Decolonising hiring practices at South African universities
Mandisi Majavu (Rhodes University)

The findings of the 2020 Report of the Ministerial Task Team on the recruitment, retention and progression of black South African academics shows that black and coloured academics remain underrepresented in South African academia. According to the report, “white females are the most overrepresented group, making up 25.3% of the academic staff compared to a 4.5% general population share.” The inclusion of white women in the affirmative action programme has led to white women being the biggest beneficiaries of black labour and black struggle against oppressive white regimes in this country. According to the report, when black academics are recruited, they tend to be from other African countries like Zimbabwe and Nigeria. The reports show that 34 percent of international staff at South African universities are from Zimbabwe and Nigeria, “with Zimbabwe accounting for 25%”. The report recognises the value of employing international academics at South African universities, but points out that “for this to be true, the international representation needs to be truly international, rather than predominantly from a few countries, as appears to be the case in South Africa.” This paper argues that the hiring practices at South African universities are the product of the longstanding racist discourse that was used to justify the need for indentured labour in South Africa. Both the Indian indentured labour and Chinese indentured labour were brought to South Africa because whites claimed that local blacks were an “indolent race” that valued “basking in the sunshine” and “smoking dagha” the whole day rather than work for whites. These are long standing racist stereotypes that have roots in the seventeenth century Cape of Good Hope. The Witwatersrand Native Labour Association deployed the same discourse when it recruited cheap black labour from Southern African, particularly from Mozambique.