Friday, September 08, 2006

UCT defends 'extreme' admissions policy

Sumayya Ismail | Johannesburg, South Africa
08 September 2006 11:47

through employment or education, transformation and affirmative action
strategies have become part of daily life in South Africa, and recent
media attention on the admissions policies of the University of Cape
Town (UCT) has raised some important questions.

are these measures vital to atone for the apartheid past or are they
just another form of discrimination, aimed at a different group of

Following a bout of letters published in Cape Town
newspapers last week, Democratic Alliance leader Tony Leon attacked the
university's policies in his column on SA Today, criticising its use of race as a primary admissions requirement to certain medical and law degrees.

assesses its undergraduate applicants based on a points system --
similar to that used by other South African tertiary institutions.
Unlike other institutions, however, UCT's 2007 admission requirements
clearly distinguish between different race groups in stipulating the
number of points required for specific degrees.

A BSc in
physiotherapy, for instance, requires that black and coloured
applicants obtain 34 points in order to be considered, while Indian
applicants need to obtain 41 points and "Open" applicants need to
obtain 43 points.

An almost 10-point advantage for black and
coloured applicants in some cases saw Leon chastising the university
for "cravenly enacting the ANC's [African National Congress's]
obsessive, race-based reclassification of South Africa".

"I think there is a lot of pressure from government," Leon told the Mail & Guardian Online. "UCT goes way beyond … these measures are very extreme."

are UCT's measures. We believe in them," UCT registrar Hugh Amoore
affirmed, "Whether they happen to tie in with the transformation and
affirmative action or agendas of the day is of secondary concern."

'Appropriate measures'
37 of the 1997 Higher Education Act states that in their admissions
policies, all South African universities are required to comply with
"appropriate measures for the redress of past inequalities", but they
"may not unfairly discriminate in any way".

"We believe that
they [the admission requirements] pass constitutional muster," said
Amoore, "[and] that the discrimination in them is fair and

Leon wrote, however, that through these
measures "the university is actually carrying out government's
programme with a zeal far in excess of the Act's section 37 (1)".

is the mandate of each individual institution to publish and implement
an admissions policy that is both fair and transparent," said Professor
Duma Malaza, CEO of Higher Education South Africa.

The M&G Online
looked at the admission requirements of medical faculties of similar
institutions and found that although previously disadvantaged race
groups are preferred in most instances, UCT is the only university with
such formal affirmative action measures written into the application

Like UCT, the universities of the Witwatersrand, Free
State and Pretoria also assess applicants based on a points system.
However, at these institutions the same number of points is required
for all applicants, regardless of race. They all maintain that
applicants are judged academically, and no differentiation is made
between racial groups.

The University of KwaZulu-Natal,
however, does work within a quota system. "But there is competition
within the race groups," said admissions officer Deliwe Ikalila, with
black students competing with each other, white students competing with
each other, and so on. Those who reach the highest percentage in their
matric results, in each of the four race groups, are accepted.

Selection methods
well as attaining the required number of points, applicants to UCT's
health sciences faculty are also expected to complete a questionnaire
and take a national placement test that assesses their suitability for
their chosen field of study.

"These selection methods are the
result of conscious policies to ensure, first, that those we admit are
able to succeed and, secondly, that the resulting class will have
significant numbers of African [black] and coloured students.

UCT admissions policy of the year 2007 is an attempt to ensure we move
to such a [equal opportunity] society," Amoore said, to which Leon
responded by saying he "disagree[s] absolutely, profoundly and

"Categorisations using racial difference are very bad news for non-racialism," the DA leader said.

the university's policies a "crude racial system", he questioned
whether children of Cabinet ministers who live in upmarket areas,
attend private schools and happen to be black should qualify for these
rewards. "There should be measures to help the best people who can
benefit from the education system."

Amoore said the university
weighs past educational adversity at the level of racial groups as
opposed to individuals, and its policies are based on this. Different
requirements are set for applicants of different backgrounds "to
compensate for generations of educational and socio-economic

"It is too easy in the constitutional state in
which we live to forget the ravages caused by the educational
provisions of native affairs, bantu education and the Department of
Education and care training, or of coloured affairs," Amoore said, "too
easy to forget that even today most township schools and many rural
schools still reflect this legacy in provision, in the qualifications
and experience of the teachers, and in the socio-economic conditions
[poverty] of their communities."

But Leon
was adamant in his weekly column that "not only does UCT's current
approach to admissions not recognise individual worth, it [also]
insults the gifted black student by negating her high marks and
insisting that her place is not dependent on her particular effort or

"Without these policies, the MBChB class, for
example, would be predominantly white and Indian; there would be very
few black men and women doctors in the graduating class," Amoore said.

these measures in place, black students accounted for 72% of UCT's
MBChB classes last year, but Amoore said that "institutionally we
believe we need to do more".

"It's not the job of a university to churn out exact proportions of the population," Leon told the M&G Online.
The university "reinforces the baleful notion that some race groups are
innately inferior to others, because they require special treatment",
he wrote on SA Today.

"Access to higher education is
invariably controversial and politically fraught in contexts such as
South Africa where parity in educational provision has not yet been
achieved," Higher Education South Africa's Malaza explained.
"Extraordinary measures are needed to achieve the kind of equity
targets that will reflect … the demographics of our society."

Numerous attempts to contact the Department of Education for comment on this matter failed.

Comment:  They might as well put up a big sign that reads: "Blacks only".

Tourists warned against SA

08/09/2006 11:36  - (SA)

Wellington - New Zealand's foreign ministry stepped up warnings
about travel to South Africa on Friday, saying crime was a serious
issue with muggings and hijackings prevalent.

The ministry's travel advisory on its website said there was "some
risk" in travelling to South Africa and advised visitors to be vigilant
at all times, especially at bus stations and airports where organised
gangs operated.

It specifically mentioned the key cities of Johannesburg, Durban and Pretoria.

It also warned of the danger of hiackings on roads leading to Kruger
Park and said visitors should only go to Table Mountain in groups to
minimise the risk of attack. - Sapa-dpa


Saturday, September 02, 2006

SA nuke moves alarm US

Nic Dawes
01 September 2006 08:16
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma
South African support for Iran held firm this week as a United Nations deadline for Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment programme expired, potentially triggering sanctions by the UN Security Council or the United States and its allies.

A flurry of diplomatic activity followed last week’s visit to Pretoria by Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottak, and the renewed insistence by South Africa on Iran’s “inalienable right” to pursue nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

Iran is high on the agenda of President Thabo Mbeki’s meeting next week with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Department of Foreign Affairs announced this week.

Russia is the major supplier to Iran’s nuclear programme and is eager to broker a diplomatic solution to the crisis. It is part of the “P5+1” coalition of permanent members of the Security Council -- plus Germany, which has offered Iran economic incentives to halt its enrichment activities, but is hesitant about sanctions.

As the crisis escalated last week top US nuclear diplomat James Schulte met South Africa’s representative at the International Atomic Energy Agency, Abdul Minty, in Pretoria. He was followed this week by representatives of the EU 3 -- the British, French and German component of the P5+1. No details of either meeting have been released, but during his trip Schulte publicly called on the South African government to bring its influence to bear on Iran.

Citing South Africa’s 1991 decision to end its nuclear weapons programme he told University of Pretoria’s Centre for International Political Studies: “South Africa’s example and leadership position you to help Iran’s leaders to think hard about Iran’s future and to consider two different models: the first, North Korea -- nuclear-armed, but impoverished, isolated, insignificant; the second, South Africa -- nuclear weapons-free, but secure, dynamic and a respected player in your region and the world.

“The choice should be clear. You can help Iran’s leaders make the right one.”

South Africa’s response, guided by complex domestic and geopolitical considerations, contained little to please the US. Local officials stress that the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) decision to report its concerns about Iran’s programme to the UN Security Council was -- in a departure from precedent -- reached by majority vote, not consensus. They say Iran has no legal obligation under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to engage in further “confidence-building measures”.

Writing in the latest issue of ANC journal Umrabulo, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Aziz Pahad argues that the nuclear weapons states (the US, Britain, France, Russia and China) are undermining the “balance of rights and obligations” underpinning the treaty.

South Africa played a leading role during the 1995 negotiations that lead to the treaty’s extension. The major Western powers argued for it to remain in force indefinitely, while non-aligned countries, led by Indonesia, wanted it scrapped unless the nuclear powers agreed to disarm.

South African representatives crafted a compromise extending the treaty indefinitely in exchange for a commitment from the nuclear powers to disarmament measures, including the implementation of a comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, a deal on the hand­ling of fissile material, and systematic efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons. Further revisions in 2000 added undertakings.

“There has been limited, if not minimal, progress,” Pahad writes. “In some areas there was, in fact, a reversal of these undertakings.”

During a treaty review last year South Africa sought a text balancing criticism of the nuclear weapons states’ failures with concerns about proliferation, particularly the contribution of “non-state actors” like the AQ Kahn smuggling network to the illegal spread of weapons technology.

Instead, Pahad stresses in apparent reference to George W Bush’s administration, proposals were made “to impose restrictions on the inalienable right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes [including] a cap on new enrichment and reprocessing facilities”.

South Africa’s sensitive diplomatic moves dovetail with the development of plans to expand the capacity of the local nuclear industry.

The timing of Friday’s announcement by Minister of Minerals and Energy Buyelwa Sonjica that South Africa was considering restarting uranium enrichment has not escaped Western diplomats. But the government insists that there is no connection between backing for Iran, activism around the Non-Proliferation Treaty and South Africa’s plans to expand its nuclear energy capability.

“We believe in multilateralism; that is the principle we are defending here,” one official said. But others in the government are privately irritated by US-led attempts to limit the use of highly enriched uranium for civil purposes and to further cap enrichment by non-nuclear weapons states.

Security of supply will become increasingly important as the proportion of nuclear power in the energy mix grows. Brazil, the South Africans point out, recently began enriching uranium.

Briefing editors in Pretoria this week, Minister of Public Enterprises Alec Erwin said a study was being conducted into the “full uranium value chain”, from fuel production to medical research.

Erwin stressed that enrichment would be for peaceful purposes. “South Africa has said unequivocally that we have withdrawn our capacity for weapons-grade enrichment. Whether we should now go back to enrichment for civilian uses is a matter we are going to have to study very carefully,” he said.

*Original source