Re-racialization and proto-Fascism at UCT: a tale of four meetings
At the dawn of Apartheid, T.B. Davie, the University of Cape Town’s first South African-born vice chancellor (VC), initiated the transformation of UCT into a “real”, non-racial university, in principle. Every member of the UCT community should read the 1959 T.B. Davie Memorial Lecture honouring Davie. The orator, Chancellor Centlivres, emphasized Davies’ “fearlessly fighting for” “absolute intellectual freedom”, “intellectual integrity” and taking the unshakable position that “advancement of knowledge” should involve “the untrammelled pursuit of the truth” [emphasis added].
He succinctly characterized Davie:
“He gave his heart and soul to the University.”
Sadly, 1959 was also the year that Verwoerd’s Extension of University Education Act created separate universities for ‘blacks’, ‘coloureds’ and ‘Asians’ – excluding them from ‘white’ universities.
It took 22 years of resolute struggle against Apartheid by the UCT Community to enable subsequent VCs Prof/Dr Stuart Saunders and Dr Mamphela Ramphele to implement Davie’s principle of non-racialism as irreversible practice. At the same time, they developed UCT into Africa’s leading educational and research tertiary institution.
They gave a non-racial UCT ‘brain’ and ‘brawn’.
During the last two years, however, extreme fallist students and staff at UCT and its Executive have not only failed to emulate this commitment to non-racialism and extend its implementation, they are undermining it aggressively.
In this pursuit, lawbreaking fallist elements have adopted key attributes of fascists: authoritarian nationalism (under the guise of neo-Black Consciousness), irrationalism, suppression of free press/speech and academic freedom, violence in pursuit of ‘liberation’, contempt for ordinary democratic politics, and intolerance/character assassination towards critics and opponents. All that is missing is a Führer or Duce. But, in the wings are “one settler, one bullet” politician Julius Malema, founding fallist icon Chumani Maxwele and Hitler-admiring Mcebo Dlamini.
This re-racialization and proto-Fascism is illustrated by events at two recent Annual General Meetings (AGM) of the UCT Convocation and two talks by eminent scholars on “decolonization” of universities.
The first (aborted) AGM held in December 2016 (attended by a record 400+ largely aged alumni) was to consider my motion that called for UCT’s +-150 000 alumni to be:
“balloted (anonymously and, if willing, by fine-scale ‘self-identification – by ‘race’, gender, age, etc.) to consider a vote of no-confidence in Dr Max Price [UCT’s current VC] and his senior Executive acting as representatives of the interests of the UCT Community as a whole in negotiations with UCT students, staff and others who have been adjudged to have broken the law under the pretext of legitimate protest.” [emphasis added]
At the meeting, the former President of UCT’s Student Representative Council Gwen Ngwenya (current COO of the South African Institute of Race Relations), tried to present an amendment to my motion, calling for an expression of the Convocation’s view on UCT negotiating its future with violent lawbreakers as a violation of South Africa’s Constitution.
From its onset, this ‘meeting’ was invaded by obscenity-spewing fallists (including a topless woman) who wrest the microphone from the meeting’s chairperson, Convocation President Barney Pitanya, co-founder of the Black Consciousness Movement with Steve Biko.
The invaders jeered at the Convocation, calling for the dropping of my motion. After an ad hoc motion by Geoffrey Budlender (Chairperson of the UCT Council that appointed Price) and Lydia Cairncross ─ supported by Pityana – the invaders were allowed to attend provided that they protested in silence.
They did not.
When Pityana announced that Hugh Amoore, the long-serving retired Registrar of UCT, was to receive the President’s Convocation Award for 2016, invaders shouted in derision and continued to interrupt and deride speakers during the remainder of the meeting.
Neither I nor Ngwenya were allowed to communicate/comment-on “untrammelled” the motion or its amendment. I was harassed persistently by fallists, including lawbreaking, multi-pardoned, clemency-violating Chumani Maxwele. I was labelled variously: “racist” and “Jim Crow” (laws implemented in post-Civil War USA to segregate and disenfranchise ‘black’ Americans), “apartheid activist” and “killer of black people”. Ngwenya was similarly interrupted and defamed. She was subsequently branded as a “sell-out”, “house ni**er” and holder of “fake” academic degrees by virulent pro-fallist Andile Mngxitama.
In contrast, Budlender and Cairncross were allowed “untrammelled” to ‘rebut’ the motion, misrepresenting it as a call for VC Price’s dismissal/resignation.
Cathy Powell (Law Faculty) tried to speak about the failure of Price’s Executive to consult staff during negotiations with the fallists, but was similarly shouted down with comments such as “Shut up you bitch”.
Faculty of Commerce lecturer Mr Gao Nodoba, actually proposed a well-received, but inadmissible, no-confidence motion in the Price-led Executive. He accused it (to great applause) of not supporting transformation and student demands until they were forced to, offering only “indecisive, visionless fixes” and “inconsistently applying institutional rules”.
So, fallist intimidation is no longer confined to “Old White Men”. Women and ‘blacks’ are now fair game.
When chaos escalated further, Price’s former acting DVC, Hugh Corder, motioned to close the meeting. Pityana immediately called for a vote without debate/discussion – 102 for, versus 15 against.
Nathan Geffen, editor of cyber-journal GroundUp, commented on the meeting. He:
- endorsed the Budlender/Cairncross misrepresentation of my motion as calling for the resignation/dismissal of Price;
- stated, incorrectly, that I was “given an opportunity to explain and move his [my] motion”; and
- incorrectly described Pityana as “refusing” to allow Maxwele to speak when he, in fact, uninterruptedly harassed both me and Ms Ngwenya.
In “letters” appended after Geffen’s piece, it was revealed that VC Price “consoled” Maxwele after the meeting.
UCT issued two characterizations of the meeting. These endorsed the Budlender/Cairncross ‘misrepresentation’ of my motion and claimed that Pitanya “spoke out against all forms of hate speech” [emphasis added]. He did not do so when I was being victimized by hate speech and Ngwenya was persistently interrupted and defamed. Furthermore, they minimized the invaders’ vulgar behaviour as being merely “disorderly” and “holding up posters speaking against the militarisation of campuses, outsourcing and tuition fees, among other issues”. Finally, despite the widely-publicized fact that many previous meetings, lectures (including those of UCT’s Council and Senate) had been violently invaded by fallists employing hate speech, they described the invasion of the AGM as “unexpected”. So much for effective risk management.
More than six weeks later, UCT Registrar (and Convocation Secretary) Royston Pillay announced that the Convocation AGM would be reconvened on 28 February 2017.
Earlier (on 22 February 2017), I had e-mailed Pitanya, Price, and Pillay to clarify the meaning of my motion. I wrote:
“I would like the entire UCT Convocation to be consulted as to whether they have confidence (or the lack thereof) in the UCT Executive’s policy of negotiating with individuals who have broken South African laws and UCT regulations/codes and/or those who refuse to condemn those (and any organizations) who do so or advocate such unlawful actions”.
The ‘good news’ is the re-scheduled AGM was not disrupted violently. The ‘bad news’ is that attendance dropped markedly from that of the sabotaged AGM. Also, Pityana, Price, and Pillay had made no effort to communicate my clarification of the meaning of my motion.
Worse still, before the meeting commenced, Pitanya announced that he and the UCT Executive had acceded to demands by fallists to, once again, “peacefully” attend the meeting, make a “short” (5-minute) presentation and remain thereafter.
This announcement was not well-received and a compromise involving the fallists leaving after their presentation was rejected when the Executive stated that this would be “unacceptable” to the fallists. I voted in favour of admitting the fallists in the hope that their presentation would be constructive.
It was not.
The speaker, Simon Rakei, failed to stay within the allotted time. He began by implying that the AGM was illegitimate because the majority of attendees were “white”. He then went on to describe UCT as “institutionally racist” and underpinned by “a system of rules designed to oppress blacks”. As was done at the first meeting, he issued hate speech, multiple times referring to me as “Jim Crow”.
At no time did Chairperson Pityana or the Executive make any effort to “speak out against all forms of hate speech”.
Finally, Rakei demanded that UCT disband the “illegitimate”, currently anti-fallist, Student Representative Council. He ended his talk by stating that, if fallists’ demands were not acceded to, there would be “consequences”.
So much for “short” and “peacefully”.
When I was allowed to speak to my motion and attempted to challenge Rakei’s comments, the fallist speaker and his supporters shouted me down, calling “Read the motion!”. When I attempted to read the clarification of my motion which I had sent earlier to Pityana, Price, and Pillay, fallists and a few members of the Convocation shouted: “The words are not the same!” In the end, my address to the Convocation was restricted to half the length of the fallist’s and I was unable to defend myself against Rakei’s attacks on UCT and me.
In the subsequent discussion, Cairncross called for the motion to be dismissed without discussion because of the difference in “wording” between it and my ignored clarification. Another pro-fallist claimed that the first AGM was not disrupted, that there was no motion for closure, or vote thereon. A third characterized my motion as motivated by wanting to punish lawbreaking fallists severely in stark contrast to the spirit of the Tutu-led Truth and Reconciliation Commission. My attempts to counter these scurrilous accusations were cut short by Pityana.
There was no discussion of the merits of consulting members of the Convocation as to their views on the Price-led UCT Executive negotiating UCT’s future with lawbreakers being improper or unconstitutional.
In the end, my motion was voted down without discussion, and, once again, there still is no consultation with UCT’s “silenced majority” about its views on UCT’s future.
Rounds three and four
Curiously, on the night after the second AGM, the UCT Executive denied a fallist demand to be allowed to participate similarly at a UCT-controlled meeting addressed by Law Dean Penelope Andrews on the topic: Transformation and decolonisation at UCT: Capitulation to student protests or a constitutional imperative?. Nevertheless, several fallists vilified her as a racist and supporter of militarism on campus during “question” time. Two days later, fallists (including the woman who stripped to the waist at the sabotaged Convocation AGM) apparently invaded the meeting at the Baxter Theatre to hear distinguished East African novelist Ngugi wa Thiongo, author of Decolonising the Mind.
Within a re-racialized, proto-fascist, anti-Davien, “fake” UCT, the still “silenced majority”, the “illegitimate” SRC and the Price-led UCT Executive await the Fallists’ “consequences”.