THE SOUTH AFRICAN UNIVERSITIES’ STAFF NETWORK FOR
January 27-29, 2017
Re-imagining a More Responsible Public Higher Education in South Africa Today –
Towards Feasible Policy Alternatives
The South African Universities Staff Network for Transformation (SAUSNeT) was formed
on 20 November 2016 in response to the continuing crisis in higher education. It seeks to
include the voices of academic and support staff in the broader consultative processes
towards the realization of a transformative peace and just solutions. SAUSNeT is committed
to reimagining a 21st century higher education system that addresses the challenges of
WE, the delegates - representing unions, associations and individual administrators, support
staff and academics from universities in South Africa - to the South African Universities Staff
Network for Transformation (SAUSNeT) meeting at the O.R. Tambo Garden Court,
Gauteng, South Africa.
• The historic moment of students’ demand for free, quality, decolonised education as
well as the workers’ demands for insourcing.
• Unity between all university staff, including academics and support service workers,
is crucial to ensure collective voice and power. Such a common platform was not
established in the past and is required in the present.
• The national and systemic crises at our universities, which is exacerbated by structural
poverty, inequality, racism, unemployment and general lack of opportunities for
young people in our country.
• The traumatic experiences and antagonistic relations at our universities among
management, staff and students as well as the divisions within these individual
• Poor communication from government and management, and the lack of consultation,
especially with staff and unions.
• Acts of violences and destruction, including the burning of libraries, a climate of fear,
as well as the securitisation of campuses.
• The exploitation of the crisis for political purposes.
• The poor quality of basic education, which undermines higher education and further training.
• The interconnections between the crisis at universities and in society, and to
reimagine the sector, policy and society.
• Public goods in society such us decommodified education, health care and transport
should be provisioned with quality, exellence and a spirit of public service to all.
Reaffirming our principles to guide our approach to universities and broader engagement:
• Constitutional democracy: which protects and promotes the Bill of Rights which
includes the rights to education, association, protest and protection or security, among
• Zero tolerance to racism: universities having unevenly confronted the structural,
behavioural and unconscious racism within these spaces. We remain guided by a firm
commitment to address racialised legacies and practices at our universities by drawing
on anti-racism, Black consciousness and radical non-racialism to ensure zero racism takes root.
• Non-violence: rejecting all forms of violence, especially gender based violence, but
also violence within political action and engagement, while affirming democratic,
dialogical and peaceful means to address problems.
• Equality: recognising that all humans are entitled to resources, opportunities and
rights that ensure a just existence and commit ourselves to fighting all forms of
discrimination especially based on gender and sexuality.
• Transformation: recognising the achievements made in the last 22 years, we
recommit ourselves to radical transformation within the sector.
• Ecological justice: seeking to protect natural resources and eco-systems for present
and future generations, while limiting the eco-cidal logic of corporate driven societies.
Informed by conference deliberations, we declare our support for:
Restorative justice in respect of student discipline
• A process of restorative justice in the face of the criminal and disciplinary cases
against students. While we support the students’ demands, we cannot perpetuate a
culture of impunity. We support the Trusted Convenors, led by former Deputy Chief
Justice Dikgang Moseneke, in resolving these matters through a restorative justice
process. We also believe the Trusted Convenors must give consideration to
establishing a civil society led commission of enquiry into human rights violations
and the undermining of the right to peaceful protest at universities during the #FMF
2015 and #FMF2016.
Building a Transformative Peace and Unity at Our Campus
• We call on university administrations that have securitised our universities through
blanket interdicts, a heavy police presence, bouncers and other extreme measures to
desist with immediate effect. We appeal for an undertaking and commitment to move
forward through dialogue, debate and negotiations.
• Our universities need to be re-united through taking seriously student calls for
decolonisation, decommodifed higher education and insourcing of precarious
workers. Social compacts, peace agreements, accords and transformation summits are
A Civil Society Convention on the Crisis in Higher Education
• We affirm:
o the role of the Trusted Convenors, as our partners, in creating a participatory
platform, with all stakeholders, for dialogue, debate and negotiations, leading
to more equitable, permanent and sustainable policy solutions in higher
education. This we must do in a climate of trust, as supported and initiated by
respected leaders and organisations in society.
o the need for participatory and democratic agenda setting that addresses the
systemic challenges of higher education.
o an inclusive constituency-based approach to the convention, guided by our
o the need for sufficient student representivity to be part of this dialogue, despite
the prevailing divisions among students.
Proposals for Systemic Reform
1. Fiscal Justice: Demand the state increases funding to universities to ensure fiscal
justice and institutional autonomy. This can happen through various redistributive
measures such as increasing the training levy and its allocation to universities;
increasing corporate taxation ( given that corporations have benefitted from massive
cuts since the mid-1990s); increasing wealth taxes; advancing a substantive basic
citizens’ income grant and similar measures. Ensure the state adequately funds the
costs of insourcing.
2. Fiscal waste: Challenge the state’s abuse of public resources, including the looming
nuclear deal, mega infrastructure projects and annual corporate outsourcing, which
redirects urgently needed resources from higher education and other social priorities.
3. Accommodation: Ensure safe, hygienic housing and call for the gazetted minimum
norms and standards to be implemented by universities and applied to private student
accommodation as well.
4. Hunger: Promote food sovereign commons (e.g. plant fruit trees and vegetable
gardens across campuses, link to community small-scale farmers) to ensure adequate
nutrition to students. Fast food outlets should be replaced by communal dining halls.
5. Gender-based violence: Demand immediate action to address gender empowerment
and sexual violence; a national task team to investigate rape culture, reporting
institutions, and university policy; education for staff and students on gender-based
6. Advancing the next generation of staff: Actively promote through support
programmes, training, and promotion planning, the advancement of black
postgraduate students and black academic, professional, administrative, and support
7. Pluralities of knowledge: Promote and implement decoloniality to replace the ethos
and knowledge structures of the apartheid university. Knowledge structures and
pedagogies that address the existence of coloniality to be encouraged, supported and
promoted. Research, learning practices, pedagogical experimentation and spatial
transformation in keeping with decoloniality to be advanced. All knowledge systems
to be valued.
8. Advance information for all: to address the information deficit, lack of access to
information technology and lack of skills to utilise libraries. In this regard zero VAT
rating on education material, increased funding for indigenous knowledge collections,
promotion of the online commons, library training for students, access and promotion
of libraries as a public good across society and free access to the internet to be
achieved through libraries.
9. A push to fix school education: through the Trusted Convenors of the numerous
policy solutions, plans and proposals to address the crisis in school education. Social
power must be focused on the dysfunctionality facing our schooling systen and which
is contributing to the crisis in higher education.
10. Differentiation in university and higher education system: TVET/FET need to be
strengthened through labour market planning, good governance, and accountability
for job creation and national development. A functioning higher education system
presents school leavers greater opportunities and expanded options for further
education. Such a system must ensure flexible complimentarity and articulation so
that leaners can move into any level of the system based on their needs. Universities
should also support capacity building in TVET/FET.
11. Participatory Governance and the power of all university staff: propose a new model
and/or role of university Councils, and other institutional structures to ensure greater
transparency, participation, and representivity. Replace the new managerialism,
performance management and market exploitation model that governs universities.
Such transformation can happen through streamlining managerial structures, decent
work for all staff, collective bargaining, recognition of trade unions, narrowing wage
gaps, insourcing, sharing medical aids, participatory reviews, greater allocation of
research funds to academics in departments and adequate representation of students
and staff on university governing structures.
12. Building eco-centric universities: address the lack of leadership on the climate and
broader ecological crisis. In this regard, universities to champion zero carbon
emissions through renewable energy, greater thermal efficiency in buildings, zero
hunger through food sovereign commons, integrated public transport, car free zones,
bicycle lanes, zero waste, research to develop climate science and an eco-centric
knowledge project for university diciplines.
A future for SAUSNeT
• Strengthen its reach at universities among associations, unions and interested staff
through the following:
o immediate dialogue with all constituencies within universities and civil society
on the conference declaration;
o initiation of SAUSNet forums where appropriate at universities and in regions;
o include all participants at this conference on the SAUSNet mailing list and
• Unions and associations participating in SAUSNet need to deliberate on their relation
to SAUSNeT going forward (e.g. forms of support, resourcing, membership,
• SAUSNeT will seek to engage civil society partners and Heher Commission as well
as the DHET on its financing model and the Lesedi model.
• SAUSNeT will also consider principled, discplined and non-violent mass protest
action and campaigning to take forward its agenda for systemic reforms.
Global struggles in higher education
• Commit ourselves to the global struggle for free, quality, higher education in all parts
of the world, including learning from countries that have embraced public higher
education models such as Argentina, Cuba, India, Palestine, Germany, France and
several Nordic countries. Committing ourselves specifically to partnerships with other
public universities through exchanges and other measures to promote solidarity.