The time has come for the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Town to go.
He is someone I have known and liked for years, but the situation he has allowed to develop cannot continue.
Max has presided over an administration which has allowed a small group of student activists to believe they have a right to intimidate lecturers, burn works of art and vandalise the campus. [See below]
When I met Max Price in London earlier this month we discussed the issues for over half an hour.
I pointed out that this trend began with the Rhodes must fall campaign and has spiralled out of control.
He told me he supported the removal of the Rhodes statue. I suggested this was a mistake, which has unleashed the current train of events.
The right not to be offended
What the student activist believe is that they have a right not to be offended. And Max agrees.
That is not a position I recognise or accept. Students come to university to debate, discuss and above all to learn.
Students receive no guarantee that they will not be offended at some time during their education.
Conservative Christians might not like the teachings of Darwin. Conservative Muslims might object to seeing photographs or paintings of people. That is the price you pay for studying at a liberal University.
By allowing the myth to develop that students can have any lecturer or art work removed because they are offended by them, Max Price has abandoned a central tenet of higher education: tolerance of difference.
How long will it be before offending books are removed from the library or defaced? Once such a suggestion would have seemed fanciful; absurd. But no longer.
For these reasons I believe the Vice-Chancellor should resign or be removed. He has outstayed his welcome at my university.
Students call for UCT lecturer to be removed
Kenneth Hughes has to record the remainder of his economic history lecture series
29 April 2016
A letter to the editor titled Appeasing the UCT Taliban appeared in the Daily Maverick on Friday. [See below]
Its author, Kenneth Hughes, faced backlash this week from a group of University of Cape Town (UCT) students, who have called for him to be removed as a lecturer at the university.
The piece discussed how mass enrolment of black students at the university coincided with management’s “dumbing down” of academics, Hughes said. Students have made the assumption that he is saying that UCT was dumbed down because it was opened to black students, he said. Instead, says Hughes, he is saying he is “sorry” that black students are not being given the same level of education he had when he was a student.
The article also targets UCT management for the way it has responded to student demonstrations. Instead of trying to appease demonstrations “fired up by irrational ideologies,” management should dissociate itself from the irrationalism, Hughes said.
The piece was meant to be a criticism of management, said Hughes. “The students don’t seem to reach the end of the article.”
In a statement to GroundUp, the group UCT Decolonise Economics (DEUCT) called the article “inherently racist and reductionist.”
“He … had little consideration for support structures that are necessary for students to engage with their academics … This, as well as his ableist slurs, do not recognise the gravity of black pain, and the effects it has on academics. He completely failed to recognise his positionality as a white, cisman, and thought it appropriate to speak against student movements,” DEUCT wrote.
When Hughes arrived Monday for his History of Economic Thought lecture, students had shown up to disrupt the lecture to show their opposition to Hughes and his article. DEUCT had organised the disruption, in addition to sending the School of Economics an email about their grievances. They spoke to students both registered and not registered for the course.
DEUCT wrote that there was a call to suspend lectures for the week and to have Hughes removed as a lecturer of the course. (Hughes teaches the lectures for free and is not employed by the university.)
“Everyone in the lecture agreed that they did not want him teaching them,” DEUCT wrote in a statement to GroundUp.
DEUCT led a discussion on Afrocentric economic thought during the lecture period. Hughes decided to not stay.
On Tuesday, the School of Economics thought it best that a lecture not be held in order for there to be a “cooling-off period,” Hughes said. After Wednesday’s public holiday, Hughes and the department decided that his lectures should be recorded and made available to students online for the rest of the semester instead of live lectures that might face disruption.
DEUCT said they have been urged to submit a disciplinary case against Hughes. Yet the link they were provided did not work. When they found the working webpage, the procedure’s details were not clear.
The organisation said they have received support both on social media from other students, as well as support from lecturers within the School of Economics. UCT: #PatriarchyMustFall has also spoken out against the article on Facebook.
Hughes believes the lecture disruptions are a breach of academic freedom. There are two rights that have been violated: the right to speak and the right to hear, he said. The students who want to attend his lectures have not been able to do so because of the disruptions, he said.
UCT’s central management were prepared to provide bodyguards for Hughes in order to secure his academic freedom, he said. However, the School of Economics, concerned that the situation would affect its relationship with its students, suggested that Hughes record his lectures as a compromise. He is happy with the compromise, he said, because his rights to free speech and academic freedom are not being infringed upon.
DEUCT said they would continue to disrupt any lectures until Hughes is removed as a lecturer. “DEUCT detests the violence propagated by Hughes for the purpose of academic freedom,” they wrote.
They also said an apology would not be enough and there needs to be “a clear indication of reform and self-reflexivity.” Hughes is not the only problem as there have been other lecturers who have said racist comments, they wrote. There should be a more inclusive staff teaching more inclusive content. The decolonisation they hope for extends beyond the curriculum, they wrote.
Student perception of the School of Economics has been negatively affected, wrote Lawrence Edwards, the school’s head, in an email to GroundUp.
“The advice we have received from the Executive is that the principle of academic freedom must be maintained. UCT as the employer is required to provide an enabling environment for staff to exercise academic freedom.” he wrote.
Letter to the Editor: Appeasing the UCT Taliban
- Daily Maverick Staff Reporter
- 22 Apr 2016 12:36 (South Africa)
Many people are bemused by what is happening to the pictures at UCT. It would be bad enough if they were being taken down to protect them from the students, but the truth of the matter, as emerges from two recent GroundUp reports, seems to be more bizarre – that this move is being undertaken to protect the students from the pictures. By KENNETH HUGHES.
Hughes is a professor at UCT.
As George Orwell once remarked, there are some ideas which are so bad that you will really need to have a Ph.D to believe anything so stupid. And the subject matter which is supposed to be so threatening is here interpreted with a certain bias: as one witty student remarked, “Oh, they are just doing ethnic cleansing on the pictures!”
But there also are here deep questions about what a university is, or should be, and whether a university which adopts the “offense principle” – of protecting students against possible offense – is not abandoning its true calling and abdicating its responsibility to provide a proper education to its students.
What for example would one think of a university which stopped teaching evolution because it feared it would give offense to Christian fundamentalists? Surely no modern person could take such an institution seriously? And imagine what an outcry there would be if some condescending person attempted to shut down the study of the Holocaust and all the Holocaust museums.
There is an old etymology for the word “education” which says that it is an activity that aims to “lead out of” a state of ignorance and prejudice, towards true knowledge. And since the 18th century we also have “higher education” which aims also to instill a proper critical attitude.
“If we adopt the “offense principle”, that will ensure that some people will remain in prejudice and ignorance forever. Turning higher education into lower education is a really bad idea. And all this is being done in the name of “inclusion”. The rhetoric about inclusion is deeply confused – does anybody really want to include Philistines and fascists?
For one can easily see that the people who hate images are, to start with, intolerant, and all this, in fact, is intolerance masquerading as sensitivity.
And one also can predict that the policy will be futile – for after the last picture of a real colonialist has come down, the intolerant will still be oppressed by the fantasy of being pursued by millions of imaginary ones. (How can anyone recognise a colonialist anyway?)
Let us say outright that giving the intolerant the right to censor works of art is utterly morally abhorrent. In fact, censorship – which always gives power to the few and infantilises the many – should have no place in a modern university.
Where, then, is the Academic Freedom Committee?
I am told they are currently contemplating censorship in Denmark. Most of us, I should have thought, will feel that there are altogether more urgent examples of censorship closer to home.
I suppose it is just possible that there are indeed students whose personalities are so hypersensitive that they tremble at the thought of encountering a colonialist. But if so, they must be deeply psychologically disturbed. They will need therapy: for it is clear that it is the students, not the pictures, which are at fault.
And one should note that one of the most common forms of therapy for people afflicted with disabling phobias is desensitisation, through repeated exposure to the disturbing object. In that case, hiding the pictures is going to be denying colonophobes the opportunity to heal.
But of course, we believe it is not a psychological condition which is involved here at all, but a matter of ideology: the ideology of the peculiar and bizarre student movement called Rhodes Must Fall.
Now this brings us to the crux of the matter: what is this ideology?
When in a climactic moment, during the recent looting spree to find university pictures to put on the bonfire, the members of Rhodes Must Fall entered the university residences, they encountered a number of foreign white students, whom they harassed and harangued, and eventually tried to chase away, telling them, “you have no right to be here”.
By this act Rhodes Must Fall showed its true colours: for its bottom line is really xenophobic racist violence.
Let us return to the pictures. Here we find that the UCT official line goes somewhat as follows: The rationale for removing the artworks is that people who are sensitive find the presence of the pictures painfully disturbing, and if it is allowed for them to be displayed on campus in public spaces, there is nothing the sensitive can do to voluntarily avoid them.
But this feeble, mildewed argument really should be applied elsewhere. For the logical extension of this would be to ban all foreign whites.
Just imagine! Some adherents of advanced postcolonial theory might find their presence painfully disturbing – and if the foreigners are allowed to wander freely on campus, the foreign whites too will be completely unavoidable?
The sociologists Heribert Adam and Kogila Moodley have recently given a persuasive analysis of xenophobic attacks. They see them as rituals of humiliation forced on alien “others”, meant to reverse the subjective feeling of shame suffered by the perpetrators.
And they point out that it is not the truly disadvantaged who perpetrate these attacks, they are too busy looking out for subsistence. The truly poor have to learn to swallow their pride every day. It is rather semi-educated, under-employed youth – some of whom may even be members of the lower middle-classes – who are most likely to become perpetrators.
(A study by Alan Krueger on jihadis, who also have an overdeveloped shame complex, shows zero correlation with income.)
More important than social class may be the psychological condition of ego strength, but unfortunately this is something that is very poorly understood. In this regard, it is revealing that the main complaint of postcolonial theory about colonisation is not a left-wing criticism, say about an alleged deterioration in the welfare of the common people.
(That would, in fact, be hard to sustain, because colonialism, whatever its political and cultural sins, did generally improve the economic lot of the poor – better public order, improved food and public health all lead to longer lives and growing populations.)
No, instead, it is all about the sense of of shame suffered by upper-class and middle-class adherents of Nationalist ideology.
And we must confront the fact that anti-colonialism, like extreme nationalism generally, is racism’s second cousin. We need only think (to name the crucial example) of that very outstanding method to end all national humiliation, the adoption of a policy of thorough-going ethnic cleansing. On this analysis, what UCT has recently experienced is really an analogue in miniature of the experience of a Somali trader who is forced to watch while his family photographs get burnt one-by-one in front of his face, before his shop is finally looted and he himself is strung up to be either beaten to a pulp, strangled, garroted or necklaced.
And I think it is clear that hiding away the pictures won’t work.
If the Adam and Moodley analysis is correct, what causes pain in the racialised consciousness of young hoodlums is not in fact encountering the faded relics of a vanished past, but contemporary encounters with people who put them to shame – usually by being high-performing “others”.
Why then did Rhodes Must Fall burn the picture of Nelson Mandela?
I think the answer is perfectly plain: they resented the achievement of the painter: UCT’s first black graduate in the Fine Arts. (On social media, I am told, they referred to him as “UCT’s tame house-nigger}.)
Thus, in fact, the only way the university could effectively appease the rabid xenophobia of Rhodes Must Fall would be by expelling all foreign employees, shutting down the university’s Foreign Exchange Programme and applying a purging policy at admissions, to ensure that all students admitted to UCT are of the exact same (low) calibre.
But there is more. At the beginning of the year last year, a bright and perceptive black student protested that his self-esteem as a self-confident black intellectual was being undermined by the university’s race policies, which constantly act “to treat blacks as if they are brain-damaged whites”.
I think this too is worth pondering. When UCT was an all-white university, it always tried to treat students as if they were adults. It offered them advanced difficult courses (such as post-1970 mathematics) and it despised courses like the current crop of politically correct fillers and “soft options”. Student politicians were expected to be masters of Roberts’s “Rules of Order”. Academics were hired on the basis of their knowledge and capacity for scholarly rigour, and for possessing a critical attitude. And students were subjected to a challenging education (which included exposure to challenging works of art.)
But after UCT was opened up to blacks all this was dumbed down. Many advanced courses (including advanced mathematics) were terminated. Student politics became an intellectual no-go area. The practice of debate was neither to be seen nor heard. Academic hiring was by the numbers, and did not attempt to assess scholarly knowledge or critical acumen. And in another sphere, instead of the intellectuals’ lonely quest for justice, UCT academics were enjoined to follow the ludicrous and faintly totalitarian idea of “celebrating” “positive” “role models”.
And the usual response of university authorities like Max Price was, instead of challenging student movements of a confused right-wing nature, to just feebly say: Yes, baas.
Currently, as a result of the UCT authorities blindly and weakly giving in to the demands of the student movement Fees Must Fall, many academic staff are facing current austerity, and possible future retrenchment. Some staff are contemplating moving elsewhere, and some are contemplating early retirement. There is in place a policy of inviting staff to take a package deal.
And this will predictably have dramatic consequences in terms of further quality decline, for the first people to go will be some of the best, for they are the ones with the brightest prospects for getting a job elsewhere.
The major part of this long and sorry saga of wreckage is undoubtedly due to implementing the appalling doctrines of the New Managerialism, which were put into place 20-odd years ago. This replaced all consideration of intrinsic quality, academic excellence and solidarity, by appeals to the crude nexus of budgetary and bureaucratic convenience.
Almost at once, managerially manipulated incentives had a chilling effect on the disinterested pursuit of truth, and a little later, completely destroyed the idea of the university as a moral community.
The watchwords of this age were “downsizing” and “outsourcing”.
As someone once remarked, UCT was a better university before it became an “excellent” one.
And finally, managerialism is bad for a university in the same way that dictatorship is bad for a country – it puts too much power and money in the hands of a single limited individual.
But what am I to say to my student friend, who sees only a racial agenda in these developments? And who argues that the real truth about “inclusivity” and not exposing students to challenging learning experiences is that it is once again being assumed that black students are just like brain-damaged whites?
Or to put it another way, what bright critical students believe is that UCT is once again reverting to the rotten old South African practice of offering an inferior education to people who are deemed to be inferior. Some other people have come to related or rather similar conclusions in the last few weeks.
Thus the historian and struggle veteran Randolph Vigne delivered a magisterial rebuke to Max Price for his unscholarly values and attitudes in the renaming affair; and went on to denounce Price’s idea that the founding fathers of UCT were all “colonial oppressors”, as “paranoid”.
And with regard to the affair of the pictures, the poet and artist Breyten Breytenbach, in his inimitable passionate way, attacked the UCT executive for what he saw as brown-nosing adolescent racists.
Now, I think it is always a mistake to get side-tracked into discussing personalities rather than issues, but I do want to say this one thing: I and many others are worried about Max Price. He seems to have adopted a whole panoply of strange ideas.
And – how can I put it delicately?: We are afraid that he has lost all moral clarity on the subject of race. This would explain the diversity of views about him.
Smart kids think he is just an old-fashioned white racist (because he thinks black students are too limited to be able to cope with challenges which white kids take in their stride); while struggle veterans think he is a new-fangled black racist (because he apparently supports an Azapo-like policy of wanting to expel whites from the university history. “This is not what we struggled for,” was one of the comments.)
On the other hand, Rhodes Must Fall does not trust him either, despite his repeated assurances that he agrees fully with them on their long-term transformational goals. They describe him as “the Colonial Governor” and this is why, presumably, someone from this movement fire-bombed his office.
Poor Max Price! The ordeal of having to live with Rhodes Must Fall for nearly a full year seems to have clouded his judgement and weakened his capacity to take critical decisions.
But the serious worry is that he seems to have acquired a taste for fanciful – and surely very expensive – experiments in racial engineering, and this at a time when the university is in deep financial distress, and can ill afford to do anything other than try to ride out the storm.
For example, management continues to have the hubris to believe that it can instantly manufacture a complete new black professoriate just by dangling a few novel financial incentives.
Now modern psychology shows that incentives can have at best a superficial effect, and at worst can be counterproductive – people who are incentivised may “choke” and actually end up delivering a worse performance than those who are not so motivated.
International experience shows that the next fiddle is often to lower standards: quotas can be attained provided enough people hold their noses. Skills have not been transferred, but appearances have been maintained. Once again this is a farrago, which is deeply insulting to those blacks who are genuine high-achievers. The classic critique of this process is to say that it seeks to replace social change by lying.
And Max Price also seems to be interested in introducing new courses by racialising (or “de-colonialising”) the curriculum. This latter is a truly ghastly idea because knowledge is universal, and somebody needs to tell him why the Germans were so deeply misguided when they wanted to set up an Aryan physics.
Now the term “Aryan” in 1930, like the term “colonialist” today, is part of an elaborate mythological system of racial discourse, but that wasn’t the main cause for the German failure. No. The real trouble was that when it tried to follow the route of radical German nationalism, German physics cut itself off from world physics.
If UCT were to try to do something similar today – say to replace analytical philosophy by African philosophy – it would be similarly amputating the major part of the discipline.
There is a deep divide here. Max Price needs to choose between the black high-achievers (like the student who complained about being treated as a brain-dead white) and the black low-achievers, like the too-many members of Rhodes Must Fall.
Unfortunately it is a sad fact of life in the New South Africa that there has emerged a lumpen intelligentsia who are fearful and resentful of real black achievers, and whose demand is for more sinecure jobs and Mickey Mouse courses, so they can pad out their own CVs.
Max Price needs to be challenged to say exactly where he stands, and why he seems to be following Rhodes Must Fall in the direction of replacing nonracialism with a form of racialism.
Please remember that according to its own manifestos, “Fallism” means hatred of – and war to be declared on – “rainbowism”: Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s consoling and inspiring vision of the New South Africa as the “rainbow nation of God”.
But let me return to the main charge. To put it bluntly: the University of Cape Town must choose whether it is going to stand by its old historic ideals of aspiring to promoting human equality through nonracialism (and recognising no impediments except lack of academic merit), or is it going to try some fancy new-fangled thing based on a blurry vision of racial quotas and targets?
The traditional ideal depends on treating individuals as individuals, and not as token members of racial or ethnic groups. This meets the ethical requirement of treating all persons with full respect.
The alternative policy which UCT might be going to pursue is some ill-defined form of groupism, which automatically infringes on individual dignity. If we contemplate going this way, let us remember that in the most explicit form of the new vision currently on offer, the university runs the grave danger of being turned into a haven for xenophobes and mediocrities.
What ultimately I want to say is this: that we cannot hope to achieve anything worthwhile or useful by embracing – and by confusedly attempting to swallow – the new racism’s nonvalues.
The university which seeks to replace education by “idiotification” condemns itself. And this must not be covered up, or mystified, by “race”.
During the struggle we used to say: Don’t play with apartheid!
And the Bible says: he who toucheth pitch, shall be defiled. DM
Now everyone’s in on the act.
Todd Gillespie, writing in the British-based internet magazine, Spiked, following the burning of paintings by Rhodes Must Fall protesters at UCT in February, noted that “In a pathetic move to appease the students, rather than challenging them, the university’s Orwellian-sounding Artworks Task Team (set up shortly after the removal of the Cecil Rhodes statue last year) had quietly set about removing supposedly offensive works from the university’s walls and exhibition areas.”
Locally, Art Times revealed that the “team” headed by “soon-to-be-fall-guy” English lecturer Dr Peter Anderson, and comprised of “secretly appointed committee members no one knows and whose knowledge of art is questionable or zero, meet to discuss which artworks are offensive or degenerate. “Many of the ‘offensive’ works had already been taken down, without broader campus consultation.”
An example given by Art Times: “William Kentridge who received an honorary doctorate from UCT in 2014 gave the graduation address, and was introduced by Deputy Vice Chancellor Sandra Klopper (wife of Michael Godby, previous Head of the Art History department) who praised Kentridge. Now Kentridge’s work, along with others, has been dumped courtesy of constitutionally illiterate students unable to engage with the right to freedom of expression.”
Spiked’s Gillespie takes up the story: “The task team’s remit is to conduct ‘an audit, an assessment and an analysis of statues, plaques and artworks on campus that may be seen to recognise or celebrate colonial oppressors and/or which may be offensive or controversial’. Over 75 artworks have now been removed from display partly on the grounds that ‘members of the university community are not able to choose which works they wish to encounter’. So, the university takes it upon itself to protect its poor, vulnerable students from such pictures lest they stumble on a dangerous painting and burst into tears.”
GroundUp’s report on these events, headlined “Prominent artwork covered up at UCT”, had renowned poet and painter Breyten Breytenbach responding in outrage:
“One knows that to work at university is a form of sheltered employment […] But surely it must be dangerous to public sanity to entertain the Orwellian Newspeak of Dr Peter Anderson (aping the sentiments of the UCT spokesperson Elijah Moholola’s sophistry about ‘creating an environment where a diversity of staff and students feel comfortable’ – the grave’s a fine and private place) when he (Anderson) brilliantly suggests that covering the artworks (or removing them) actually brings about a conversational space promoting another mode of seeing the work, less flat and obvious, more thoughtful and imaginative…” [Ah, so that’s what the rioters had in mind all along. So clever to disguise their intellectual purpose as brute savagery! – Ed.]
Breytenbach, too, reaches a “eureka moment” with the following further quote from the unfortunate Dr Anderson: “It [the removal of artworks] should be read as an essay in creative curation, and strictly part of the dynamic spaces of engagement…”
“How lofty!” declares Breytenbach, “This gentleman’s deep Dadaist thinking should make it straight into the Guinness Book of Immortal Donkeyspeak.
“How sad that the uncomfortable ones who, ages ago, carved Buddhas in the rockface along the Silk Route did not save the Taliban the trouble of dynamiting the statues so as to create a space of conversation. What a pity the brave efforts at sustained curation of the Nazis when they banned Decadent Art and torched anti-hegemonic writings were not properly understood for its politically correct intentions.
“Did the Salafists in Timbuktu and Gao not promote other modes of seeing when they pick-axed the mausoleums of the marabouts and threw the bones to the dogs? And how heartening to see the fundis at the University of Cape Town being in synch with Boko Haram’s campaign to root out Western thought systems, or with attempts of the Islamic State cultural workers to cleanse the landscape of the vestiges of apostate (and probably colonialist) creation.
|Protestors bar the gallery door|
“Swallow your beard, Da Vinci, for not making the Mona Lisa invisible! And please paint out those racist
Picassos that so offend our sensibilities! And while at it – why not cover the lascivious, macho legs of our tables and couches with cloth from China? Let us breathe! Are we then not throwing off our shackles as we march into the brave new world with blank minds?
“Attaboy, UCT! Go for it! Make fools of yourselves!”
A day earlier, journalist and critic Tony Jackman, referencing the film Fahrenheit 451, (“the temperature at which paper, books, artworks, burn. It’s a point of no return. Nothing can be unburnt. It is destroyed. Forever.”) concluded a long essay on the subject of the UCT art burning: “Heinrich Heine, whose work was to be burned by the German students in the Weimar Republic of the 1930s, had written more than a century earlier in his 1821 play Almansor: ‘Where they burn books, they will in the end also burn people’.
“If we respect our personal beliefs more than we do the art that runs counter to them, what respect can we have for the lives or museums of those who disagree with us? Maybe we should ask Isis. Or Hitler.”
Inevitably the saga quickly proceeded from the profound to the – dare one say it? – ridiculous: just days after the picture-burning, and despite the Anderson committee’s best efforts to spare student revolutionaries the sight of art that might offend them, a new revolutionary faction headed for the university’s art gallery with pots of red paint intent on defacing the pictures now on display there: playing it ultra-safe (so the authorities presumably thought) on exhibition were a carefully curated collection of pictures and photographs of the RMF campaign.
Who would have thought that the gender-bender society was mightily offended that the RMF campaigners had omitted to invite them to join their Rhodes riot – and in fact suspected the RMF crowd of being unsympathetic, even hostile to the LGBT community?
Now, to make sure no-one failed to notice and recognise them, the gays, lesbians, trans-sexuals and variants yet to be identified, arrived in their own unique riot gear: in the nude. They were noticed.
From the fanatical nihilists of Daesh to the youth movement RMF and the LGBT protestors, all agree that the best way to deal with images that run counter to their preferred ideology is to eliminate them. Dynamiting classical temples or toppling colonial statuary or smearing red paint over pictures of those that offend you, amounts to the same thing: wiping ideological blots off the landscape.
Of course, it’s only natural for change-bringers to celebrate their victories, and it was in suitably triumphalist mode that the exhibition, “Echoing Voices from Within” was announced on 9 March. Jointly organised by RMF and the Centre for African Studies, this exhibition promised to display “some 75 banners, artefacts, photographs and videos from the protest action in 2015 that started with the Rhodes Must Fall movement.”
As an RMF statement put it, “Speaking to our collective consciousness and the continuity of grief carried through the physical and psychological wounds of the black child, the exhibition attempts to echo and reflect upon the often-untold stories of black pain and the collective agony of peoples whose plight can no longer be ignored.”
|Curator of the Centre for African Studies Gallery Paul Weinberg remonstrates with a member of the Trans Collective|
But clearly not everybody concerned in RMF felt the same way. The exhibition opening was robustly and colourfully disrupted by protesting members of the UCT Trans Collective taking issue with the “false inclusivity” of the exhibition. Members of the collective blocked the entrance with their (naked) bodies and daubed photographs with red paint. It seems that the RMF mainstream is frankly intolerant of LGBTIQ people. Certainly no love is lost between them: one particular photograph, representing Chumani Maxwele, the man who first threw poo on the Rhodes statue, was defaced with the word “RAPIST”.
After the event, the Trans Collective commented on their Facebook page: “We have reached the peak of our disillusionment with RMF’s trans exclusion and erasure. We are done with the arrogant cis hetero patriarchy of black men. We will no longer tolerate the complicity of black cis womxn in our erasure. We are fed up with RMF’s use of ‘intersectional’ as public persuasion rhetoric.”
On 6 April, Maxwele was implicated in an incident when Fees Must Fall (FMF) member Thenjiwe Mswane claimed to have been assaulted by men during a protest. Maxwele was plainly visible in a video that subsequently went viral.
Wanelisa Xaba, founder of the South African Young Feminist Activist student movement, was quoted in response: “The feminist community is outraged. This is not an isolated incident. Homophobia and transphobia has been prevalent in the FMF and Rhodes Must Fall movement.
“We are seen as derailing the movement when we call it out. The history of black radical action is designed to silence women. It won’t work because we built the movement. We built the foundation of the movement.”
All too often, today’s revolutionaries transform into tomorrow’s oppressors and thugs of a different variety.