NEWS & ANALYSIS

UCT's deal with the Fallists: Further comments

Tim Crowe says it seems the perpetrators of violence are NOT required to apologize for their acts or show remorse

Comments on: THE UCT VC’s FURTHER DETAILS ON AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE UCT EXECUTIVE AND THE ‘PROGRESSIVE’ SRC CANDIDATES / SHACKVILLE TRC (PSST) (see article by Max Price here) and some more questions

Negotiators

Despite the UCT Executive’s refusal to reveal them, the identities of some of the PSST are now in the public domain. Sinawo Thambo, Zuko Fekisi, Lindokuhle Patiwe, Sinoxole Boyi, and Masixole Mlandu (the bailed-out lawbreaker) all are card-carrying members the Pan Africanist Movement of Azania (PASMA).

PASMA is a revolutionary movement whose goals are the total liberation and unification of the people of Africa and abroad (guided and rooted in the philosophy of Marx–Leninist communism) and the construction of classless society. Mlingani Matiwane represents an organization known as Vanguard. Thobile Nontubu and Nomfundo Walaza’s connections are not known.  

The mediators were Geoffery Mamputa and Phumlani Mtetwa. UCT was represented VC Max Price, DVCs Petersen and Mall and Dr Russell Ally (Executive Director Alumni & Development).

None of the PSST has any formal affinity with the SRC. Are all in academic good standing? Whom do they really represent within the UCT community? Who are bound to honour any agreements/commitments that they might make? Can UCT (or the PSST themselves) provide information on the PSSTs’ vision for UCT and the credentials of the mediators?  

In the absence of answers to these questions, it is not possible to understand why the Executive chose to negotiate with the PSST to begin with and approved of the mediators. Using the VC’s words, all that seems to characterize the PSST is shared pent-up anger, alienation, frustration and violence ‘justified’, by an undocumented UCT colonial institutional culture.  

In effect, by choosing the PSST as legitimate representatives of students sensu lato, it endorses this defamatory characterization of UCT’s culture, a conclusion grossly at variance, for example, with VC Dr Stuart Saunders’ interpretation in his ‘autobiography’. Lastly, given the explicit, questionable linking of this process with ‘race’, why was input/involvement of student-approved members of the (presumably wiser) UCT Black Academic Caucus (BAC) not sought?

Security

What is the evidence that UCT has been subjected to “extraordinary security measures, including sometimes large police and private-security presences”? Given the unfettered disruption and destruction that has occurred, security was, if anything, less than ordinary. Who are the “harmed students and staff”?  Identify perpetrators and bring them to justice. The only overtly harmed individuals reported so far are, in fact, security personnel. Amongst the lawbreakers detained so far are PSST, whose return to UCT property was aggressively facilitated by the UCT Executive.

Why sign the agreement?

The clear reasons for this are to forestall threats to disrupt exams and activities during the upcoming academic year. In short, continued capitulation to THREATS OF VIOLENCE. But, even with this, all the Agreement offers to the UCT Community is “hope, as engagement strengthens and assuming that there is no disruption” and the unsubstantiated assurance that it contributes to “addressing the underlying issues that have fuelled the protests for the last 18 months” because “it adopts approaches and interventions that we hope will heal and unify, and build a sustainable foundation for a more cohesive campus community”. Other than capitulation, what are the “issues addressed” and “approaches and interventions”?

Please justify “the basis for greater confidence in [y]our ability to engage and transform” and provide evidence that the PSST and those who might succeed them are willing “to work selflessly and with the bigger picture in mind to make [things] work”.

The Institutional Reconciliation and Transformation Commission (IRTC)

The sole justification for agreeing to the creation of the IRTC is a four-person group’s “belief” that it “is a useful strategy in moving forward”. In short, the vast majority of the still-as-yet un-surveyed UCT Community believes otherwise. It is being asked to literally blindly accept that the UCT Executive and as yet un-named “commissioners” will eventually deliver something meaningful despite the fact that “the scope and modus operandi have not yet been resolved”.

This acceptance is based on the assumption that “the commissioners themselves will immediately begin consulting with all parties expressing an interest to determine the terms of reference”.  Please provide evidence of a track record of such “consultation” in the past.

The only clearly indicated goals so far of the IRTC “relate to the limits of acceptable protest and the way the university executive has handled the protests, including disciplinary processes, interdicts and possible amnesties”.  Why haven’t these been sorted out long ago?

Many so far “silenced” academics and students who have been traumatised by protesters have attempted, without success, to get the UCT Executive to set “limits” of protest to be law-abiding acts and impose “discipline” along the lines of long-established, unrefuted policies, some of which are enshrined in South Africa’s Constitution. What new developments will the IRTC produce after months of more ‘negotiations’, ‘representations’ and ‘consultations”?

The really big question is how to “address the underlying issues of institutional culture (including race, gender, sexuality and disability), transformation, decolonisation, discrimination and any other matters that the university community”. Can this really be addressed by some commission, regardless of who sits on it and how long it deliberates?

If there is racism and there are racists, identify it/them, charge them according to existing regulations/policies/laws and eradicate/punish/dismiss them as necessary. With regard to transformation and decolonisation (still to be defined unambiguously), how can a bunch of commissioners tell physicists, engineers, philosophers and medics how to do this? Is not the best advice on this score found in the proverb in Luke 4:23: “physician, heal thyself” Cura te ipsum?

Academic departments and academics should consult amongst themselves and with transformed/decolonized epistemic peers to see how curricula, teaching and research programmes can be adapted to meet clearly specified metrics, e.g. staff demographic representation and increase throughput of students currently supported by UCT’s Academic Development Programme.

Internally useful input could come from the BAC. Otherwise, import experts from elsewhere. Departments and academics who meet these metrics on merit should be rewarded with more staff posts, more insourced research funding and ad hominem promotion. Those who don’t should be counselled and, if necessary, penalized, even disestablished and/or retrenched.

In short, don’t waste yet more time shilly–shalling.

To close on decolonialization in particular.

As far as I can determine (and please correct me), it is a process that:

1. dismisses the validity of ideas based on the ‘race’, gender, age, geographical origin and historical provenance of their promoters;

2. rejects their comparison via unfettered debate because they have merely been reified and have no ontological status;

3. questions the notions of what constitutes knowledge, who should produce, teach it and be taught - and how; and

4. applies most tellingly to social sciences: sociology, politics, history, anthropology, history, etc.

Clemency and amnesty

First, definitions.

Clemency is kind or merciful treatment of someone who could be given harsh punishment.

Amnesty is a general pardon for offenses, especially political offenses, granted before any trial or conviction.

Since those granted “clemency” will end up unpunished if they “refrain from such behaviour in future and agree to abide by the university’s code of conduct for students in future”, they have been granted conditional amnesty, decided upon – ultimately – by the IRTC Commissioners.

Amnesty that “forms part of a restorative justice”, requires lawbreakers to apologize to the victims (ideally individually) and show remorse. Simply acknowledging their acts, putting them into ‘political context’ or promising not the break the law again is not enough. Contrary to what is said in “Further Details”, the perpetrators are NOT required to apologize for their acts or show remorse.

Reasons why clemency and amnesty form part of the agreement

The primary, “pivotal” one is to allow people who have unapologetically violated the law to determine UCT’s future. Is this wise?

Second, “there are also compelling pragmatic and consequentialist considerations”, “taking into account the prevailing context of student protest”, “risks” and “unlock[ing] the potential of the IRTC”. In the light of questions asked above, what is this “potential”?  

Perhaps many of the “silenced”, unrepresented majority who have borne the brunt of illegal protest action and Executive inaction feel that “the deeper intention and reasoning behind the engagement and the agreement” is not finding “sustainable solutions”, but rather more capitulation to revolutionaries resolutely determined to “decolonizing” UCT into an emasculated institution.