A PETITION to reinstate Zizipho Pae to her position as acting president of the SRC at UCT on the basis of freedom of speech and religion has garnered huge support.
The appeal, published online at the weekend “to protect the rights to freedom of speech and religious beliefs at UCT”, comes after the SRC suspended Pae as acting president for posting a Facebook status update calling same-sex marriage a sin.
By late yesterday, the petition had been signed by 1 573 supporters. The aim was to reach 1 500 so that it can be handed over to SRC chairperson Ramabina Mahapa and vice-chancellor Max Price.
Pae admitted that her statement, “We are institutionalising and normalising sin! Sin. May God have mercy on us”, posted on June 28, was a response to the US Supreme Court ruling to legalise same-sex marriage.
The SRC had requested that Pae explain her statement, and asked whether she would apologise or retract the remarks.
She responded last week, remaining steadfast in her religious conviction that she does not need to apologise.
Former UCT student and SRC member Lusani Nemalili, who created the petition, also called for the SRC and UCT management to protect Pae by condemning the actions of those who “violated Zizipho’s rights at her office” last week.
Nemalili described an incident where “individuals” went to Pae’s office at UCT and allegedly tore biblical scriptures down from her wall, replacing them with “threatening messages”.
“They took pictures of themselves in provocative poses in Zizipho’s office, yet both incidences have not incurred disciplinary action for those involved. Ironically, Zizipho is the intended subject of SRC disciplinary processes,” said Nemalili.
Photographs of the incident, during which queer supporters called for Pae’s dismissal from the SRC, had been posted on Facebook throughout last week.
“We believe UCT should protect Zizipho from the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual (LGBTIA+) society and promote an environment where people can express their differences, beliefs and causes in an acceptable, reasonable and fair manner.”
UCT management yesterday urged Pae to register a formal complaint “if she believes her rights have been violated”.
Spokesperson Patricia Lucas said UCT supported the right of individuals to voice opinions in a responsible manner. “This right, as well as the right to freedom of religion and the human rights of the LGBTIA+ community, are constitutional rights.
“It must be acknowledged that as a representative of the student body, Ms Pae also has responsibilities to her constituency,” she said.
Mahapa said the SRC will not comment on the matter until after the student body meets on July 21.
Pae did not respond to Cape Times requests for comment yesterday. Meanwhile, the UCT branch of the SA Students Congress branch is supporting the LGBTIA+ community in their call for Pae’s removal from office.