THE issues raised by Bantwini Matika in his open letter regarding the state of sports and more specifically, rugby transformation at NMMU are challenging, but certainly worthy of further debate.
It is a great pity that the writer has not sought to meet with NMMU colleagues to discuss these issues, and I cannot see any plausible reason why he is "forced" to write an "open letter" as our doors have never been closed for discussion.
I would like to distinguish between matters of policy and principle about sports transformation, as opposed to specific allegations made against NMMU rugby administrators.
I clearly cannot speak on their behalf.
And, as his charges are quite serious and damaging, it is only fair that NMMU rugby has a right of reply. I have to say though, that calling someone racist, while in some cases justifiable, may in other instances, have the opposite effect of closing down the ground for making a balanced assessment of underlying and often unknown facts, and blocking a pathway to discovering areas of mutual agreement.
It also has the risk of tarnishing everyone with the same brush, even if unintended. At any rate, labelling cannot be a substitute for making a balanced assessment of the facts, motives and impact of strategies of rugby administrators to live up to the policy commitments of the university.
Matika's allegations will be taken up by the dean of students, Khaya Matiso, who has committed himself to ensuring transformation is consistently, firmly and fairly driven both on the field and in the administration of sports on our campuses. He will make a balanced assessment of its merits and work with our deputy vice-chancellor, Dr Sibongile Muthwa who has overall oversight of all student affairs.
I am glad Matika agrees that NMMU has made a clear and firm commitment to the constitutional ideals of fostering a more equal, socially just and fair society. This, as he rightly notes, is expressed in our Vision 2020, and since 2008, we have been hard at work attempting to drive these goals in student recruitment, living and learning, teaching and research, creating a vibrant student democracy, and taking the university into our various communities to work towards a more equal and socially-just society. None of this is easy, quick or without challenges, and there are still vast areas still requiring major transformation. But we certainly have not been sitting still. I invite Matika to meet with NMMU colleagues involved with rugby to explore positive ways of working towards true change.
Prof Derrick Swartz
Both letters edited due to space constraints