UCT student in poo protest
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A ONE-MAN faeces-tossing protest at UCT yesterday turned nasty when security became heavy-handed with students and members of the press, who watched Chumani Maxwele, 30, deface the statue of Cecil John Rhodes above the university’s rugby field.
Maxwele, a fourth-year politics student, said he acted on behalf of the collective pain and suffering of all black people, particularly protesting the “colonial dominance” still palpable at UCT.
He said most black people with any political understanding detested Rhodes and the colonialism he represented. Also, black students did not want to graduate in a hall named after colonialist Dr Leander Jameson.
He alleged that black students were offended in general by the architecture and names of buildings on the campus, and that they found it difficult to acclimatise to the singularly English culture.
“There is no collective history here – where are our heroes and ancestors?” he asked a gathering crowd.
He then proceeded to empty a container of faeces over the seated statue of Cecil John Rhodes, but the stench did little to disperse those gathered.
Nazlee Arbee, 20, said: “It (statue) represents such an imperialistic ideology – it subtly rules over all of Cape Town.”
UCT spokeswoman Patricia Lucas said Maxwele had not communicated any of his complaints directly to the university. “Mr Maxwele does not hold an elected office as a representative of students or staff at UCT. He has not made use of the various offices and methods available to students to register a complaint or motivate for change at the university,” she said
Maxwele said he believed there were no women professors at UCT “after all this time”, and referred to the university’s treatment of Professor Archie Mafeje, who has come to stand as a symbol of black oppression by learning institutions during the apartheid era.
But Lucas responded that in 2013 there were 37 permanent female professors, including three black female professors (black is defined as African, coloured and Indian).
Dr Max Price, who was vice-chancellor of UCT in 2008, issued a detailed and candid apology to Mafeje and said he regretted the treatment he had received from his alma mater.
Maxwele claimed that most black students and all black professors were too scared to join him in his protest for fear of expulsion. Blowing a whistle and beating a drum, Maxwele managed to draw quite a crowd despite the stench, but within minutes UCT security arrived to try to stop press photographers, although no effort was made to stop the growing crowd taking cellphone pictures.
At no point did they attempt to stop Maxwele, instead focusing on Independent Media photographer Ayanda Ndamane, even going so far as to rip his shirt. All the while Maxwele continued pouring excrement onto the statue. One of the guards, wearing a G4S logo, told Ndamane he was “an outsider” and that UCT’s campus was private property.
UCT later released a statement confirming that it had “received a complaint regarding the behaviour of one of our security guards against a photographer who accompanied a journalist on campus to cover a student protest. The vice-chancellor’s office has demanded a comprehensive and immediate report on this alleged incident”.
Lucas said: “The university is conducting an investigation into the protest action and the allegation that a security guard took action against a photographer. I have been in communication with Mr Ndamane and he has agreed to come to campus to make a statement about the events at the Rhodes statue today.”