Masixole Mlandu: a prominent Fallist activist and de-colonialist visionary, or just ‘Bullet Man’, politico, recidivist, sexist intimidator’? Who is he and why does he receive deferential treatment by leaders of the University of Cape Town (UCT)
Masixole Mlandu is the youngest of three children. He is a post-liberation ‘millennial’, born and raised in Khayelitsha, a “place [according to him] designed to host cheap, dispossessed, black labour” and “an example of our dispossession and conquest as black people”. He was parented by a single, independent mother employed as a domestic worker. Mlandu’s political activism dates back well before his time at UCT when he became involved with the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania, infamous for its slogan “One Settler, One Bullet” and the Saint James Church massacre. Within the PAC, he “began to find expression and to understand the deeper existential crisis”. When he wrote his first matric examination, he only passed with a diploma but rewrote subjects to improve his results. At the same time, he became involved with the Equal Education programme and the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) where he honed his mobilization and public-speaking skills. Since 2013, he has studied Political Science at UCT.
He describes his experience at UCT with three words: “It was alienating.” Therefore, in 2015, he became a founder member of the #RhodesMustFall and #FeesMustFall movements. He is also a leader of the UCT branch of the Pan-Africanist Student Movement of Azania (PASMA), a relatively poorly supported, ideologically monolithic, revolutionary movement “guided by the philosophies of Pan Africanism and Marxism-Leninism. Its goal is the total liberation of all humanity through the working class revolution and establishment and construction of classless society”. It does not tolerate individualistic “opportunist elements”.
He was a leader of the “Shackville Protest” on campus initiated on 15 February 2016, and was allegedly involved with: numerous works of art (even crafted by POC artists) being destroyed in a bonfire, residences being invaded and the torching of motor vehicles and Price’s office. Masixole defaced the bust of Jan Smuts above the entrance to Smuts Hall and painted ‘slogans’ (‘F**K WHITE PEOPLE!!’ and ‘UCT IS A SITE OF CONQUEST’) on the UCT War Memorial commemorating members of the UCT community who had perished in WWI as well as those who had died fighting Nazism in WWII. On 11 May, an interdict against him and a number of Shackville Fallist students was made an order of court. As a result, he and other Shackville Fallists were expelled and were required to pay UCT’s costs including those of two legal counsel.
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.”
While he was expelled, Mlandu continued acting illegally.
On May 25, Mlandu was arrested for trespassing on campus.
On October 4 he was arrested for contravening the court order. He allegedly tried to force students to join campus protests and barricaded the entrance to Upper Campus.
On October 12 he was arrested after he allegedly led a group of students who broke through the door into the offices of the Campus Protection Services (CPS) and intimidated the guards, forcing them to vacate their workspaces. Charges included malicious damage to property, housebreaking, and intimidation. This was the second consecutive day he led groups of protesters into UCT offices to undermine worker performance. His actions were in direct contravention of a specific agreement made between Fallists and Price that CPS officers provide a critical service and should be allowed to work.
On 24 October Mlandu was accused of joining workers at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology committing malicious damage to property during a stone-throwing incident.
These acts culminated in his incarceration in Pollsmoor Maximum Security Prison.
The State opposed his release on bail arguing that, while Mlandu had no prior convictions, he had three pending cases against him, all relating to UCT, and would reoffend violently if released. Despite this, Price wrote a letter supporting Mlandu’s release from custody. He was granted bail and Price conceded to demands from radical Fallists that linked any rapprochement with UCT to dropping of all charges against him and guaranteeing his participation in negotiations. This resulted in Mlandu taking the leading role in negotiations about reinstating students (including himself) who had been suspended, interdicted, or expelled following Fees Must Fall and Shackville violence. The negotiations produced the contentious 6th November Agreement that laid the foundations for an Institutional Reconciliation and Transformation Commission (IRTC). The IRTC’s primary tasks are to deal with clemency/amnesty for Fallist law-breakers, eliminate fees, reduce security on campus and, fundamentally, to “decolonize” UCT.
While negotiations ‘progressed’, two security guards were brutally attacked without provocation. Both sustained serious injuries and were admitted to hospital. Price “utterly condemned these attacks” and stated that “any person who is identified as committing any unlawful acts on UCT property will face legal charges and, if they are UCT students or staff, disciplinary action”.
No action was taken and UCT remained shut down.
On 6 December, charges were withdrawn against Mlandu et al. for burning paintings and they were ‘sentenced’ to “community service”. Furthermore, Students Representative Council (SRC) elections were delayed until Mlandu et al. could participate. In the meantime, during March 2017, he illegally occupied the Bremner Building, violating his interim ‘clemency’.
On 4 May 2017, an uncharacteristically strong message came from UCT’s 30000 students. Nearly 90% of those eligible to vote rejected intimidation-based representation on the SRC. They were sick and tired of ideology and politics on campus in general and intimidating, violent and destructive Fallist tactics against the SRC in particular. Students refused to participate in a sham election overwhelmingly dominated by apparatchik pro-Fallist candidates by not voting or actually voting against them. In fact, even in spite of this boycott, all of the independent, anti-intimidation candidates were elected, finishing 1, 2 and 4 respectively in the final tally.
Mlandu was the top (500 votes behind the leader), Fallist candidate. But, in reality, he received less than 5% of the potential student votes, and is noted for his campaign statement: “We will usher into this country an attitude of black rage, black liberation, an attitude that threatened the foundation of whiteness” “Revolution is the answer to our problem. … We must live up to our historical task … to change society from the bottom up with no compromise”.
In any event, in early July 2017, Mlandu and another PASMA SRC member were accused of sexual harassment and rape. They admitted misbehaviour, but evaded prosecution when their accusers declined to charge them formally.
Starting in January 2017, there were four formal IRTC Steering Committee meetings and an all-day workshop aimed at establishing the IRT Commission and resolving its terms of reference and the skills desirable for IRTC Commissioners. In the end, five eminent persons were appointed as IRT Commissioners. However, it is reliably rumoured that some were identified as early as November 2016.
When the Commission was finally constituted and met, Mlandu was one of eight Fallists (anonymously referred to I think as “Student F”) rapidly recommended for amnesty. Commissioners concluded unanimously that “the students are fully aware of the consequences of their actions and have fully paid their dues”. UCT’s Council quickly granted amnesty and Mlandu for these and other acts of violence and intimidation. In terms of the IRTC process, he was now re-classified a “fit and proper person”. Contrary to its principles of establishment, the IRTC amnesty process was conducted in secret and the implied process of restorative justice was questionable. The beneficiaries did not meet with their alleged victims. There has been no restoration of a sense of security, respect, harmony, and dignity. Worse still, two of the amnestied Fallists have continued to behave disgracefully. At the April graduation, Chumani Maxwele made a mockery of the proceedings. Once again, he insulted Price personally, even though the VC had made concessions that allowed him to graduate, and made threatening gestures to him and the new VC. Rumour from the academic ‘grapevine’ has it that he has finally been excluded from UCT for his May Day 2015 assault on a female lecturer.
Mlandu took a little longer.
In his recently submitted Political Sciences Honours dissertation, the Acknowledgements, resplendent with spelling and grammatical errors, makes his current views clear:
“One day the misery we receive under the settler palm shall be return (sic) upon them [‘whites’].”
“ONE SETTLER, ONE BULLET!!”
He ‘justifies’ these remarks in social-engineering terminology as a “start [of] a conversation [my emphasis] on the settler influence in society today”, arguing that “South Africa is a settler-colonial society, built and maintained through conquest.”
When pressed on the ‘bullet’ statement, he was unequivocal: “each bullet will take us closer to freedom.”
The supervisor of his honours project is UCT Political Science academic Lwazi Lushaba. On 1 November 2017, Lushaba explicitly outlined his views at the UCT Assembly co-chaired by UCT Council and IRTC-SC vice-chairperson Debbie Budlender. He said inter alia: “This struggle is not for poor people. It is for Black people.” “If you are Black, you are disadvantaged in every respect. If you are White, you are advantaged in every respect.” UCT continues to “teach precisely the same ideas it taught during Apartheid to perpetuate the colonial system”. “There is a structure [current ad hominem promotion procedures] that ensures that we are kept outside of the academy. This is not accidental. It is by design.” “We must tell the White people who are threatening to walk away, that a time will come along soon when we will run UCT on our own and give them a new value system and not at the whim of ‘White’ sentiment.”
One wonders how the IRT Commissioners, Budlender and other UCT Council members and the UCT Executive will react to this threatening behaviour.