Who is Chumani Maxwele? (Part 2)

Read part 1 here.

Founder fallist Chumani Maxwele: who is he and why has he received deferential treatment by leaders of the University of Cape Town? Part 2: May 2015 to 2017.

May Madness

After escaping accountability for his role in the Rhodes Affair, rather than focusing on the classroom and studies, on 1 May, Maxwele challenged Price and re-offended.

When denied access to the holiday-locked Mathematics Building, political science student Maxwele allegedly assaulted a ‘white’ female lecturer, barraging her with hate speech, stating (witnessed by two others) inter alia:

  1. that she was “a white woman who takes all the rights of the black students”;
  2. “the statue fell; now it’s time for all whites to go”; and
  3. “We must not listen to whites, we do not need their apologies, they have to be removed from UCT and have to be killed.”

He also:

  1. “continuously shouted and swore at the lecturer and two other witnesses to the incident;
  2. started banging on the lecturer’s office door (after she had entered the office and locked her door);
  3. when the lecturer opened the door, pushed her in his attempt to enter; and
  4. continued to shout and scream at her and bang on her desk.”

Based on this “indisputable evidence of hate speech”, the “University considered Mr Maxwele’s alleged actions to be threatening and intimidating, and to have been unprovoked” and considered him to be a “potential risk to staff and students”.

In the wake of the alleged assault:

  1. UCT had a Trellidor-like structure affixed to the lecturer’s office door and hired a guard.
  2. Maxwele harassed her twice further (in August and September).
  3. The two witnesses of the original assault became wary of testifying for fear of intimidation.
  4. The lecturer was pressed by Price and his representatives to enter into mediation with Maxwele.

On 7 May, Maxwele was suspended and was to “face disciplinary charges”.

He faced no charges. Indeed, 10 days after the incident, Maxwele laid a counter-charge of racism against the lecturer, but “investigators could find no witnesses to support his statement”.

Nevertheless, UCT chose to have a hearing on his charge.

The assaulted lecturer complied fully with UCT’s decision and was cleared completely of these charges. Maxwele did not offer testimony at this hearing. He didn’t even attend.

For more than two years, Maxwele repeatedly (at least eight times) evaded attending hearings vis-à-vis his actions against the lecturer – until 4 December 2017. He walked out of this hearing in a rage when its proceedings did not go well for him.

So, the matter remains unresolved. There is no justice, restorative or otherwise, for the lecturer. She, like the vast, un-consulted, silenced majority of the UCT Community has been left behind.

On 18 May, when Price announced still further accommodation with Fallists, Maxwele thanked him for “igniting a spirit of activism”.

June-November: jettison, clawless amnesty and chaos

Transformation DVC Soudien handed in his resignation. The theme of his parting address to UCT given at a graduation ceremony on 11 June was: “Race is an invention”.

On 10 June, Maxwele’s suspension was set aside.

On 18 August, UCT granted another amnesty to Fallists for recent law-breaking, given that they had agreed to accept disciplinary action for law-breaking in the future.

On 9 November, +-150 Fallists (including Maxwele?) violently disrupted a special Senate meeting. Price was surrounded by Fallists who refused to enter into discussion or any form of negotiation. “They particularly targeted Price with utterly unacceptable verbal abuse and threw bottles, food and other articles at him”.  “They intimidated staff members, physically threatened people, racially abused people at random, humiliated individuals and generally acted in an unruly, aggressive manner.”

2016: Shackville, rolling thunder and more chaos

After an uneventful December 2015/January 2016, a few days after the UCT Executive issued a statement “condemn[ing] in the strongest terms possible any act or expression that incites violence or promotes hate speech or intimidation in any form”, on 16 February 2016, Fallists, including Maxwele, constructed a shack at a heavily used pedestrian crossing on Residence Road at the base of Jameson steps. They cordoned off the area, Shackville, causing massive traffic congestion. The following day, after repeated warnings by the Executive, the shack was removed by UCT security.

In response, Fallists:

  1. vandalised [with paint – punishable according to Price’s statement of 15/4/2015] two statues: Jan Smuts and Maria Emmeline Barnard Fuller;
  2. burned paintings, predominantly portraits of ‘white’ people, including a portrait of highly revered anti-Apartheid activist, Molly Blackburn and five anti-apartheid-themed paintings by black artist/activist, Keresemose Richard Baholo: first black student to receive a Fine-Art master’s degree from UCT;
  3. barred access to ‘white’/‘coloured’/Asian students to UCT residences’ dining halls and denied them food from the cafeterias;
  4. desecrated the World War Memorial the with spray paint saying: “Fuck White People”
  5. torched three vehicles, including a Jammie Shuttle transport bus a Biological Sciences bakkie essential for research in an oppressed ‘black’ community; and
  6. petrol-bombed Price’s office.

Due to this destruction and “intimidation of others, demeaning utterances, and distortion of facts” UCT took unprecedented criminal action against the protesters. Price described the events as: “almost disruption for the sake of disruption.” Fallist laid counter-charges against the university, calling for Price to be “arrested for undue use of force” and to “resign”.

Eight protesters, including Maxwele, were arrested on charges of public violence and malicious damage. Subsequently, Judge Allie granted a meticulously outlined interdict (which effectively barred Maxwele et al. from entering the campus for the next five years) demonstrating collusion between respondents Alex Hotz and Maxwele in the torching of a bakkie used by Biological Sciences to service rural ‘black’ communities.

On 5 April, feminist Fallist Thenjiwe Mswane said she had been assaulted by Maxwele at the University of the Witwatersrand . She said she was kicked, punched and dragged away from a protest. There is a widely-published photo of Maxwele grabbing her left breast.

In her piece prompted by the incident, A Rapist State’s Children: Jacob Zuma & Chumani Maxwele, feminist Fezokuhle Mthonti characterized Maxwele as a member of “a student movement that has rendered terminology empty while cynically keying in buzzwords like ‘decolonisation,’ ‘black love’ and ‘revolutionary violence’ without thinking through the implications of these terms”.

She concludes: “Maxwele, like [ex-president Jacob] Zuma, is a dangerous man who should be written out of any narrative of decolonisation and transformation.”

On 11 May, after the interdict was lodged against Maxwele, he was effectively expelled.

Judge Allie wrote: “Concerning the disruptive and destructive form that the protests took, it cannot be said that the apprehension of it recurring is not reasonable given the great lengths to which some protesters went, to perpetrate the destruction. The unrepentant stance adopted by the respondents, led the applicant to believe that the harm could recur if an interdict is not granted prohibiting the misconduct complained of.”

This notwithstanding, on 6 November, Price and nine Fallists mainly from PASMA [an ideologically monolithic, Marxist-Leninist revolutionary movement] signed the November Agreement, giving yet additional “clemency” to Maxwele and other law-breakers.

Finally, on 6 December, charges against Maxwele were formally withdrawn and commuted to “community service”.

But, by mid-December, Maxwele violated conditions of clemency by invading the Annual General Meeting of the University of Cape Town Convocation and defaming some of its members, irrespective of race and gender, including a ‘black’ woman who had served as UCT’s SRC president.

After the meeting, “an inconsolable Chumani was taken aside by Max and seriously engaged”. There was so such ‘consolation’ given to those he defamed.

2017: Quiet followed by defamation

On 5 May, Maxwele was arrested again for protesting Parliament for alleged incitement to commit a crime.

On 22 August, during ‘question’ time after Prof. Mahmood Mamdani’s T.B. Davie Memorial Lecture “Decolonising the Post-Colonial University”, Maxwele pronounced [at 1hr49min20sec] yet again:

“If we are to be honest, we cannot have an intellectual debate at UCT when Dr Price protects white racists in the characters of [philosophy professor David] Benatar [deliberately multiply mis-pronounces surname], [sociology professor] Jeremy Seekings and [sociology/economics professor Nicoli] Nattrass, the white wife and who have not apologized for questioning the actions of a ‘black’ professor, Xolela Mangcu.  Price also needs to apologize for taking no action against the white academics who forced Mamdani to leave UCT, but are still inside but “recycled”.  Dr Price has no courage, regard, wisdom, no vision to say to you I apologize for this institutional racism.  He is morally bankrupt.”

What Maxwele is referring to vis-à-vis the first required ‘apology’ was a dispute involving accusations of racism inter alia made by Mangcu against the other three.  With regard to Benatar, they were to be dealt with via debate, but Mangcu withdrew.  With regard to the other two, there was a mutually agreed upon hearing by eminent law professor and NRF A-rated researcher DVC Danie Visser. Visser found that Mangcu was guilty of defamation and instructed him to apologize publicly. Mangcu refused to comply.

Finally, the Mamdani ‘Affair’. Mamdani was not “forced” to leave UCT. He left to become president of the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa, and ultimately took up an arguably more prestigious chair at USA’s Columbia University that allowed him to reconnect his fractious academic relationship with Makerere University in Uganda.

To answer the original question

First, we need to assess the self-professed young-Mandela-like Maxwele. Yes, he grew up under difficult, but not poverty-stricken, circumstances in the Eastern Cape and was disillusioned further in his Cape Town abode. But, he failed to make the most of two apparently good jobs.

Yes, maybe Zuma’s guards ‘bullied” him, but it was not their normal practice. Yet, with the help of the de Klerk Foundation he received a substantive settlement and UCT awarded him a scholarship. Despite this generous support, he spent four-plus years failing many of his courses. During that time, there is no evidence that Maxwele tried to communicate his socio-political views in the manner of Luthuli and Sobukwe. But, after deliberation, he chose one characterized by vulgarity, race-based nationalism, non-negotiation, and defamation backed up with arson and violence against women, irrespective of ‘race’.

Given all this, Maxwele’s past treatment by the soon-to-be-‘Priceless’ Executive suggests that they support his ‘decolonization’ vision for UCT.

Let’s see if the almost certain ‘black’ female new VC continues this ‘tradition’.

Featured image: Willem Law

Prof Tim Crowe

Professor Tim Crowe is a descendant of oppressed Irish freedom-fighters from the United States working class. He is a first generation university graduate, non-settler immigrant alumnus, Elected Fellow and emeritus (40 years’ service) professor at the University of Cape Town. He is a Ph.D.-educated expert on evolutionary biology (covering everything from ‘race’ to deeply rooted evolutionary trees) and conservation biology (especially regarding sustainable and economically viable use of wildlife). He has published nearly 300 peer-reviewed scientific papers/books and is regarded as the world’s leading authority on game birds (chickens, turkeys, guinea fowls, etc.). About 70 of his graduated students have published their research and established themselves in their own right, including four professors.

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