, as 
well as local
anti-xenophobia campaigners Baruti Amisi, Pierre Matate 
and Orlean

Among our inspirations is Fatima Meer, whom we host
this Sunday in 
Chatsworth in celebration of her 80 years of
commitment and wisdom, as 
well as her decade of support to the
"new social movements" in the 
original Concerned Citizens
Forum which in 1998 helped renew urban 
justice advocacy across South

Meer's Wolpe lecture last year called for a
post-nationalist liberatory politics to emerge from the
grassroots, like 
the creative spark generated in 2001 when the World
Social Forum in 
Brazil rose against the World Economic Forum in

With our centre's assistance, the Social Movement
Indaba network and 
Diakonia Council of Churches hosted a local
equivalent in January, 
drawing 400 community and labour leaders. 

Among those present were many who resisted Inanda Dam
Treatment Action Campaigners and Congolese inner-city
traders who hang 
in against all odds. 

Evidence of abuse
in the authorities' diktat to shut the centre ranges 
from a flawed
process, to extreme race and gender implications, since 
termination affects a dozen black staff, most of whom are 
working-class. The only paid staffer who should retain his job, 
McCracken told us, is the sole white expatriate (a writer of this 
article, Bond, whose government research subsidies more than pay his 

In addition to UKZN's threat to this centre and a
generation of new 
critical scholars, a great deal of concrete
research activity is now at 

UKZN claims it has
South Africa's "second best" research profile (after 
University of Pretoria). 

A modest contribution comes from our
centre staff's peer-reviewed 
articles, chapters and books - 58 in
2007 with an average 50 a year 
since 2005 (and no, these fortnightly
Mercury columns don't count) - 
which rank us at the top of the
university, measured per academic employee. 

High productivity
arises from documenting and interrogating the social 
laboratories of
Durban, South Africa, Africa and the world, where 
generated by globalisation and the flawed character of 
politics create conflict. 

We have sought sites and research
areas - climate, energy, 
water/sanitation, global and national
political economy, survival 
strategies and community philanthropy,
the rise of social movements in 
Africa - where these contradictions
tell us more about society, 
politics, economy, gender, race,
environment and other social relations 
than we would normally get
from our academic armchairs. 


merely trying to understand the conflicts, serious scholars will 
contribute to addressing them in a non-violent manner, such as through

international legal strategies that the other writer of this
Brutus, contributes to. 

He does this with the
Jubilee and the Khulumani Support Group, aiming 
for $400 billion (R2
951billion) in reparations to be paid by 
apartheid-era US and EU
corporations - which hopefully will frighten 
them enough to think
twice about their next investment in the Sudan, 
Zimbabwe, Burma and
the like. 

The danger of the centre's approach to knowledge
production, "praxis", 
is that the research generated
sometimes threatens the privileges of power. 

Two years ago,
the same authorities banned Ashwin Desai from continuing 
at the centre and at UKZN, amidst a haze of confusion and 

We lost a major Human Sciences Research Council
"Race and Redress" grant 
as a result of this interference.

In 2003, the US Agency for International Development retracted
multimillion-rand donation after centre founder Adam Habib spoke
against the Iraq war. 

That sort of style the centre
encouraged from the outset: honest and 
courageous, combining the
left brain's love of rigorous detail, and the 
left side of the
body's beating heart. 

UKZN management has stabbed this centre,
but it cannot be allowed to die. 

So this is really all about
politics, and whether a university can host 
a critical mass of
professional academics and community scholars devoted 
to social

# If you have testimonials about the wisdom of
closing CCS, for or 
against, please let us know, at
dennisbrutus2002@yahoo.com and 
pbond@mail.ngo.za - or fax to 260
2052 - and these will be posted at 

Michael A. Lebowitz 
Professor Emeritus 
Simon Fraser University 
Burnaby, B.C., Canada V5A

Director, Programme in 'Transformative Practice and Human
Centro Internacional Miranda, P.H. 
Anauco Suites, Parque Central, final Av. Bolivar 
Caracas, Venezuela

fax: 0212 5768274/0212 5777231 

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