Murder in Mathematics
More than three years ago, I published a piece, Getting away with murder, that chronicled the unprovoked, brutal beating of Assoc. Prof. Brian Hahn on 28 January 2005, in the Mathematics Building on UCT’s Upper Campus. Hahn was the epitome of an ‘inclusive’ applied mathematician and nurturer of under- and post-graduate students and adults involved with extension courses. He published 16 books, all on various aspects of computer programming and mathematical modelling for biochemists, botanists, zoologists, palaeontologists and engineers. His 61 published scientific papers covered a broad range of topics from growth and development in dinosaurs to his favoured topic, modelling the impact of management interventions and climatic change on rangeland condition and livestock production on communal rangelands in the semi-arid Succulent Karoo.
Hahn was attacked by a disgruntled former UCT contract academic, Dr Maleafisha Stephen ‘Steve’ Tladi. Tladi hit Hahn “on the head, hard, several times with an umbrella”, causing Hahn to “fall to the floor backwards, cracking [literally] his skull.” Then Tladi “put the boot into his face, several times”. Tladi was arrested, admitted attacking Brian, but was released on R500 bail into the custody of his lawyer wife. Several days later, after confirming the nature of the attack, Hahn died as a consequence of his injuries.
Although the murder was widely condemned by the UCT community, SRC president Nqobizitha Mlilo complained that: “this incident is a reflection of some other deep flaw in the nature of our relations as a community across race, gender, student and staff lines”. Taking another tack, Professor Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela stated: “What really concerns me is why we are, when we are faced with a violent murder on this campus, not talking about, first of all, what led to this incident, and not talking about why the only reaction that is vocal about this incident is reaction that seems to be condoning this behaviour”.
There was never any meaningful ‘talking about’ or action relating to this murder in the form, let alone spirit, of restorative justice.
Psychiatric records from Tladi’s personal psychiatrist did not justify avoidance of prosecution for mental reasons and Tladi attempted to plead guilty. Nevertheless, while out on bail, totally out of character, he assaulted his beloved wife and failed to appear in court to answer charges. During the next phase of court appearances Tladi‘s first attorney resigned “for ethical reasons”. Despite this background information, the magistrate imposed a plea of not guilty based on Tladi’s newly expressed “petulance, irritation and abrasiveness” in court and “erratic responses” to questions posed to him. The magistrate further had Tladi re-assessed by three court-approved psychiatrists, two of whom diagnosed him as suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. In the end, Tladi was found “not guilty” due to mental illness. Still, he was adjudged to be “a danger to society” and declared a “State Patient” to be “detained in a psychiatric institution or hospital with such a facility” for life until this ruling was modified by the “decision of a judge in chambers”.
Out and about
After less than two years at Valkenberg Hospital, Tladi was ‘adjudged’ medically to be no longer a threat to the community or public at large and thus should be integrated back into society. He was mysteriously transferred to a facility in Limpopo and, soon thereafter released into the care and supervision of his wife and mother and employed as a senior lecturer at the University of Limpopo. When I queried this process over many weeks during 2016 with the Max Price Executive, I was eventually informed that the matter “fell through the cracks”.
So – a self-admitted murderer evaded both restorative and retributive justice and remains at large.
In a 2015 e-mail to UCT Convocation President Prof. Barney Pityana , pro-Fallist Wits Assoc. Prof. Pumla Gqola characterized Hahn’s murder as follows: “A few years ago, a PhD candidate (it may have been a postdoc) repeatedly hit a white professor with an umbrella. While the media and UCT officially expressed shock, Black people who had graduated from UCT with a postgraduate degree or [had] worked at UCT expressed shock only that it had taken this long and one incident … [b]ut the choice to read that incident as self-defence is telling.” In February 2018, Founder Fallist Chumani Maxwele (see here and here) stated that, if he and other lawbreaking Fallists weren’t granted amnesty so that they and others could graduate, oppressed students and staff might emulate “David Tladi” who “killed a white professor with an umbrella” and that the UCT Executive had “kept [the murder] under the carpet” in keeping with its continued “technical mind games”.
The primary subsequent ‘explanations’ of this ‘Affair’ are widely circulated, e-mails from Tladi in which he states that he is “totally cured” from mental illness as a consequence of a religious experience: “As a result of my intake of the anoited [sic] words in those [religious] materials, I’m completely healed!” In one sent in January 2019, he even denied ever having been mentally ill and claimed that he had acted as an “undercover intelligence officer of Mphatho wa Magasa” and the murder was a “secret combat assignment” perpetrated during “a secret, eye-to-eye meeting with Pr.Dr. Hahn”.
In summary, Fallist-history portrays Dr Tladi as an oppressed academic and a pseudo-Horst Wessel/James Bond who acted against oppressor Hahn in self-defence. This reinforces the Fallist allegation (still unchallenged by the UCT Executive Leadership Lekgotla) recently published in Nature – the world’s most widely read scientific journal, that UCT is “rife” with “entrenched” institutional racism involving “systematic suppression of black excellence”.
This sets the scene for Part 2 of this narrative which chronicles the tragic death by suicide of Health Sciences Dean Prof. Bongani Mayosi.