At UCT, “Yesterday is Dead and Gone and Tomorrow’s Out of Sight”

Despite her assertions, neither Houston nor any Fallist or BAC member has ever provided substantive evidence as to what constitutes UCT’s systemic invisible and visible racist ways.

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Cover image: Triumphant Economic Freedom Fighters celebrate the ‘lynching’ of Smuts’ bust while UCT Smuts Hall residents look on helplessly. Artwork by 12-year-old Rachael.

Quote in headline from Kris Kristofferson – “ditch-digger” par excellence and B.Phil. Rhodes Scholar of William Blake at the University of Oxford.

Part 1: Dead and Gone

Since the ‘rise’ of “Fallism”, the University of Cape Town (UCT)’s proclaimed highest institutional priority has been “to create an inclusive environment in which students and staff [nevermind alumni, retirees, and donors] see themselves – their cultures, values, heritage and knowledge systems – reflected through the various aspects of everyday life on our campus”. To drive this process, instead of doing the job themselves, the UCT Executive, Senate, Students’ Representative Council (SRC) and ultimately, Council, created the posts of Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Transformation and Deputy Deans of Transformation as well as many new committees, working/framework groups, task teams and commissions to help to drive a process of “decolonisation“.

The ‘Name Game’ – One of the ways Council has translated a policy of inclusivity into a reality is to “consider how the names of buildings and spaces at [the ‘Old’] UCT are reflective of the diversity of the campus community” but may “honour specific people … whom history has shown to be dishonourable”. (Own emphasis) To formalize this aspect of the process of decolonisation, Council established the Naming of Buildings Committee (NoBC). The NoBC has recommended de-re-naming of buildings named after several such men whom it – not evidence-laden scholarly renditions of history or a consulted, democratically representative sample of the UCT Community – decided are dishonourable. These include the [VC] JP Duminy Residence, [Dr/Sir Leander Starr] Jameson Hall and, most recently and especially, [Pre-eminent Scholar/General/Statesman/Prime Minister/Philosopher/Taxonomist/Field Marshall/Chancellor Jan Christiaan] Smuts Hall residence.

All of these neo-pariahs were honoured and criticized nationally and internationally during and after their lifetimes. This is chronicled in ‘warts-and-all’ biographies (See here, here and here). Sadly, in ‘achieving’ its task, the NoBC blatantly ignored this evidence as well as its “guidelines pertaining to process” set by Council (see here, here, here, here, here and here).

Despite this lack of due diligence, Council “deliberated [on] and approved a recommendation of the Naming of Buildings Committee to change the name of Smuts Hall”. This act is contrary to the UCT Executive’s and Council’s claim that the de-re-naming process requires “thinking deeply about who and what the university represents” and reflecting Her cultures, values, heritage and knowledge systems.

Leaking, vandalizing and lynching – Council’s decision was somehow ‘pre-announced’ (two days before the formal announcement) by the Economic Freedom Fighters-Students Command (EFF-SC) while uniformed EFF-SC cadre defaced the bust of Smuts above the Hall’s entrance. [Who leaked this confidential information to the EFF? Why no action against the hooligans?]

A few days later, on instructions from UCT’s Registrar, Smuts’ bust was “temporarily” unceremoniously ‘lynched’ by a crane and removed to places unknown, apparently without the required formal approval from the South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA). [What will happen to the bust and will “temporary” quietly become permanent, without due process?]

Last but not least, VC Mamokgethi Phakeng called for members of the UCT Community “to participate in the process of renaming this residence” and Jammie steps/plaza/shuttle?, with the deadline for Proposals to be submitted to the NoBC by 6 December – three days before the AGM of the UCT Convocation was to consider a motion vis-à-vis the NoBC’s lack of due diligence.

In short, the achievements and failures of these ‘dishonourables’ will not be remembered – let alone discussed, researched, debated and understood – at UCT. They are now branded variously as racist, segregationist, kowtowing Quisling, ‘white’ supremacist, apartheid architects and perpetrators who murdered – even to the level of genocide – “Black” people.

In the USA, the term for this rapid, process-free judgement and sprint to action is known as a bum’s rush.

Compounding damnation – This pernicious re-branding and ‘cancelization’ of key shapers of UCT’s evolution without the possibility of broad consultation, rebuttal and civil debate reinforces the equally specious assertion in a 2019 article published in Nature, “the world’s most cited scientific journal”, that UCT always was – and remains – systemically and institutionally “entrenched with racism“ founded in a “divisive legacy of colonialism” that needs to be “erased”. (Own emphasis)

Transformation without Reconciliation?

Tragically, Nature’s assessment is based largely on a hotly contested Final Report that emanated from UCT’s Institutional Reconciliation and Transformation Commission (IRTC). The IRTC was a product of demands made in November 2016 by nine unelected, unrepresentative, politically radical Fallist students selected by the embattled and conciliatory UCT Executive. One student, Masixole Mlandu, had been expelled for illegal acts and was unrepentant. Indeed, he is a recidivist, admitted sexual harasser who advocates the view of “One settler, one bullet”. While he was expelled, Mlandu continued acting illegally and had to be released from jail (opposed by the State and supported by VC Price) for these acts to participate in IRTC-related ‘negotiations’. During the Shackville Protest of February 2016, he defaced the bust of Smuts above the entrance to Smuts Hall and painted the ‘slogan’ ‘F**K WHITE PEOPLE!!’ on the UCT War Memorial commemorating members of the UCT community who had perished in WWI and WWII.

While Mlandu negotiated with Price et al., two unarmed UCT security guards were brutally attacked without provocation by Fallists and had to be hospitalized. On 6 December, all charges against Mlandu were withdrawn. In March 2019, on the recommendation of the fast-acting IRTC and Council, he and all other law-breaking Fallist applicants were granted full amnesty for their law-breaking acts and declared “fit and proper persons” who had “fully paid their dues”.

UCT Alumni ‘Framed’?

The key ‘evidence’ of continuing institutional racism at UCT in the IRTC Report stems from a perception-based ‘analysis’ – the Alumni Constituency Framework (pp 82 and 83 of Annexure B) at its very end. The Framework was used as the “starting point for discussion” by the highly respected IRTC Commissioners – all of whom had (and continuing to) advocated non-violent resistance to Apartheid oppression sensu lato.

The inclusion of the inchoate and author-free Framework in the IRTC-Steering Committee’s “approved Terms of Reference” was engineered by IRTC-Steering Committee Alternate Alumni Representative and President of the UCT Convocation Ms Lorna Houston and facilitated by IRTC-SC Deputy Chair Debbie Budlender. ” [Watch minutes 37-50 of Session 3 of a non-quorate working group of the IRTC-Steering Committee held on 20 May 2017]

Before I discuss the Framework, some comments on how Ms Houston was selected to ‘represent’ alumni on the IRTC-SC and her views – largely in her own words – on how UCT ‘works’ and the behaviour of the “hegemony” that controls Her and the Fallists they oppress.

Selection – Houston’s appointment to the IRTC-SC stemmed from a Special Meeting of the Alumni Advisory Board – headed by its highly influential and long-serving Chairperson Dianna Yach – held to ‘elect’ a Representative and Alternate to represent alumni on the IRTC Steering Committee. Rather than consulting alumni broadly or allowing them to vote for nominated candidates or democratically choosing individuals with the largest number of nominations, Yach et al. favoured selecting “unifying figures committed to working with diverse stakeholder groups”. Ultimately, the selected Representative was from another university, physically attended only one IRTC-SC meeting and said little at its meetings. [Watch IRTC-SC Meeting videos and read their minutes.]

In sharp contrast, the selected Alternate, Ms Houston, had a track record of consulting closely with “Black students, the Black Alumni Association and the Black Academic Caucus”. She attended all IRTC-SC meetings and workshops and strongly supported institutional decolonization and, in collaboration with BAC Representatives, resolutely defended the acts of radical, overtly violent Fallists. [Watch IRTC-SC Meeting videos and read their minutes.]

Moreover, Ms Houston is a self-described “concerned progressive alumna”. Like many “capable blacks” she maintains that – both as a student and staff member – she suffered from the “many invisible and visible ways” institutional racism is perpetrated at UCT by a “privileged patriarchal hegemony”. In “collective denial”, they have employed – and continue to employ – an “arcane system of rules many find alienating, silencing and marginalising”. Indeed, she believes that UCT’s pernicious system managed to “disappear and exclude many capable black staff” while “nurtur[ing] white staff by providing support, mentoring and the transmission of social capital to negotiate the system”.

Despite her assertions, neither Houston nor any Fallist or BAC member has ever provided substantive evidence as to what constitutes UCT’s systemic invisible and visible racist ‘ways’ or identified any of the privileged patriarchal ‘hegemons’ by name. She lists no systemic rules, let alone explains how they are arcane, alienating, marginalizing, etc. Other than herself, she names no disappeared blacks, let alone nurtured/mentored whites.

In fact, key self-identified blacks who created and vigorously implemented Fallist-demanded decolonization are anything but disappeared. They are part of the ‘New’ UCT’s hegemony and include tenured, BAC-card-carrying founder members who have occupied the post of DVC for Transformation and the Deanship of Humanities, and IRTC-amnestied Fallists, e.g. Mlandu and Fallism Founder/finger-flicking/faeces-flinging/female-bashing Chumani Maxwele (See here and here), both of whom still appear to be studying towards post-graduate degrees at UCT.

Still, Houston claims that, at UCT, its “insidious racist” “past is still present” within a “system of uninterrupted privilege” that favours ‘whites’. “It’s lodged in the plaster on the walls, somewhere between the bricks and the paint” and needs “a lot of cleaning up”.

In short, Houston firmly “put[s] herself in the shoes of many black alumni who … have been made to feel less than human in this space”.

Does Houston’s profile fill the Alumni Advisory Board’s bill for a “unifying figure committed to working with diverse stakeholder groups”?

Views on UCT stakeholders – In sharp contrast to the racist patriarchs who run UCT, Houston views Fallists as a “radical flank” of “hawks” who provide the doves [non-violent oppressed students] with cover to negotiate a just settlement”. These ‘hawk-protectors’ have been “taught and supported [by BAC academics?] to weigh up, evaluate, assess and “robustly critique” the alleged racist system by employing their “special capacities” and “youthful tactics to achieve trans-historical restorative justice [whatever that is]”.

Despite their valiant efforts, these protective Fallists are “individualised” by the patriarchal racist hegemons and their “manifestations of resistance” are “pathologized” and “criminalised” and their “critical engagement” is “devalued and decontextualised” with the hegemony acting as “judge, jury and/or jailers of dissenting voices”. [What about the amnesties granted by the IRTC and Council?]

In the face of this persecution, Houston’s, Fallist hawks’ and their BAC mentors’ shared goal is “to de-centre whiteness, and to encourage progressive white people to find ways to delink from privilege and to dismantle the structure from within”.

Another take

For an alternative perspective on Fallists and UCT see a group letter from progressive white alumni and academics chronicling events at the 2016 AGM of the UCT Convocation. They characterize the “robust critique” of invading Fallists as bullying: “They positively refused the opportunity [to engage civilly], and instead shouted down any view contrary to their own.” “They steadfastly refused any engagement whatsoever.” With regard to “invisible and visible” racism of whites, they allude to a highly visible, half-naked female Fallist student articulating “the highest degree of racism – screaming white bitch at a speaker”. With respect to Fallist invaders being “silenced by ‘rules’ that favour a legalistic rather than a dialogic approach”, it was the > 400 legitimate attendees who were silenced by an absolute refusal by a small contingent of profanity-spewing Fallists to allow them to speak. Even black speakers were harassed when they disagreed with the Fallist perspective.

The ‘prog’ letter was drafted by Prof. Philip John Donne ‘Taffy’ Lloyd (1936-2018) a highly respected educator and engineering researcher. With regard to the former, he was instrumental in starting Protec, an NGO offering Higher Grade mathematics and science to disadvantaged students well before the 1994 advent of democracy in South Africa. Moving to the latter, his research focused on the production of energy. This ‘hegemon’ was a member of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. He was also a key player in establishing Mosgas and pioneering South Africa’s pebble bed modular nuclear reactor.

For visual evidence of Fallists showing their ‘true colours’, watch a brief video of their behaviour at the 2016 Annual General Meeting of the UCT Convocation and a much longer one at a joint meeting of IRTC-SC and IRTC held on 27 February 2018. During this meeting, invading Founding Fallist Maxwele dominated the proceedings and insulted, berated and bullied all and sundry while he demanded amnesty and being allowed to graduate. When rules were bent by VC Price and Council to meet these demands, he insulted Price and new VC Phakeng personally while being capped.

More recently, Maxwele seems to have been involved in financial hanky-panky while ‘working’ for Minister of Water and Sanitation Lindiwe Sisulu.

Pace Marc Antony: “And Maxwele is an honourable man?”

To see the BAC for what it is, watch its submission to the IRTC hearings presented on 6 August 2018. Speakers included Prof. Elelwani Ramugondo, BAC Founder Member and recently appointed DVC for Transformation. The presenters make it clear that the BAC is racially delimited (no non-black members), and its primary goal is to promote the recruitment and career development of Black South Africans sensu stricto. They also make it clear that they cannot provide substantive evidence of institutional racism at UCT and, if it does, how to deal with it.

Back to the Framework

Despite the facts that: VC Dr Max Price’s protested that the Framework was “dishonest” [watch minutes 37-50 of Session 3 of a non-quorate working group of the IRTC-Steering Committee held on 20 May 2017]; its discussion occurred only well beyond scheduled termination time; it was never broadly circulated to alumni for comment; or discussed at a quorate full meeting of the IRTC-SC, the Framework was slipped in as an “accompanying document” that somehow became part of the IRTC Terms of Reference and made a great impression on the IRTC Commissioners.

The Framework proposes (not demonstrates) that racism is endemic to UCT and racial violence “must be recognised as more than physical” and is also “cultural”, “symbolic”, “structural”, “psychological”, “invisible”, “epistemic” and “emotional”. It echoes the views of “veteran peace researcher” Johan Galtung (cited four times in the IRTC Report) who argues that “cultural violence” justifies and legitimises physical violence. [Galtung also admires Chairman Mao Zedong‘s “endless liberation” of China.]

The IRTC Commissioners had “no difficulty with this [violence] proposition” in the Framework and “reject[ed] any notion that there is a qualitative difference between physical and non-physical violence”. They even praised law-breaking Fallists for bringing UCT’s racism to public attention: “Protests also revealed that counter-strategies employed by transhistorically victimised people become the main focus for censure in institutions where blackness is already pathologised and criminalised; and where Eurocentrism and whiteness are revered and enabled”. Nowhere in the Report are the terms transhistorically victimised, blackness and whiteness defined, and no counter-strategies are revealed.

In short, the Framework embodies the ‘decolonization’ process demanded by Fallists and their BAC academic supporters (bosses?) and has little to do with increasing identity “awareness” and cultural resurrection. It is about increasing the numbers and career advancement of South African Blacks (excluding those from elsewhere in Africa, Asians and ‘Coloureds’) and the ‘legalized’ erasure of Eurocentric ideas, culture and heritage and the ‘cancellation’ of people not ‘liked’ by small numbers of violent and radical Fallist students or powerful individuals within the BAC, task teams, working/framework groups, advisory boards, committees and – sadly – UCT’s Council.

They might be described collectively using other lyrics from the Kristofferson song cited above:

I don’t care who’s right or wrong.

I don’t try to understand.

Let the devil take tomorrow.

For tonight I need a friend.

To conclude with a question about “Diversity, Inclusivity and Equity” – (DIE)

Will this character assassination, institutional defamation, knowledge cleansing and destructive decolonization implemented under the guise of promoting inclusivity really enhance other important goals/attributes such as equity, diversity, unfettered discussion/debate/engagement and academic excellence and freedom at the ‘New’ UCT? With friends like radical, solution-free Fallists, self-promoting academics and revengeful and guilt-laden alumni, who needs enemies?

To find out more, read Part 2: ”Tomorrow’s out of sight”.

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1 comment

  1. Rory Short Reply

    How sad?

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