THE DUBIOUS ETHICS OF LOVELYN NWADEYI AND EUSEBIUS MCKAISER
13 MAY 2023
On 19 May 2021, former 702 Radio broadcaster Eusebius McKaiser posted a photograph on his Instagram account of him enjoying lunch at Bellagio Bistro in Johannesburg with a “diversity and transformation” consultant called Lovelyn Nwadeyi.
The post appears to be unremarkable. However, when the broader context is considered, a number of fairly obvious ethical concerns arise that will be of interest to teachers and parents at schools across South Africa.
In the aftermath of the death of George Floyd in the United States in May 2020, a wave of “anti-racism” activism swept across the English-speaking world. In South Africa, dozens of schools were affected by student protests. Typically, aggrieved former students made allegations of racism against teachers, often using social media to amplify their complaints.
During this period, Eusebius held the prime mid-morning slot on 702 Radio, the country’s largest English-language talk-radio station. And, for weeks, “racism in schools” was practically all that he discussed. On 9 June 2020, Eusebius held a two-hour show in which he played recordings of monologues by students or interviewed students from a number of schools. The episode was very one-sided with Eusebius often asking his guests blatantly leading questions such as “Is St Anne’s in Hilton racist as an institution?” and “Is Bishops institutionally racist?”. There was no opportunity for comment from the schools nor was there an opportunity for the accused individuals (some of whom were named on air) to defend themselves.
Interestingly, many of the students whom Eusebius interviewed had clearly been influenced by concepts which originate in the world of American Critical Race Theory. Mbali, a former student of St Anne’s College in KwaZulu Natal, complained about “microaggressions” at the school and recounted a story about how she encountered resistance when she put up posters concerning the topic of “white privilege”. She claimed that the “institution in itself [i.e. St Anne’s] is racial and racist and so we sort of have to break it down to the ground and build it up again”.
Adam, a student from Bishops in Cape Town, complained about receiving a Saturday detention after he failed to pitch for an under 14D hockey match. He also spoke about the need for “safe spaces” to be established at the school for “people of colour”. Demand number 17 of the Bishops students’ written memorandum of demands stated that “we demand safe spaces and forums for minority students and students from vulnerable groups. These spaces should serve the purpose of being a space where vulnerable students can seek refuge from the harms that Bishops confronts them with. Under no circumstances should white people enter POC safe spaces and non-LGBTQ+ people should not be allowed in queer safe spaces.”
Eusebius also asked Adam about a specific teacher who he named on the radio station. Adam replied as follows:
“He...” Adam paused and then sighed… “I have never experienced anything for the record personally but I have heard countless stories of this teacher treating people of colour in his class differently to how he would treat white students… you know… getting their names confused. I have been a victim from other teachers of that. I have been called random other brown students’ names before and it is just really demoralising.”
Occasionally, Eusebius’ guests expressed sentiments which were themselves blatantly racist. For example, an unnamed former student of St Mary’s DSG in Pretoria who had been Deputy Head Girl of the school stated the following:
“It is just such an uncomfortable situation when the majority of the staff is white, the majority of the parents are white… and I know at my school they were Afrikaans whites. And you’d get there and everyone would be speaking Afrikaans to each other and you just feel so alienated and so excluded.”
In other words, the offence committed by the parents at St Mary’s DSG is simply that they were white and Afrikaans. Imagine the reaction if roles had been reversed, and a white person in South Africa complained about feeling uncomfortable in an environment where “the majority of people were black… not only that but they were Zulu blacks… and I arrived there and they were all speaking Zulu to each other… it was just such an uncomfortable situation”? It is both amusing and dumbfounding to witness the total lack of self-awareness on the part of some of those making accusations of racism.
Ultimately, it is clear that many of these allegations are, at best, non-specific, unproved or based entirely on hearsay. Nevertheless, the media coverage of the topic was relentless and unquestioning and the pressure on schools and accused teachers was enormous.
Lovelyn Nwadeyi is the founder and director of a consulting firm called L&N Advisors (she appears to have named the firm after her initials). According to its website, the firm’s “sole purpose is to see social justice normalised and embedded in corporate, academic and religious spaces.”
On 23 August 2019 (some months before the Black Lives Matter movement went global), she posted a video containing a seven-and-a-half minute monologue onto her Facebook page. With wide eyes and deep breaths, Lovelyn recounted her business journey. It had not been easy.
“Entrepreneurship will humble you, guys… yhoooo… you will be HUMBLED! I have had to eat a lot of humble pie over the last 12 months… one of the most humbling moments was when, financially, I was just really struggling… guys entrepreneurship will show you FLAMES… I was crying myself to sleep and having panic attacks… I was in the darkest of the dark and the lowest of the lows… I was freaking out that I wouldn’t make my monthly payments and obligations. I had R 500 in my bank account... I am not where I want to be right now, absolutely not, I am just not making a loss anymore. But I don’t feel that I am comfortably past the break-even point yet.”
Fortunately, Lovelyn had found some respite by attending therapy and counselling sessions.
“Counselling and therapy is so good for you! I would not have survived the last year without the support of people who were willing to support me with counselling and therapy… we live in a trash capitalist world which just adds a lot of unnecessary pressure to our mental well-being. That has been a big part of my success and survival over the past year.
So, to summarise, don’t despise the days of small beginnings… I am so blessed and grateful… I want to thank you all for your support… and Happy Birthday to L&N Advisors! I am really looking forward to the rest of the journey ahead."
She then signed off with a cheerful business development-pitch to her friends:
All of my love to you all – and please send me more clients! Dankie!”
A screenshot from Lovelyn's Facebook video
And so, for Lovelyn and her struggling business, the Woke Uprising of June 2020 must have seemed like Christmas, Easter, Eid, Diwali and Hannukah all rolled into one.
With remarkable speed, she published a 2,664-word article entitled “An Open Letter to White Teachers and Parents – Consider This an Olive Branch”. It quickly went viral, receiving over 20,000 views. Lovelyn added her own voice to those of the complainants. Her family had left Nigeria some years previously, in mysterious and unexplained circumstances, and eventually settled in the Eastern Cape, where Lovelyn had the opportunity to attend Queenstown School, one of the province’s most prestigious schools. She stated that “the price we paid for a well-rounded education was daily, small and big acts of racism from our friends and teachers who made it a point to communicate to us in various ways that we did not belong… It is for this reason that I started my work as a social justice consultant.”
She then switched into sales mode. She declared that schools should:
“consult a social justice practitioner committed to anti-racism, NOT non-racialism (that thing is dead and tired now)… Some of you need to write open-ended apology letters and not even try to defend yourselves because we have generations of children and adults who have receipts of what you have done to them. Some of you need to take your entire school leadership onto a call with me and other racial justice practitioners in this country to talk through what a helpful, healing and restorative response can look like. This is not the time for non-racialism and non-racism and cute 'kumbaya' quotes. This is the time to develop anti-racism and social justice intervention strategies that will both empower and encourage all members of your school community to get on board.”
Then back into attack mode. She stridently demanded that schools:
“adopt a posture of humility – be ready to acknowledge what you don’t know… But NONE of you, and I mean it, NONE of you get to use this moment to showcase and show off how diverse you are and how much you suddenly value inclusivity. This is not the time for performative allyship, this is not the time for posting meaningless hashtags and black squares if the black children in your school are saying they cannot breathe. Even if you have started your efforts on this journey, this is a time for deep and humble reflection about the aspects of your efforts that are not working.”
Finally, the most extraordinary line of all:
“One workshop will not fix this. Trust me, I know. Start thinking through how much time you may be willing to offer, think through a budget and get people like me and others on board… if you would like to get in contact with me, please see my contact details below.”
Later that month, Lovelyn spent nearly an hour being interviewed by Eusebius alongside another diversity and transformation consultant called Teresa Oakley-Smith.
Lovelyn quickly won clients on the back of all of this publicity – and she would waste no time in setting out to abolish the scourge of racism from schools across the country.
However, there was just one problem: extensive legal investigations at numerous schools subsequently determined that the allegations of racism made against teachers were, in fact, almost entirely bogus.
St Stithians Girls’ College appointed the law firm, Cheadle Thompson & Haysom Inc, to investigate 67 allegations contained in a memorandum submitted by a group of former students. Four months later, the Rector of the school reported that the “findings were that further investigations of these matters were unnecessary in light of the assessment of each complaint.” Of particular significance is the fact that 54 of the 67 allegations were made anonymously. Despite being invited to share their experiences in a confidential setting, not a single anonymous complainant contacted the investigating law firm. As far as I can determine, there has been no verification that these anonymous complaints were even authentic. Of additional concern is that two of the students who orchestrated the allegations are the daughters of the school’s head of transformation.
As is usual with Woke activism, there was also no shortage of hypocrisy. A number of the allegations concerned teachers’ mispronunciation of the names of black students. Yet, in addressing their memorandum of complaints to the school’s leadership, the complainants themselves misspelt the names of both the Rector, Mrs Celeste Gilardi, and the Chairman of Council, Mr Carel Nolte.
Professor John van den Berg is the father of a former student and husband of a former teacher at St Mary’s DSG in Pretoria. His wife was one of several staff members who were suspended by the school. He has written a detailed account of the grotesque and unjust farce that subsequently transpired:
“Staff were hastily suspended and expensive teams of lawyers brought in to investigate. No stone was left unturned in the hunt for acts of discrimination. Social media sites were trawled and anonymous postings against staff carefully collected and collated. This was done not for the purpose of punishing those responsible for these actionable postings, but rather to use as evidence in the prosecution of the school's teachers.
This exercise cost DSG millions but produced in the end not a single witch, for at its conclusion, no member of staff was found to have committed any act of racial discrimination of any sort. In fact, in the case of only one staff member did the investigating advocate, who certainly didn't err on the side of generosity to the teachers, think a formal disciplinary was warranted. But the employer's case in this single disciplinary was flimsy and collapsed almost immediately because no witnesses could be found to substantiate the charge of discrimination. In an institution apparently so riven with the scourge of racism, one might have expected a slew of guilty verdicts.”
Herschel Girls’ School in Cape Town received hundreds of complaints of racism that were aggregated via various Instagram accounts. Many of the comments did not refer to specific incidents, but were instead insulting, mocking, sarcastic and abrasive generalisations. It is important to note that many complainants used terminology such as “systemic racism”, “poc”, “safe spaces” etc which clearly indicates that they had been exposed to Critical Race Theory, perhaps at university. A sample of the content is included below:
In addition, an online petition was circulated. It attracted the support of 8,582 signatories. This is odd, as Herschel Girls’ School accepts about 80 girls per year, and so the number of signatures on the petition is likely greater than the total number of students who have attended the school in its 100-year existence – including those who have been dead for decades. The only rational explanation is that many of the signatories had no first-hand connection with the school whatsoever.
After first issuing an “unreserved and unequivocal” apology, in which it acknowledged that “the sum of all accounts reveals a system at Herschel that has enabled racist attitudes, behaviour and treatment”, the school then appointed Werksmans Attorneys and a number of advocates to investigate the matter. Ultimately, three staff members would leave the school.
From the information which I have received in relation to the alleged incidents, I am unconvinced that the school’s leadership was justified in stating that “there is clear evidence of students, parents and staff having experienced institutionalised racism at Herschel Girls’ School.” The school refuses to publish any of the legal reports, and no public exoneration has ever been received by the scores of other accused staff members who, presumably, were not found to have committed any racist acts.
All of this leaves me feeling upset and frustrated. I can only imagine how many of the affected teachers and their families feel.
A few months ago, I emailed Lovelyn and asked her whether she might wish to apologise to the countless teachers whose careers she had helped to destroy. She responded as follows:
“I’m unaware of any accusations I have personally made against teachers. That being said I cannot comment on the nature of the legal and disciplinary processes followed by both St Stithians or St Mary’s DSG in Pretoria. Our scope of practice at both schools did not include any legal support or disciplinary process support as that is not a service that L&N Advisors offers. I was never asked or invited to provide input on the legal process you refer to at either school and I also did not have visibility of these processes until the end when the rest of the same school community was provided with the relevant reports/updates from their respective leadership.”
This marks quite a change from her earlier remarks contained in her blog post, repeated below:
“Some of you need to write open-ended apology letters and not even try to defend yourselves because we have generations of children and adults who have receipts of what you have done to them.”
Furthermore, in written advice that was provided to St Stithians Girls’ College at the height of the crisis, Lovelyn was even more explicit and unequivocal in her condemnation of teachers. Following a meeting of stakeholders held at the school on 20 June 2020, L&N Advisors prepared a memorandum, set on its letterhead, and uploaded onto the school’s website. It provides guidance on the nature of the official apology which the school should issue:
“It should use specific words that would illustrate harm that has been allowed by the school such as racism, classism, bigotry etc. The language of the apology should not be watered down.”
“Do not apologise for “possible experiences of racism” as that invalidates the pain felt by students of colour.”
“Do not include statements such as “innocent until proven otherwise” as it is invalidating and dismissive to the stories that the learners have brought up.”
“It is important to acknowledge that South Africa’s history is bound to affect current race relations therefore it is more likely than not that there is deep rooted racism at Saints.”
“The school must be prepared to apologise many more times in the future and to do so from a position of humility.”
“Taking a stance of restorative justice includes giving people the option to reject the apology as the schools actions thereafter will determine reception of the apology.”
Lovelyn’s assertion that she was merely a passive consultant and not responsible for impugning the reputations of innocent teachers is simply not credible or acceptable. The simple fact is that she and her close friend, Eusebius, played a critical role in amplifying a crisis which should never have been engendered. It was the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland who declared “sentence first – verdict afterwards!” But whereas Alice in Wonderland is a work of fiction, for many teachers this nightmare was all too real.
Lovelyn did mention to me that she is “open to feedback” and that “should there be anyone who feels I owe them an apology, I would be open to further conversation with them to understand their position.” Personally, I don’t believe that the burden should rest on those teachers to approach Lovelyn. Her failure to make amends on her own accord strikes me as being disturbingly unprofessional.
But a lack of professionalism is not where this story ends.
Lovelyn doesn’t work for free.
Sources at several schools have confirmed to me that she charges around R 70,000 for a single workshop. This seems excessive. At this rate, Lovelyn would earn more in an afternoon than two teachers would earn in a month.
And it is important to note that we are not talking R 70,000 per school. We are talking R 70,000 per workshop. Remember Lovelyn’s blog post from June 2020?
“One workshop will not fix this. Trust me, I know. Start thinking through how much time you may be willing to offer, think through a budget and get people like me and others on board…”
One senior teacher at Roedean informed me that Lovelyn presented a workshop to each of the five high school grades and also ran a two-day training event for the staff. I did the sums quickly in my head: seven multiplied by 70,000 is 490,000. I asked whether this really meant that Lovelyn had billed the school half a million Rands. “At least that” was my source’s response. I emailed Lovelyn and the leadership of Roedean requesting that they confirm whether this was correct. Both declined to comment. Sources at other Johannesburg schools generally nod when I share these ballpark figures. I have heard numbers at various schools that are far higher than the Roedean figure – astronomical amounts – but won’t repeat them publicly as I have not yet been able to verify them.
A curious question then arises: what exactly were the schools paying for? Should a few Powerpoint presentations about concepts effectively copy-pasted from American Critical Race Theory really cost half a million Rands? This sort of money could refurbish the school’s swimming pool or, should we prefer to prioritise genuine transformation and social upliftment, feed a creche of children in a township for a year.
Perhaps part of the answer can be found on the website of L&N Advisors. As part of her services, Lovelyn offers “crisis intervention support in the aftermath of a discriminatory incident.”
A senior source at Roedean told me – and without any prompting on my part – that “managing the media” was indeed a key part of Lovelyn’s sales pitch to the school. I emailed Lovelyn and Roedean requesting that they provide their side of the story. Again, both declined to comment.
So, how does this work? Your school pays Lovelyn hundreds of thousands of Rands and then she comes round to lecture your staff and students about “unconscious bias and microaggressions”, “Critical Racial Literacy” and how to abolish the evil that is “Whiteness”. And then, presumably as a nice ancillary benefit, she helps to “manage the media” for you?
And if you don’t pay Lovelyn hundreds of thousands of Rands? Your school is spared the Woke struggle sessions but then the media doesn't get managed, in which case, good luck to you and your school. To adapt Don Corleone’s chilling words in The Godfather, this sounds like an offer which you, as a headmaster or headmistress, simply cannot refuse.
And this is not a far-fetched concern. Put yourself in the shoes of a headmaster or headmistress at an elite South African school. Over the past three years you would have watched as colleagues at other schools took an absolute battering. I am aware of a number of popular and highly regarded school heads who were subjected to persecution and derision, often after their schools had suffered heavy reputational damage on 702 Radio and other media. Many were hounded out of their schools, and some individuals’ careers have never recovered.
It is understandable that, sometimes, a radio broadcaster will interview someone who is a personal friend. And, of course, broadcasters will bring their own political views to a topic. But broadcasters should remain relatively fair-minded and even-handed. They should aim to share information that is accurate and truthful. The fact that the racism allegations at virtually every school turned out to be bogus brings into question whether Eusebius really approached this topic with an impartial mind. Anyone who listened to 702 Radio during this period is likely to laugh at this question.
Take a closer look at Eusebius’ Instagram post:
“Anyone looking for a brilliant social justice strategist to help transform your institution, should reach out to Lovelyn (if you’re lucky enough to get time with her as she is deservedly busy but do reach out – your investment will yield returns).”
He is not merely having lunch with a friend. He is actively promoting her consulting firm. It is not so much a social lunch as it is a business-development event. He is explicitly trying to push paying clients towards her business.
One point that Eusebius was certainly not wrong about was that Lovelyn was busy. On her website is a page entitled “Who we have worked with.” There you will find displayed the crests and logos of nearly 30 schools, universities and corporates, proudly presented like the stuffed heads of animals mounted on the wall of a big game hunter.
Lovelyn and Eusebius aside – it is hard to avoid the creeping suspicion that a number of South African schools have been taken for the most colossal ride by the diversity and transformation consulting industry over the past few years. More concerning is the institutional and human toll of this debacle. It is vast and is beyond the scope of this essay. Scratch the surface at any of these schools, and you will quickly be overwhelmed by dozens of horrific stories, with staffrooms and classrooms more racially polarised and divided than ever before. These stories are now starting to be picked up by the mainstream media.
What is clear is that the governance systems of our schools need to adapt to ensure that this sort of abuse never happens again. Parents pay high school fees to independent schools on the general understanding that their fees will be spent on attracting and retaining the very best teachers and staff. They do not expect that their money will be funneled to the diversity and transformation consulting industry and often also to aggressive and expensive lawyers who will do everything they can to hound perfectly good and decent teachers out of the school on trumped-up charges of racism.
It is time for schools to publish the legal reports that parents have paid for. If need be, this can be done on a pseudonymous basis to protect the privacy of complainants and the accused. And it is time for the record to be set straight. Where there is credible evidence of racism (and by racism I mean actual racism, not Woke-defined “microaggressions” and the like) then schools must of course ensure that corrective action is taken. Equally so, unsubstantiated, false and malicious accusations need to be clearly recognised as such.
Social media posts which are false and defamatory must be deleted and replaced with corrective statements (the false posts are still easily accessible online, with many teachers’ names still visible). Teachers who were publicly accused of racism, but who were subsequently cleared, must receive written confirmation of their innocence on official school letterhead – not least so that they can provide proof of exoneration to prospective future employers. Finally, we need to pay closer attention to how racism is defined and to ensure that allegations of racism are handled fairly and professionally.
Ultimately, if we are to save South Africa’s schools, we are going to need the people who are responsible for school governance to show a great deal more courage and skill than what has been on display to date. However, before we can cultivate courage and skill, we need to gain some understanding or awareness of what on earth is actually going on.
I would suggest that scrutinising Lovelyn’s lunch with Eusebius at Bellagio is not a bad place to start.
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 Independent inquiry communication, 30 July 2021.