South Africa 5.8.2018 02:52 pm

Mayosi no anti-black sellout, he ruffled feathers of white academics, say defenders

Professor Bongani Mayosi. Picture: Supplied by University of Cape Town

Professor Bongani Mayosi. Picture: Supplied by University of Cape Town

Accounts of what had led to the professor’s deepening depression reveal an institution dealing with the repercussions transformation.

Despite week-long speculation that University of Cape Town (UCT) Professor Bongani Mayosi was pushed over the edge by accusations of being a so-called sellout to the black cause, sources have come out to oppose this view.

Western Cape Premier Helen Zille described a “demonisation campaign” driven by Fees Must Fall protesters following a Cape Argus report that Mayosi was called a “coconut” by student protesters.

Vice-chancellor Mamokgethi Phakeng said this past week: “In times of conflict, a lot of things happen, a lot of things go wrong. We can take 2016/2017 lightly. I’m not saying students are to blame – students themselves were traumatised. Oftentimes we think it’s only students; the staff themselves were traumatised, and the things we say to one another during conflict are not desirable.”

City Press reports that UCT insiders linked the professor’s suicide to his fight for transformation amid a university culture that resists change and even aims insults at staff members who dare to call for change.

Mayosi, who was the dean of the health faculty at UCT, apparently rubbed fellow academics up the wrong way with his stance on transformation. White academics allegedly sent emails calling the late academic incompetent despite his excellent track record.

“He was constantly reminded he was not good enough,” a source told City Press.

The source said Phakeng was “disingenuous” for blaming his depression and resultant suicide on the student protests.

Another source pointed out that Mayosi had managed to transform the faculty into the only one at UCT with a majority black staff.

The vice-chancellor faced a smear campaign when she was still in the running to be the first black woman appointed vice-chancellor at the historically white institution.

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