UCT handed Chumani Maxwele another suspension yesterday just days after an independent disciplinary tribunal lifted the university’s initial suspension against the student activist.
The political science student had been suspended by the university last month for allegedly racially abusing and threatening a lecturer.
Maxwele – who flung human excrement on to a statue of Cecil John Rhodes, effectively sparking its removal from UCT – then laid a counter-complaint against the lecturer, alleging that he was victimised and racially profiled.
The incident in question allegedly took place on May 1 and UCT provisionally suspended Maxwele on May 7.
A hearing followed and the provisional suspension order was made final on May 14, when Maxwele was handed a two-month suspension.
Maxwele’s attorney, Barnabas Xulu, appealed to the tribunal overseeing the hearing to have the final suspension order overturned.
UCT spokesperson Gerda Kruger said the tribunal heard the appeal on Wednesday last week and ruled that “the suspension be set aside on technical grounds”.
Late on the same Wednesday night, Kruger said: “The basis for the decision is that the person subject to a provisional suspension order is entitled to a hearing within 72 hours to argue why the order should not be confirmed. The 72 hours expired at noon on Sunday, May 10.”
Kruger said the tribunal ruled that the provisional order expired and that the final suspension order was thus invalid. She said a difference of opinion about what exactly constituted 72 hours resulted in the university’s failure to haul Maxwele into a hearing in time to warrant the initial suspension.
“The fact that it fell over a weekend added to the complexity,” she said.
Asked yesterday to clarify UCT’s decision to resuspend Maxwele, deputy director for communication and marketing Kylie Hatton said: “The provisional suspension order is similar to the provisional order issued on a previous occasion.
“The previous order was held to have lapsed when taken on appeal by Mr Maxwele to the university’s student disciplinary tribunal.”
According to Hatton, UCT does not discuss the details of disciplinary matters in public.
In relation to Maxwele’s counter-complaint, UCT management had previously stated that vice-chancellor Max Price had written to Maxwele to explain what process was under way. The university has refused to make any further comment on the matter.
Maxwele said he was not happy with what Price had relayed.
“The letter states that he will attend to my counter-complaint after my hearing. My problem is why have I been suspended, yet she (the lecturer) has not. It once again exposes their bias and racism,” he said.
On his resuspension, Maxwele said: “It’s sad that the university has made such a short-sighted move to resuspend me. The fact that they failed the first time to adhere to their own procedures and that there is no new evidence, shows that this is clearly a political vendetta.
“They are trying by all means to make an example of me and silence us all, but they will not succeed in keeping the black voices quiet. We will rise up once more.”
Maxwele said he was handed the provisional suspension order from UCT yesterday.
He said the order prevents him from entering precincts of the university, except when attending disciplinary hearings.
“The university has also given me the option to make representations at a hearing tomorrow,” he said.