Sign or face tribunal, UCT tells list of 240
Cape Town - UCT wants to charge 240 “students and staff” for their involvement in transformation protests at the university.
The Rhodes Must Fall (RMF) supporters have been handed admission of guilt letters which could see them reprimanded for taking part in recent protest action at UCT.
The latest move from the university’s management – who removed a statue of Cecil John Rhodes from the campus grounds in April following RMF protests for transformation at UCT to be fast-tracked – relates to students “illegally occupying” a building.
RMF supporters had occupied Avenue House, an administrative building for Student Housing and Residence Life, on April 29.
The occupiers were charged by UCT for their actions, but then handed amnesty for all protest-related activities up to May 18.
Four students opted to stay in the building, eventually leaving on May 26.
“Four students were identified as having allegedly continued to occupy Avenue House in defiance of repeated instructions. In spite of the amnesty, these four students face charges arising from this continued occupation beyond May 18,” UCT spokesperson Kylie Hatton said.
Hatton explained that after the four students were handed suspension orders, UCT management received a document which listed the names of 240 students and staff members.
“The document claimed ‘support and were complicit in the occupation of Avenue House’ and exhorted the university authorities to charge them along with the four previously identified.
“On June 17, 18 and 19, these students were invited to sign admission of guilt pleas,” Hatton said.
The letter invites those on the list to admit to occupying Avenue House between May 18 and May 25, and so doing “obstructed, disrupted and interfered with the administrative duties of the university”.
“If the students pleaded guilty to one or more of these charges… the students would not have to appear before a hearing tribunal, but would receive a reprimand and would need to complete 10 hours of community service at UCT.
“UCT has sought this approach to avoid an unnecessarily drawn-out disciplinary process and rather to focus collective efforts on the agreed mediation process between UCT and RMF, and the broader work around transformation at UCT,” Hatton said.
RMF spokesperson Kealeboga Ramaru said on Sunday the movement was aggrieved by UCT’s latest move.
“They have stooped to yet another low instead of seeking to reason with us. It is another example of bad faith in what we stand for and shows that the university is blatantly opposed to protest action,” she said.
Ramaru said the correspondence was clearly in bad faith as the university and the RMF collective are set to engage in a court-enforced mediation process.
Ramaru said RMF would be meeting at 7pm on Monday.
Meanwhile, RMF member Chumani Maxwele has been suspended from all university activities until September 24.
UCT handed Maxwele a second provisional suspension on Wednesday, just days after an independent disciplinary tribunal lifted the university’s initial suspension against the student activist.
Maxwele had been suspended by the university last month for allegedly racially abusing and threatening a lecturer.
The student activist then laid a counter-complaint against the lecturer, alleging 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 first provisional suspension order was made final on May 14, when Maxwele was handed a two-month suspension.
Maxwele appealed to the tribunal overseeing the hearing to have the final suspension order overturned.
The tribunal then heard the appeal on June 10 and ruled that “the suspension be set aside on technical grounds”.
On Friday, the vice-chancellor’s (VC) nominee handed Maxwele his latest suspension.
Maxwele said: “We are not surprised by the ruling of the VC’s nominee. She was the one who ruled against me at first and her ruling was overturned by UCT’s own appeals committee.”