University racism report: Cape Town replies


We wish to point out that there are crucial omissions from the report by the Institutional Reconciliation and Transformation Commission (IRTC) that challenge its findings of “rife” racism at the University of Cape Town. These were not picked up in your overall assessment of the situation (see Nature 568, 151-152; 2019).

For example, there is evidence that bias in the university’s promotion systems has been disappearing over the past 11 years (see H. Sadiq et al. High. Educ.; 2018). The profiles of academic staff and of researchers (see, for example, G. D. Breetzke and D. W. Hedding Stud. High. Educ.; 2019) are changing at South African universities. We also understand that one of the five members of the commission disagreed with the theoretical approach and the factual conclusions in the section of the report dealing with racism.

The commission was established as part of an agreement aimed at ending campus disruption and violence ( It was independent of the university, but not of South African politics ( We find it unfortunate that sections of the IRTC report took a contentious approach to racism that reflected the concerns of particular political groups.

The University of Cape Town remains strongly committed to transforming its racist legacy in academic appointments and promotions (see

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