blade to slash campus racism

HIGHER Education Minister Blade Nzimande has given universities nine months to stamp out racism on their campuses.

"We are not going to continue to tolerate resistance to transformation," Nzimande told a media conference in Parliament yesterday.

He said the report into discrimination at public higher education institutions, released last month, showed the "deeply disturbing extent of racism and other forms of discrimination".

Nzimande was set to inform university leaders at Higher Education South Africa's annual general meeting last night that he would set up a monitoring body to see what would be done to end racism on campuses.

"There are so many Khutsongs (scenes of boycotts and disturbances) in higher education.

"We need a mechanism where at all times we know what is going on and where we can prevent these thousands of Khutsongs."

He also plans to hold university vice-chancellors responsible for transformation, by including it in their performance management contracts.

Nzimande said university councils must report back to him on their progress - before April 2010.

"You cannot leave matters of transformation to chance," he said.

"We don't want a situation where a letter has been written to chairs of university councils asking them to come up with concrete proposals to deal with racism and then in two years' time they tell us discussions are ongoing."

While he was not asking for legal powers to hire and fire university vice-chancellors, Nzimande said he wanted university councils to stop being "laid back" about racism.

He also announced he had convinced Unisa vice-chancellor Barney Pityana to "end the policy of excluding students" from writing exams if they had not paid their fees.

He told journalists that he would champion free first degrees for poor students, and was trying to find ways to get financial aid to students whose parents earned less than R7500 a month.

"Free higher education at this point for everybody is out of the question. Why should children of the rich not pay? Our priority are those who cannot afford or who can only partly afford to pay."