Cape Town - The UCT SRC has suspended one of its leaders, Zizipho Pae, after an outcry over her Facebook post: “We are institutionalising and normalising sin! Sin. May God have mercy on us.”
This was in reaction to the US Supreme Court sanctioning same-sex marriages.
SRC acting secretary- general Oyama Botha confirmed Pae’s suspension. She has since assumed Pae’s position as acting president of the SRC’s vacation committee while students attend Winter School.
Botha said the SRC had e-mailed Pae, asking her to explain her statement, whether she would apologise or retract her statement.
“If she fails to respond within 24 hours, the e-mail will be forwarded to the SRC vice-president Internal for remedial action,” Botha said.
“Pae was immediately relieved of her duties as acting president and has been suspended from the SRC vacation committee until the entire SRC returns and a formal investigation can be launched with an SRC quorum.”
She said the entire SRC resumed office on July 13.
Pae did not respond to Cape Times requests for comment.
The suspension followed a placard protest at the SRC offices by UCT’s community of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, asexual, agender and queer and others (LGBTIAQ+), calling on Pae to resign or be fired.
And SRC chairperson of Transformation and Social Responsiveness Thato Pule resigned in protest at Pae’s statement.
The complaint against Pae has highlighted the community’s frustration with UCT management over how similar complaints have been dealt with, said a member, and SA Students Congress (Sasco) UCT branch chairperson Siyabonga Ntombela.
Ntombela said they were dismayed that official complaints from the LGBTIAQ+ community had not been dealt with adequately.
This was echoed by SRC president Ramabina Mahapa. He said a number of complaints about homophobia had been lodged by members of the SRC and the general UCT student population.
UCT spokesperson Pat Lucas said the leaders of Sasco and the SRC were aware of the appropriate channels within UCT for following up on specific complaints.
“We invite them to do so. All complaints will be treated as confidential,” she said.
Lucas said their Discrimination and Harassment Office received six complaints last year dealing with gender discrimination, homophobia and same-sex attraction.
Of these, she said advice was given in two cases, a third complainant requested a room swop which was arranged, one case went to the UCT Student Tribunal and another was mediated. She did not mention the outcome of the sixth complaint.
Lucas said UCT had a long tradition of supporting LGBTIAQ+ rights. “For years the university has celebrated Pink Week in partnership with student group Rainbow UCT, a vibrant and active voice in our campus community that has helped to play a vital role in the transformation of the university.
“Of course, we recognise that UCT, like all other institutions, is part of a society where people still experience prejudice, harassment and abuse,” Lucas said.
Rainbow UCT’s Facebook page reads: “We feel that Ms Pae no longer represents us as LGBTIAQ+ students. We cannot and will not tolerate this kind of prejudice from elected student leadership. She must be held accountable. We also call on the SRC and all levels of student leadership to take self-education and sensit-isation more seriously .”