Cape Town - The UCT Student Representative Council (SRC) has come out in defence of a political science lecturer who got into hot water for his comments over Hitler during an online lecture.
Now Lwazi Lushaba is being probed by UCT after he said a lecture to first-year political science students last week: “Hitler committed no crime. All Hitler did was to do to white people what white people had normally reserved for black people.”
Some outraged students took to social media expressing their unhappiness over his remarks.
German dictator Adolf Hitler, one of the most reviled figures in history, orchestrated the deaths of six million Jews during the Holocaust in World War II, between 1941 and 1945.
UCT SRC chairperson Declan Dyer said they have noted the public reaction to Lushaba's comments, but said the comments had been taken out of context.
“We encourage interested individuals to watch the full lecture to understand that the comments were part of a larger critique of political science,” said Dyer.
UCT spokesperson Elijah Moholola said the university had been alerted to and noted with grave concern comments allegedly made by a staff member during an online class, and were verifying all the facts.
Moholola said, in the meantime, UCT has cleared that all brutalities of genocide constitute both formal crimes against humanity and ongoing sources of pain.
“We distance ourselves very strongly from any other view. The matter is receiving attention through all appropriate channels,” said Moholola.
The Black Academic Caucus (BAC) at UCT said it was still engaging on the matter and would communicate its view in due course.
DA chief whip Natasha Mazzone said Lushaba's comments were not only racist, offensive and vile, but also completely insensitive to the victims and survivors of the Holocaust and the Jewish community as a whole.
The Cape South African Jewish Board of Deputies chairperson, Tzvi Brivik, said they had received reports of the content of Lushaba's lecture along with videos and supporting information and handed it over to their anti-Semitism and legal subcommittee, which was currently investigating the details of the matter to reach an appropriate response.
Brivik said the bounds of academic freedom and freedom of expression must not undermine the central aim of the Constitution, which was to build a united and democratic South Africa based on mutual respect, understanding and human dignity.
He said universities hold a lens to the socio-economic and political issues in the broader public, and in that way help shape the minds of the future leaders.
"The personal views shared by this UCT lecturer were received as hateful and deeply offensive and should have no part in the academic syllabus of a public university, nor be disseminated as such," said Brivik.
He said, to their knowledge, Lushaba had not apologised for or retracted his remarks, not in any communication to the parties reporting the matter nor to them.
"We have reached out to Vice-Chancellor Mamokgethi Phakeng, and the university has launched an investigation of this incident. We believe for the moment the matter is for UCT to further investigate and respond (to) before any further measures are considered,." he said.
Brivik said they were deeply saddened to learn of comments such as those Lushaba had made during the week of Yom HaShoah. He said South African Jews had observed Holocaust Remembrance Day this past Friday.