Johannesburg – The University of Johannesburg (UJ) has officially severed ties with Israel’s Ben-Gurion University (BGU), deputy vice chancellor Adam Habib said on Wednesday.
“It will happen as per protocol on April 1,” Habib told Sapa.
“We had a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with them and that will now be severed.”
Habib said the “financial implications” of the decision would not adversely impact the UJ.
“Decisions should not be determined by finances, but to be honest it will not adversely impact the university. We are a big institution with a big budget. Our finances will not be adversely impacted one way or other.”
Ben-Gurion University however had been working with UJ on finding a method to clean algae that has infested South Africa’s drinking water.
The severing of ties meant the project was likely to come an end, leaving UJ without access to BGU’s extensive water expertise.
“There has been quite a lot of scare mongering that if the partnership breaks, South Africa will be confined to bad water quality,” Habib said.
“The quality of our water is suffering because we are not spending the type of money on cleaning water that we need to, and not employing skill sets required.
“We can deal with acid rain water in the region if we are prepared to spend money.”
Habib said individual professors from UJ would be allowed to keep up existing partnerships with BGU.
“That is something for individual academics to determine, but it depends on whether BGU allows this or not.”
UJ’s severing of ties with came amidst talk of steep water tariff increases and a warning South Africa could run out of water within the next ten years if nothing was done to supplement water resources.
The Environment and Conservation Association has said that by 2015, 80% of South Africa’s fresh water would be so badly polluted that no purification process in the country would make it fit for consumption.
The impending disaster that would be created by acid mine drainage, as well as by sewerage and industrial pollution, had on many occasions been brought to the government’s attention, with no positive results, the association said.
The UJ petition committee said in a statement the university’s senate had found “significant” evidence that BGU had research and other engagements supporting Israel’s military, in particular in its occupation of Gaza.
“UJ is the first institution to officially sever relations with an Israeli university – a landmark moment in the growing boycott, divestment and sanctions of Israel campaign,” it said.
The committee said the decision, coming from a South African institution, was of particular significance as it could start “a domino boycott effect”.
Efforts to end ties with BGU began with the UJ petition – a statement by UJ academics and students calling on their university to end its “apartheid-era relationship” with BGU.
The committee claimed more than 400 South African academics, including nine vice chancellors and deputy vice chancellors had joined the campaign.
“Palestinians, South Africans and the international academic and solidarity community rejoice at this decisive victory.”
The SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) slammed the announcement, saying that it was a blow to academic and scientific freedom
“UJ’s senate’s decision to allow the formal relationship between UJ and BGU to lapse is playing to narrow-minded political prejudice and is a severe setback for constructive intellectual engagement in South Africa,” SAJBD national chairperson Zev Krengel said in a statement.
He called the decision unjust and unreasonable and said “academic boycotts are antithetical to the principles of academic and scientific freedom”.
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