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Wits appoints independent panel to advise on matters pertaining to race at the University

- Wits Communications

Prof. Barney Pityana, Adv. Thuli Madonsela, Prof. Garth Stevens and Dr Mashadi Motlana to advise on future race and racism allegations at Wits.

The Senior Executive Team (SET) of the University of the Witwatersrand has appointed a panel, independent of the institution’s management structures and comprising individuals with immense experience, to advise on allegations of individual acts of racism that may arise at the University.

The SET will draw on the knowledge, guidance and proficiencies of the panel members, as required, to advise on how alleged incidents of racism should be addressed.

The Transformation and Employment Equity Office will continue to manage the day-to-day programmatic interventions to address racism and foster transformation at the University, in order to ensure the development of a progressive, non-racial, Afropolitan community.

The appointment of the panel follows allegations of racism made in recent months. It has become increasingly difficult to distinguish between legitimate complaints of racism and charges of racism by individuals pursuing alternative agendas. Matters are sometimes contaminated by individuals and misconstrued by some political parties to further opportunistic agendas, and in so doing, undermine the University’s policies, processes and systems. Whilst there are some legitimate cases of racism, others are spurious. The University is confident that the independent panel members will assist in identifying the legitimate cases of racism at the University.

The independent advisory panel comprises highly respected individuals with significant experience and legitimacy in society:

Professor Barney Pityana is a member of the Council of the University of the Witwatersrand and former vice-chancellor and principal of the University of South Africa. A respected lawyer and human rights activist, Pityana has served as chair of the South African Human Rights Commission and the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights. He was appointed as the Director of the Programme to Combat Racism at the World Council of Churches in Geneva from 1988 to 1992. He received an honourable mention by UNESCO for his work on human rights education in 2002. Pityana was a founding member of the South African Students’ Organisation and played an integral role in developing the Black Consciousness Movement with Steve Biko.

Advocate Thuli Madonsela speaks truth to power and is active in the fight against corruption and maladministration in South Africa. The former public protector pulls no punches in holding senior leaders to account and remaining steadfast in the face of significant resistance by organs of the state. She is a formidable guard and a staunch defender of the Constitution and democracy. A Wits alumna, Madonsela made a valuable contribution to the development of the South African Constitution during her time at the Wits Centre for Applied Legal Studies where she worked on the Gender Research Project. In 2007, Madonsela was appointed as a full-time member of the South African Law Reform Commission by former president Thabo Mbeki. Madonsela holds an honorary degree from Wits, a university that she knows well.

Professor Garth Stevens is a clinical psychologist and renowned scholar at Wits University whose research focuses on race, racism and related social asymmetries; knowledge production processes; violence and its prevention; historical/collective trauma and memory; and masculinity, gender and violence. An NRF B-rated researcher, Stevens is a member of the Academy of Science of South Africa. He also currently serves as Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Humanities. He is the co-founder of the Apartheid Archive Project – an international research initiative that aims to examine the nature of the experiences of racism of ordinary South Africans under the old apartheid order, and their continuing effects on individual and group functioning in contemporary South Africa.

Dr Mashadi Motlana is a specialist psychiatrist (MBBCh), MMed (Psych) and a businesswoman who combines her clinical skills and entrepreneurial interests to innovate and impact the health of South Africans. The Deputy CEO of Sechaba Medical Solutions, the administrator of the Sizwe Medical Fund, Motlana is also the co-founder of a social enterprise that manufactures and distributes menstrual cups to young women from impoverished communities. She is also a founding director of the Dr Nthato Motlana Foundation, Happy with a Purpose, and Psychiatry M Powered, an advocacy group for mental health. A Wits alumna, Motlana is an honorary consultant and lecturer who remains involved in teaching and research. A Fellow of the College of Psychiatrists (College of Medicine SA), Motlana served as the clinical head and executive manager for clinical services at Tara Hospital from 2011 to 2013, where she was responsible for providing quality specialised healthcare despite limited resources. 


Wits University is committed to addressing and eroding racism at the University, as it is a constitutional obligation. The University believes that this must be undertaken programmatically so that it leads to a fundamental, sustainable change within Wits and thereby enables the emergence of a progressive democratic Afropolitan community that is directed to serving the agenda of creating an inclusive society.