luister (2015)

Published on Aug 20, 2015

Luister is a documentary about the lives of students of colour who attend Stellenbosch University, a South African institution of higher learning. In a series of interviews, students recount instances of racial prejudice that they continue to experience in the town of Stellenbosch, and the enormous challenges that they face due to the use of Afrikaans as a language of teaching at the university. Luister is a film about Afrikaans as a language and a culture. It is a film about the continuing racism that exists within a divided society. It is a film about a group of students whose stories have been ignored. Luister is the Afrikaans word for Listen.

on colonial legacies and the violence of liberal whiteness at uct – april 2015

Here’s a thought piece I wrote for an MPhil African Studies class back in April, in the thick of the Rhodes Must Fall resistance. I want to put it here to archive it.

Problematising the Study Of Africa Assignment: 

On Colonial Legacies at the University of Cape Town

 

“Remember that you are an Englishman, and have consequently won first prize in the lottery of life.” — Cecil John Rhodes[1]

“[N]o matter what a white man does, the colour of his skin—his passport to privilege—will always put him miles ahead of the black man. Thus in the ultimate analysis no white person can escape being part of the oppressor camp.” —  Bantu Stephen Biko[2]

“For the black man there is only one destiny, and it is white.” — Frantz Fanon[3]

Rhodes statue, head covered in garbage bags. University of Cape Town, 17 March 2015. Photo: Rosemary Lombard

Rhodes statue, head covered in garbage bags. University of Cape Town, 17 March 2015. Photo: Rosemary Lombard

As a child, I remember reading about the railway Cecil John Rhodes envisioned from Cape Town to Cairo, and never imagining it in any light other than as a benevolent feat of engineering that would link people to others, bringing access to resources and the rest of the modern world for those cut off from Western civilisation, literally bringing light to the darkest parts of the continent.

I revised my romantic understanding of Rhodes’ expansionist desires as I became aware of the rampantly exploitative nature of these ambitions, and colonial mechanisms of dominion and exploitation more generally, but it was not until the recent events at UCT surrounding a statue of the man on campus that I realised the true psychological extent and durability of this oppressive colonial legacy, and the way its violence has been rendered almost invisible to those of us on the privileged side of what Walter Mignolo terms the “colonial difference” or divide[4].

The call for transformation is not new: it stretches back more than two decades. The present moment is notable in that students, staff and workers have organised powerfully in concert. A bucket of human excrement thrown on a statue of Rhodes that occupied a central position on UCT’s upper campus escalated tensions around institutional racism that have flared regularly since even before the formal end of the Apartheid era 21 years ago.  Black students formed a movement that became known as “Rhodes Must Fall” (RMF) after the social media hashtag they used to mobilise. The students occupied an administrative building for several weeks, in which they held intensive teach-ins and discussions around decolonisation in solidarity with the Students’ Representative Council (SRC), other students, academic staff and workers. University management eventually capitulated to the removal of the statue on 9 April 2015, after a month-long struggle in which RMF demanded to be engaged on their own terms, rather than allowing university management to dictate the terms or to dismiss the protest as had been the case on many previous occasions.

Richard Pithouse describes the mobilisation thus:

The students in Cape Town have, very rapidly, punched a gaping hole into the continuum of English liberal hegemony over the university, and a set of linked sites of a certain kind of elite power, and, thereby, a mode of white supremacy and coloniality that has not been subject to sufficient critique and opposition. It is an extraordinary political achievement that will, no doubt, inscribe itself into the history of the South African academy, and the wider society.[5]

At this historically significant moment, it is on white liberal hegemony and institutional transformation at UCT that I reflect: how has hegemonic whiteness been constructed at UCT, and how does the university continue to function as a colonial space, despite speaking about transformation?

I have made several false starts on this assignment (one of which has been losing an entire day’s work on it due to a computer glitch). Initially my idea was to write an open letter to university management, particularly the deputy Vice-Chancellor with the portfolio for transformation, Crain Soudien, whose public behaviour over the past weeks – both in his capacity as a member of university management[6] and in his written statements in the press – has seemed at odds with his historically professed radical stance against uninterrogated hegemony, and his advocacy of deep transformation as chair of the country-wide Ministerial inquiry into institutional racism just a few years ago[7]. Soudien, and other prominent black members of the corporate, academic establishment such as Jonathan Jansen, are interpellated[8] representatives of their institutions’ ideology, and any hint of activism they once displayed has evaporated.

However, I decided that I could not, in good conscience, from my position as an historical beneficiary of the untransformed system, write such a letter. So, dropping the academic apparatus as prompted by this assignment, I feel I have only enough authority to write from a personal, situated angle in attempt to contextualise the recent Rhodes Must Fall chain of events at UCT, with particular reference to the institution’s persisting coloniality. I cannot assume anything other than my own subject position, as a white, cisgender, heterosexual female, who comes from relative privilege. To do so would be disingenuous, as I have learned a trenchant lesson through listening to what students have been saying these past weeks: despite my best intentions and all the empathy I can muster, I cannot have knowledge of what it is to experience institutional racism.

As a “white” person, I have ancestrally been on the powerful side of the racial divide put in place with the advent of Western colonial activity, and I continue to be identified with that subject position. “Whiteness” is the term used to describe the position of privilege this subjectivity puts me and others like me in.

If there is one thing the Rhodes Must Fall moment has driven home to me, it’s that from my subject position I am unqualified to make authoritative pronouncements regarding the experiences or motives of anyone except myself, regardless of racial identity: it’s obvious that I can’t speak to “black” experience, but the most common “white” responses to RMF have largely made me feel alienated, too.

Two decades of rainbow nation narrative have led to the unreflexive “I don’t see colour” rhetoric becoming the status quo among liberal-thinking white South Africans, as well as black people assimilated to corporate institutional capitalist ideology. This is pernicious in that it obscures the very real, material persistence of different life experiences and oppression based on inherited structural inequalities, stemming from racial discrimination.

Coloniality, the set of dispositions, values and forms of practice set in place in the colonial world, outlives the moment of formal political decolonisation, and carries through beyond it in lasting ways. The white Western self speaks from the site of the universal, as a bearer of modernity and civilisation, situated dynamically inside of linear time and at home in a global, cosmopolitan world. All forms of knowledge produced by the Western self, in other words, are deemed to have universal, rational, historical currency.

In contrast, those selves and forms of knowledge encountered by the Western self that are deemed to be other than the Western self are deemed to be “local”, labelled “indigenous”. An indigenous self or indigenous knowledge is constituted as static, standing outside of history and linear time, and inside of tradition, which becomes the opposed category to modernity. Western, colonial knowledge is framed in binaries, in relation to Western supremacy: the privileged poles of these dyads are whiteness, maleness, heterosexuality, and so forth.

Manichean power relationships instituted on the basis of the colonial apparatus did not end with apartheid in 1994. They persist throughout social interactions, their oppressive dynamics all but invisible to those on the privileged side of such relationships, such as white people and males, due to the hegemonic nature of this framing.

A common criticism I saw levelled at black protesters by white commenters was that things changed with the coming of the democratic dispensation in 1994, and that they should stop “holding on to the past” or “playing the race card” with a “victim mentality”, that they should “move on”. But being cognisant of how the legacy of chronologically past events persists into the present is not the same as “holding on to” the past. Only those who are not experiencing the continuation of structural oppression every day can advocate ignoring or disregarding it, and “moving swiftly on”.

Western knowledge systems condition us not to admit any other perspective to the realm of validity. It thus takes concerted effort from white people to listen and not dismiss other points of view if they are to “click” and be able to acknowledge that the hegemonic “white” point of view is not the only, natural point of view. Recognition of the persisting inequality and oppression of black people generates a sense of discomfort and cognitive dissonance. I have realised through conversations with white people I know, as well as the comments I’ve read on social media, that most are unwilling (or perhaps intellectually unable?) to make this effort. Most who identify as liberal (“colour-blind”, non-racist) do not want to accept that they continue to benefit from this system at the expense of others, and display great defensiveness when confronted with the persistence of structural racism, and white complicity therewith.

The comments I have seen by white people who consider themselves liberal and “non-racial” (strenuously disavowing racism) against protesters have been telling – describing them as “uncivilised”, “uneducated”, “unreasonable”, “backward”, “barbarians”, “savages”, “childish”, “monkeys”: these epithets bear the distinctive, unreflexive tang of colonial binaries, binaries set up in implied counterpoint to the opposite values ostensibly possessed by the hallowed university. These colonial tropes have pervaded media, misrepresenting Rhodes Must Fall as an unthinking, destructive mob, when the reality is that the movement created, in a deliberate and considered way, an autonomous space which has surfaced deep pain, but also fostered constructive discussion and reimaginative work.[9]

Acts of physical protest occur when speech has failed, or is perceived to be inadequate. The act of flinging sewage at the statue of Rhodes went beyond talking, because talking was no longer believed to be a viable option for engaging. For dialogue to happen, there needs to be a willingness to listen communicated clearly. UCT, and whiteness more generally, has historically demonstrated itself to be dismissive, unprepared to engage black students’ and staff’s grievances about structural oppression. UCT even went so far as to criminalise protesters.

Steven Friedman remarks:

It is no accident that the protests are happening on the campuses of English-speaking “liberal” universities, which have long claimed to be victims of racism: it is precisely at those institutions that race is kept alive by denying it. Under apartheid, many English-speaking whites insisted that apartheid was created by Afrikaners alone. The “liberal” English-language universities joined in — they proclaimed their right to teach whatever and whomever they pleased, declaring that discrimination was imposed on them by the state. This smugness ignored the extent to which white English speakers in the professions and business profited from the denial of opportunities to others — and the degree to which they believed that blacks could win acceptance only if they adopted the values of whites. The universities ignored the reality that, when they were allowed to do as they pleased, they limited black student numbers and taught courses that assumed that every South African was white… This shows how deep-rooted the attitudes that underpinned apartheid are — and it points a finger at a form of liberalism that has washed its hands of racism while continuing to practise it…

When democracy arrived, the legal barriers tumbled; deep-rooted beliefs that whites are superior did not. The “liberal” universities now had the right to teach who and what they pleased: they used it to keep alive the racial pecking order in a “colour blind” guise… Whites remain largely in charge — but, because they are “liberal”, they always have a good “nonracial” reason for why this should be so.[10]

Hegemonic white power is not always subtle.  UCT management has an historical track record of overt institutional racism too. There are several junctures at which these issues have crystallised blatantly, and I will mention two:

In 1968, the accomplished black anthropologist, Archie Mafeje, was made an offer of employment by UCT, but this offer was rescinded under pressure from the Apartheid government, sparking protests. In 1991, the university again offered Mafeje a position. Although he had by that time, 23 years after the first offer, attained the rank of professor, it offered him only a senior lecturer post, still treating him as a junior academic. UCT apologised to Mafeje for this indignity after his death, naming a room in the Bremner building in his honour. It was no coincidence that this room was made the headquarters of Rhodes Must Fall when they occupied that building, renaming it “Azania House” in symbolic redress.

The so-called “Mamdani Affair” unfolded at UCT in 1996 when eminent Ugandan scholar Mahmood Mamdani, who at that point held the AC Jordan Chair in the Centre for African Studies, challenged the university to place African scholarship at the centre of the curriculum. He compiled a curriculum centred on African scholarship which was met with resistance from the all-white advisory committee, apparently because it did not reflect thinkers well-known enough to the committee – that is, it did not reproduce the established western canon of writing about Africa closely enough.  Via a manipulation of administrative processes, the curriculum Mamdani planned was rejected and replaced by one produced by the committee. He was suspended and left UCT soon afterwards for the United States. Nomalanga Mkhize charges that the affair “exposed the ignorance of many prominent, predominantly white South African scholars who, because of their racially privileged positions, had risen up the ranks without having to engage three decades of rigorous post-independence African scholarship.”[11]

Black students and academics are angry. Twenty years since the formal end of apartheid, they are still treated as second-class citizens on campus. Only a fraction of teaching staff are black[12], and the syllabus overwhelmingly represents the perspectives of white thinkers. Black thinkers continue to be marginalised. The disciplines are still, overwhelmingly, epistemologically “white”. Francis Nyamnjoh, writing in 2012, describes the insidious outcome of this:

In Africa, the colonial conquest of Africans – body, mind and soul – has led to real or attempted epistemicide – the decimation or near complete killing and replacement of endogenous epistemologies with the epistemological paradigm of the conqueror. The result has been education through schools and other formal institutions of learning in Africa largely as a process of making infinite concessions to the outside – mainly the western world. Such education has tended to emphasize mimicry over creativity, and the idea that little worth learning about, even by Africans, can come from Africa. It champions static dichotomies and boundedness of cultural worlds and knowledge systems. It privileges teleology and analogy over creative negotiation by Africans of the multiple encounters, influences and perspectives evident throughout their continent. It thus impoverishes the complex realities of those it attracts or represses as students.[13]

A statement by UCT’s Student Representative Council, made at a meeting the day the statue was removed, echoes the points made above:

[T]he black folk’s problem is still chiefly the potency of whiteness. In the new democratic dispensation, we have only been concerned with the ‘rainbow nation’ rhetoric and singing kumbaya while our economy still reflects the same socio-economic disparities of the apartheid era. Democracy has granted a few blacks seats at the master’s table; the rest are still fighting over breadcrumbs falling off the table. And it is these few and mostly politically connected ‘privileged’ blacks who assist their white masters in maintaining the status quo.

Whites have not even begun to see blacks as equals and as being capable of thinking for themselves. They continually want to have a say in how we break the shackles of oppression administered and maintained by them. They cry foul as soon as blacks start organising and speaking for themselves. Deep down they understand that they stand to lose their privileges. The white liberal has continued to play a rather peculiar role in the oppression of the black masses, his racist and conservative ways continue to be shielded in his subtle and ‘angelic’ approach. It is the white liberal who is at the forefront of spreading the gospel of integration and a peaceful society. White liberals point towards white conservatives as the problem, and they have convinced themselves that they have arrived at enlightenment pertaining to the sins committed by their forefathers. Yet subconsciously they share the same set of values and desire to protect their privileges.

The ideology and culture of formerly ‘whites only’ spaces has still not changed. What has taken place is that blacks can now access those spaces of learning and living in order to immerse themselves in a western culture. Thus, for the blacks to enjoy the benefits of accessing those places they have to integrate into whiteness. Our integration is nothing but black people assimilating to what is still regarded as righteous, ordained, intelligent, beautiful and angelic whiteness.[14]

Richard Pithouse comments, with hope:

Liberalism has always been fundamentally tied up with the poisonous fantasy of its barbarian other. In 1859 John Stuart Mill, the great philosopher of English liberalism, declared, in his famous essay On Liberty, that “Despotism is a legitimate mode of dealing with barbarians”. The essential logic of actually existing liberalism – freedom for some, despotism for others – was never merely, as they say, academic. In 1887 Rhodes, speaking in parliament in Cape Town echoed these sentiments when he declared that: “we must adopt a system of despotism in our relations with the barbarians of South Africa”.

Yet in 2015, in a society still fundamentally shaped by the historical weight of this idea of freedom for some and despotism for others, a text book for first year politics students, written and prescribed in South African universities, a text book in which not a single African person is presented as a thinker worthy of study, declares that “Most discussions of freedom begin with John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty”.

This sort of academic consensus, which seemed entrenched a few weeks ago, no longer seems to have much of a future. The students have made an intervention of real weight and consequence.

In addressing the necessity of curricular transformation, Harry Garuba writes about the need for a “contrapuntal pedagogy that brings the knowledge of the marginalised to bear on our teaching… The Cecil John Rhodes statue at the centre of the upper campus of UCT may have been physically removed, but what we now need to move is the hegemonic gaze of the Rhodes that is lodged in our ways of thinking… our professional practices as teachers, academics, scholars and students. We need to take a critical look at our everyday routines… In short, we need to remove the Rhodes that lives in our disciplines and the curricula that underpin them.”[15]

Stories about the past do not only tell us where we come from. They also tell us where we belong and where we should be headed: they influence how we understand our present and imagine our future. Statues and memorials intentionally inscribe in space particular stories, effectively fixing in stone a version of the past chosen by those in power.

The spatial symbolic order at UCT is hard evidence of the university’s lack of transformation.  The university, stretched across the lower slopes of Devil’s Peak, is a carefully curated memorial landscape that concretises colonial ideologies of power and knowledge: a site of prospect, and temple of rarefied knowledge on the hill. Moving through this space as individuals, we are forced to conduct a conversation with these imperial ideas: they exert their influence on us tangibly, directing our attention. Little has been changed about symbolism on the campus in the past twenty years, save for the additive naming of a few buildings and spaces after black icons: Steve Biko Student’s Union,  Cissy Gool Plaza, Madiba Circle.

Dependent on one’s subject position, the power exerted by such spatial and ideological configurations feels more or less oppressive. As white people, we may not give much thought to whether we feel at home or belong in the landscape. Black people, on the contrary, constantly confronted by representations of white triumph at the expense of black lives, feel alienated and suffocated. SRC Chair Ramabina Mohapa said at the 16 March meeting convened by UCT management on Heritage Signage and Symbolism, before walking out with most of the student body present, that black students “can no longer breathe”.[16]

As already discussed, colonial dispositions are not easily apprehended or altered, because they remain hegemonic in wider society, rendering them invisible to those who fall on the privileged side of the colonial divide between those privileged and those not privileged.

However, moments in which the symbolic order is ruptured, like the toppling of the Rhodes statue, provide rare opportunities where the usually obscured hegemony becomes plainly apparent. It is at catalytic moments such as these that spacetime is malleable: contrapuntal conversations become possible, competing epistemologies thinkable; candid self-examination and interventions, too. Perhaps substantive transformation happens more effectively in sudden shifts than gradually.

I would like to close with a trio of comments that I gleaned from my Facebook feed on 10 April 2015, the day after Rhodes’ statue was removed.

We stop mistaking Rhodes for a good white person and we stop believing in white supremacy because everywhere you look you see white people’s statues – it’s almost as though there was no one here when they arrived and they just happened to discover the gold (which, coincidentally, was discovered by a black man). When the statues are gone, we can start asking the important questions like why are there 110 white male South African professors and not a single black female South African professor at UCT – South Africa’s most prestigious university. And questions like why is the curriculum at these universities so Eurocentric in its outlook with scant reflection on Africa and her rich history and her bright future. Without these statues and the prestige and honour bestowed on the founding fathers of white supremacy, the leaders of these institutions will have no choice but to answer those questions truthfully and reflect on those answers. Further, removing these reminders of the fallacy of white supremacy leaves space for black excellence to flourish without having to use the white gaze and its tools of measurement to validate itself.

– Fumbatha May

Watched Rhodes fall last night. I’ve never experienced such an atmosphere of happiness and liberation at UCT – particularly when the students refused to let the old bastard go gracefully but crowned him with a bucket of paint as he rode off into the sunset of empire. For the past few weeks, the students have been teaching the university its most important lesson in decades, and will continue to do so for a long time to come. At last, being at UCT is beginning to feel like being at a real university.

– Carlo Germeshuys

Driving home from work passed the plinth where Rhodes stood. It has a tag sprayed on the neat wood box that is covering the base: ‘C.J. WAS HERE ~>’ There is a black girl in a blue dress leaning up on it, smiling broadly as she chats to a white guy in green shorts who is sitting on the edge of it, swinging his legs as he rummages for something in his bookbag beside him. I swear there is a lighter feeling seeing that figure gone! An invitation to a new conversation.

– Debbie Pryor

These comments convey the general mood on campus well: there is a sense of hope and determination that the symbolic fall of Rhodes’ statue will be followed by deep institutional transformation, sentiments I share.

__

REFERENCES

Africa Network Expert Panel.  2014. Why are there so few black professors in South Africa? The Guardian Africa, 6 October 2014. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/06/south-africa-race-black-professors

Althusser, L. 1971. “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (Notes towards an Investigation)”. Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays. Verso.

Biko, S. 1988. I Write What I Like. London: Heinemann.

Friedman, S. 2015. “The racial denialism of South African liberals”. Rand Daily Mail. 1 April 2015. http://www.rdm.co.za/politics/2015/04/01/the-racial-denialism-of-south-african-liberals

Garuba, H. 2015. “What is an African curriculum?” Mail and Guardian, 17 April 2015 00:00. http://mg.co.za/article/2015-04-17-what-is-an-african-curriculum

Goodrich, A. 2015. “Statue controversies in South Africa – reimagine/recontextualise/replace” April 15, 2015. http://www.syntheticzero.net/2015/04/15/statue-controversies-in-south-africa-reimaginerecontextualisereplace/

Majavu, M. 2015. “Uct and Rhodes: Removing Statues, Dismantling Colonial Legacies”. Equal Times, 30 March 2015. http://www.equaltimes.org/uct-and-rhodes-removing-statues?lang=en#.VTUs9tyUd8E

Mangcu, X. 2015. Danger of ‘rationalist conceit’ in Cape Times, March 25 2015 at 01:52pm. http://www.iol.co.za/capetimes/danger-of-rationalist-conceit-1.1836933

Mangcu, X. 2015. “Assault on idea of academic freedom”. Cape Times,April 14 2015 at 01:44pm. http://www.iol.co.za/capetimes/assault-on-idea-of-academic-freedom-1.1844918.

Mignolo, W. 2002. “The Geopolitics of Knowledge and the Colonial Difference”. The South Atlantic Quarterly 101.1 (2002) 57-96. Duke University Press.

Mkhize, N. 2015. “Anger over Rhodes vindicates Mamdani”. Business Day, 7 April 2015. http://www.bdlive.co.za/opinion/columnists/2015/04/07/anger-over-rhodes-vindicates-mamdani

Moodie, A. 2010.”The Soudien Report: Deny racism at your peril”25 April 2010. University World News, Issue No:121. http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=20100424200305969

Mudimbe, V. 1988. The Invention of Africa: Gnosis, Philosophy and the Order of Knowledge. London: James Curry.

Muller, S. 2014. “Transformation is not UCT’s priority”. Mail and Guardian 21 November 2014. http://mg.co.za/article/2014-11-21-transformation-is-not-ucts-priority

Nyamnjoh, F. 2012. “’Potted Plants in Greenhouses’: A Critical Reflection on the Resilience of Colonial Education in Africa”. Journal of Asian and African Studies. February 15, 2012. doi: 10.1177/0021909611417240.

O’Connell, S & Himmelman, N. 2011.  “Lessons in continued oppression: UCT’s conception of post-apartheid freedom sets the bar too low”. https://concernedcasstudents.wordpress.com/2011/05/15/lessons-in-continued-oppression-ucts-conception-of-post-apartheid-freedom-sets-the-bar-too-low/

Pithouse, R. 2015. “South Africa in the Twilight of Liberalism”. Kafila, 19 April 2015. http://kafila.org/2015/04/19/south-africa-in-the-twilight-of-liberalism-richard-pithouse/

Soudien et al. 2008. Report of the Ministerial Committee on Transformation and Social Cohesion and the Elimination of Discrimination in Public Higher Education Institutions. 30 November 2008

Soudien, C. 2015 “UCT stands devoted to debate”. Cape Times, April 14 2015 at 12:43pm. http://www.iol.co.za/capetimes/uct-stands-devoted-to-debate-1.1844882

Wolpe, H. 1995. “The debate on university transformation in South Africa: The case of the University of the Western Cape.”  Comparative Education, 31(2): 275 – 292.

___

[1] Attributed in “The lottery of life”, The Independent, 5 May 2001.

[2] From I Write What I Like: Selected Writings by Steve Biko, 1969 – 1972. Heinemann, 1987.

[3] Introduction to Black Skin, White Masks. Translated by Charles Lam Markmann. New York: Grove Press, 1967.

[4] Mignolo, 2002.

[5] Pithouse, 2015.

[6] See, for example, Soudien’s handling of a walkout by the SRC and Rhodes Must Fall during a meeting at UCT on “Heritage, Signage and Symbolism”, 16 March 2015: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4NgpJ00M5Ho

[7] Compare Soudien et al 2008; Alison Moodie’s 2010 interview with Soudien, entitled “The Soudien Report: Deny racism at your peril” and the defensive tone of Soudien 2015.

[8] Althusser, 1971. Interpellation is the process by which the ideology of an institution constitutes individual subjects’ identities through the process of the institution and its discourses ‘hailing’ them in social interactions.

[9] I would like to state as an aside that I do not believe it is the place of beneficiaries of structural racism to offer opinions on how transformation would be best effected. I believe white people should make space to listen and take cues from those who are still being squashed by the non-transformation of the society we inhabit as to what to do. Those who encounter the problem have far more authority in this matter. This is difficult for some white people to grasp due to an ingrained sense of entitlement, and the way whiteness and white knowledge regimes still have hegemonic authority. Several have accused me of promoting self-censorship. It is very far from that. As a white person, to make space for black voices at this moment in the way I am advocating is not to disengage from the debate. It is an active decision to be quiet, to listen and reflect, an action based on a recognition that unless we with white voices behave differently, the status quo of the balance of representation being skewed in the favour of white voices will not change materially.

[10] Friedman, 2015.

[11] Mkhize, 2015.

[12] The number of white professors at UCT stands at about 87 per cent, whereas black professors make up only 4 per cent of the professorial complement (Majavu, 2015).

[13] Nyamnjoh, 2012: 129-130.

[14] UCT SRC statement delivered by Ramabina Mahapa on 9 April 2015. http://www.uct.ac.za/dailynews/?id=9096

[15] Garuba, 2015.

[16] A video of the proceedings can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4NgpJ00M5Ho.

a delightfully civilised facebook conversation with some scared white liberals about UCT

Image: Francesco Nassimbeni

Image: Francesco Nassimbeni

It’s quite fascinating to watch how unwilling most white people are to listen to people talking about experiences that differ from their own. For example, in a conversation about institutional racism and changing Eurocentric curricula to syllabi balanced with African perspectives, having been taught from tiny that their white perspective is the only valid perspective, they are so utterly convinced of this that they are unable to hear the reasoning around what is happening. So, they become more and more threatened and confused, and say more and more strident, prejudiced things.

Here is a typical example of the trajectory of conversations I have been having with white liberals I know lately – people who defend rainbow nation rhetoric unquestioningly, because it stops them having to think critically about themselves and their comfy little self-made worlds, how they remain complicit with oppression. It starts with a status update posted by a Facebook friend, a South African doctor currently living in Europe. The main antagonist, whom I have never met nor spoken with before (and hopefully never have to again!), is just aching for an excuse to dismiss what I am saying, until he can’t hold back anymore and attacks me personally with a flood of childish insults. My grateful thanks to the voluble, rude, bigoted Roland Paterson-Jones for providing me with this perfect study of white arrogance. ;)

Anne* – 11 April at 00:19 ·
I too used to jump up and down in the safety of my little UCT play pen and protest all manner of things. But if you tried the sort of vandalism and intimidation that goes on now in your real-life work place, you would be out-on-your-arse fired and prosecuted. ‪#‎realitybites‬ ‪#‎youllseewhenyougraduate‬
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Ingrid, Abby and 19 others like this.

Image: Francesco Nassimbeni

Image: Francesco Nassimbeni

Irene  So true
11 April at 01:12 · Edited · Like

Roland Ha, snap! Maybe we just getting old and boring
11 April at 04:15 · Like · 1

Candy Well said A, my point exactly!
11 April at 05:34 · Like

Rosemary Sjoe, A, it’s really a different kettle of fish now, I’m telling you, having been there with you back then and also there now. These are big issues, not petulance.
11 April at 07:16 · Like · 1

Roland  Bringing down apartheid was not petulance. Bringing down a statue? Meh!
11 April at 08:13 · Like

Rosemary  The issue is institutional racism, which is still very much alive – and that statue is but a small symbol of its persistence. If you actually care, read the mission statement, here: https://www.facebook.com/RhodesMustFall/posts/1559394444336048 and understand that as a person who has historically been on the lucky side of the racial divides put in place by apartheid, i.e. someone who has never felt oppressed by the institutional climate at UCT, you will have been oblivious to the hurt and insults that persist due to the lack of transformation. As white people we don’t have a perspective on this pain, and, if we care about ACTUALLY bringing down the legacy of apartheid, we need to pay attention to what people who are still feeling its effects are saying.

UCT RHODES MUST FALL MISSION STATEMENT
11 April at 08:21 · Edited · Like · 1 ·

Francesco Nassimbeni Spotted on Twitter

Image: Francesco Nassimbeni

Roland Oh stop bleeding, Rosemary! They’re a bunch of spoiled arrogant privileged youngsters. Make a positive suggestion or contribution, and stop wringing your hands in shame. You’re actually being deeply condescending, rather than helping, which is, in turn, actually exacerbating the problem of unequal opportunity.
11 April at 08:26 · Like

Roland  Your deliberate separation of ‘white’ and ‘black’, ‘us’ and ‘them’, is, similarly, entrenching damaging zeitgeist. Please stop!
11 April at 08:27 · Like

Rosemary  Don’t get me wrong: I think racial categories are incredibly damaging. The fact that their legacies persist is something that needs to be dealt with though, not denied.
11 April at 08:30 · Like · 2

Rosemary  I have no shame, and no condescension, Rather, I am doing my best to listen to what people say they need, and to make space for them to actualise those needs, rather than sitting with an imaginary panoptical viewpoint (that as white people we have been taught we have) and presuming to tell people what it is they need to do. THAT is condescension.
11 April at 08:32 · Like · 1

Roland Fair enough – at some point we need to take a stand on what we personally think is right though, rather than bend too much to dangerous philosophies, just because they come from sectors that may or may not have genuine historical grievances. The rise of naziism is a case in point.
11 April at 08:34 · Like · 1

Rosemary I can assure you that there would not be this hullabaloo if their pain was not real.
11 April at 08:35 · Like · 1

Roland  And I assure you that nazi’s only rose to power through significant collective pain after WW1.
11 April at 08:37 · Like · 1

Rosemary Reductio ad Hitlerum
11 April at 08:39 · Edited · Like · 1 ·

Roland Ha – sorry for drawing an attempted analogy. My point though, is that damaged people are significantly more likely to be drawn to extreme viewpoints and actions. So, the real question is how do we reduce damage and polarisation? I have not seen any constructive suggestions emerging from RMF. I see only destruction, coupled with meaningless rhetoric such as ‘transformation’ and ‘africanisation’. What does that even mean?
11 April at 08:49 · Edited · Like

Image: Francesco Nassimbeni

Image: Francesco Nassimbeni

Roland And remember, in life little is fair – we all have reasons to feel aggrieved in some way. I’m sure you do. I know I do. The universe does not owe us our existence.
11 April at 08:48 · Like

Rosemary  Are you at UCT right now? It’s been an incredibly moving and inspiring thing to see what Rhodes Must Fall has accomplished. It’s absolutely not about believing anyone owes them anything, and all about doing for self. They’ve had teach-ins and debates organised every night, and worked on what a non-Eurocentric curriculum would look like. One of my black colleagues at the Archive and Public Culture research initiative has been involved in facilitating this stuff. I assure you, this is a moment to rejoice in, not to be fearful.
11 April at 08:52 · Like · 1

Rosemary (I really don’t think the press has covered what has been going on in any vaguely satisfactory way. That is why I feel I must say something when people are all gloom-and-doom-and-contempt about it.)
11 April at 08:53 · Like

Roland No, I was at UCT in the mid/late 80’s. Why don’t we see more of the positive intent? I have read the RMF manifesto and am appalled.
11 April at 08:53 · Like

Rosemary  I don’t know. It’s what fits narratives, I guess. I have to leave Facebook now. Thanks for the chat!
11 April at 08:54 · Like · 1

Roland And you really do like to cling to black and white
11 April at 08:55 · Like

Rosemary  Um, I hate racial divisions as much as we all do. It’s just that rainbow nation rhetoric has not changed material reality, and people are still stuck in them – we have to acknowledge that, not deny that. We only have the luxury of denying that these divisions still persist if we are the minority privileged not to be hit in the face with them every day of our lives. The majority of our fellow South Africans continue to experience, and talk about experiencing, this oppression. To tell them they don’t experience this is to disrespect and dismiss their own lived realities and say we know better than them what their reality is. And that, to me, is disgustingly arrogant.
11 April at 09:00 · Edited · Like · 1

Roland Ok. So we listen. I don’t see that that materially (!) changes anything. What do we do?
11 April at 09:11 · Like

Roland And I will, frankly, continue to struggle to listen to the deliberate fascist polarisation inherent in ‘1 settler 1 bullet’.
11 April at 09:15 · Like

Anne  Ah, now this is the stuff tertiary education is made of, two UCT alumni in eloquent, intellectual debate. That, ladies and gentleman is how it should be done. No poo flinging here.
11 April at 09:22 · Like · 4

Roland I think that Max du Preez is spot on, particularly the conclusion:
Radicalisation and polarisation: the encroaching threat – Moneyweb
11 April at 09:22 · Like

Roland Flattery will get you everywhere, Annetjie
11 April at 09:23 · Like

Anne  Thanks Rosemary Lombard and Roland Paterson-Jones for your insights and wisdom. The atrocities of Apartheid must have been agonising, and yes I was lucky enough to be born who I was. However in my opinion, this is not about race. It is about civil and sensible behaviour. Debates, discussions, peaceful protests, go for it. Faecal flinging, chanting agricultural ammunition targets and reneging on tolerant and progressive agreements with the university, unacceptable. I want someone teaching me who is highly qualified, experienced and wise. Quota systems are unreasonable if candidates are to be elevated above more qualified counterparts. The interesting opportunity here is adding curricula that would broaden the scope of academic expertise and allow a broader selection of course material in both Afro- and Eurocentric studies. I for one am glad that I went with the Eurocentric option for medicine. Goodness knows how many people I could have let down in their health if I had gone with muti and bones option.
11 April at 09:36 · Like · 4

Roland Ha ha I was satisfied with my eurocentric maths and computer science too.
11 April at 10:15 · Like · 1

Roland For full disclosure, I have spent time with a sangoma too, and it was an interesting and positive experience.
11 April at 10:32 · Like · 1

Tanya  Agreed Anne!!
11 April at 15:37 · Like

Rosemary  “When democracy arrived, the legal barriers tumbled; deep-rooted beliefs that whites are superior did not. The “liberal” universities now had the right to teach who and what they pleased: they used it to keep alive the racial pecking order in a “colour blind” guise. In the early 1990s, sociologist Harold Wolpe warned against a view that white English-language universities were the only “real” institutions of learning and should be left alone to do what they had always done. He argued that they were also products of the past and so they too needed to change.” Really worth a read.
The racial denialism of South African liberals – The Rand Daily Mail
RDM.CO.ZA|BY STEVEN FRIEDMAN
13 April at 09:47 · Like · Remove Preview

Francesco Nassimbeni cancel scholarship

Image: Francesco Nassimbeni

Roland Rosemary, are you an academic? Are you prepared to show integrity and resign from your job in order to provide an opportunity for a less privileged person? If not, are you not simply representing the ‘other people must change’ attitude inherent in most of the RMF debate
13 April at 09:51 · Like

Rosemary I’m currently an MPhil student in Heritage and Public Culture, and, yes, thinking about where best to employ my energies after that. If I were to remain in academia, which I probably won’t, it would be in research, on colonial archives and production of knowledge, which is what I am looking at in my thesis – in an attempt to respond to the damaged legacy of those who came before. I wouldn’t feel comfortable taking a teaching post at this juncture.
13 April at 09:57 · Like

Roland Cool, these are tough questions. We all have no choice but to pursue our necessary imperative to stay alive; yet we also have to look more broadly towards our larger environment. I can’t help but observe that Steven Friedman is a pigmentally challenged individual, presuming to represent the experience of others, both formerly privileged, and not. Nowhere do I see him offering a personal experience: for example, “I, as an English speaking South African have been guilty of denial, etc.” Let’s hear some first-person perspective.
13 April at 10:01 · Like

Roland I guess another way to put this: How are you, Rosemary, going to put food on the table, after you have fought so hard for your cultural irrelevance?
13 April at 10:44 · Like

Rosemary Don’t worry yourself about that, Roland, I’m sure I’ll find something useful to do.
13 April at 10:49 · Like · 1

Roland  “We had imagined that, after the removal of Rhodes, the vice-chancellor would come back to us and ask… what the plan of action is,” [Chumani Maxwele] said. “But instead we were just woken up by a letter of eviction.”
Are you fucking kidding me? Arrogance personified.
UCT occupiers consider their options – Western Cape | IOL News
13 April at 12:39 · Like

Roland  I believe that this is what is colloquially known as ‘stank vir dank’:
“You, Max Price, chose not to engage us like humans. You referred to the black student as a problem,” said the RMF’s Thato Pule.
Occupiers speak out against UCT – Western Cape | IOL News
13 April at 17:14 · Edited · Like

Roland Rosemary, presumably you can give the contrary perspective? I am struggling.
13 April at 17:15 · Like

Rosemary Hey… This is longish, but I think it is really worth a read:
Reason after Liberalism
SACSIS.ORG.ZA|BY RICHARD PITHOUSE
Yesterday at 10:12 · Like ·

Rosemary  In fact, read this one first:
South Africa in the Twilight of Liberalism: Richard Pithouse
KAFILA.ORG
Yesterday at 10:13 · Like

Roland Hey Rosemary, had a first pass at Richard Pithouse. The first half (about) echos, very strikingly, many observations that I have made very recently, on FB and other online discussion forums. The second half is less familiar, less accessible, and less appealing to me. I am an unapologetic liberal, with bent towards libertarianism, and informed by my casual adherence to (how I understand) buddhist principles.

The problem I have with Richard Pithouse, is that he presents more absence of ideas, than presence of ideas. What is the proposal? Liberalism is bad, we need something else. Why is it bad? Empirically? Perhaps – it certainly hasn’t been widely embraced. So, what are we proposing as the solution?

I had the same problem trying to engage directly with RMF on FB (they have now blocked me and deleted all of my posts). Time and time again, members would reply to me and tell me what (they believed) I was thinking, rather than what they were thinking.
Yesterday at 11:11 · Edited · Like

Roland Stated perhaps more primally, it appears to be human nature to grab what we can, and cling to what we have. It requires considerable religious or cultural principle, contrary to base instincts, to counter that. Communism was exactly an ideology that proposed a radical set of principles to ensure equality. What happened? It turned into yet another vehicle for crass inequality, and oppression of many people. I don’t know what the answer is, or where the answer lies, but I will continue to support what I see, personally, as the best system we have. Yes, IMHO
Yesterday at 11:11 · Edited · Like

Image: Francesco Nassimbeni

Image: Francesco Nassimbeni

Roland  Also, “the enduring racism and coloniality of some of our universities” appears to simply be accepted fact. No-one has convinced me that this is fact, despite many pleas. We can take an audit by race group of various stakeholders. That is irrelevant. What is important is equality of opportunity, and the belief that that will eventually allow personal emancipation of anyone willing to buy a ticket. Yes, the abject poverty of much of our population is, itself, a massive barrier. So, how do we tackle that problem?
Yesterday at 11:03 · Edited · Like

Roland How are our universities any more ‘colonial’ than universities in China, Russia, Japan, Korea, America, Brazil?
Yesterday at 11:10 · Like

Roland  ‘Black studies for UCT’
Curricular change could prove the most contentious element of UCT’s transformation in the wake of recent…
TIMESLIVE.CO.ZA|BY TANYA FARBER
Yesterday at 11:43 · Like

Roland I would be very interested in the student demographics by faculty. I suspect transformation is lagging in Science/Engineering, and I suspect that that is a reflection on the failure of our primary and secondary education systems (rated worst in the world for science recently).
Yesterday at 11:45 · Like

Roland http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cape_Town#Demographics
EN.WIKIPEDIA.ORG
Yesterday at 11:59 · Like

Roland On the face of it, UCT has had extraordinary success in racial (yuck!) transformation in a single generation.
Yesterday at 12:06 · Like

Roland Rosemary, I challenge you to read this again, and identify aspects of it with which you are not 100% in agreement.
https://www.facebook.com/RhodesMustFall/posts/1559394444336048
UCT RHODES MUST FALL MISSION STATEMENT
Yesterday at 12:40 · Like

Rosemary  I’m 100% behind it.
Yesterday at 13:37 · Like

Rosemary I’ll send you an essay I banged out the other day which mentions a few concrete examples of institutional racism if you PM me your email address. Further than that, I don’t think we’ll see eye to eye if you’re a dyed in the wool liberal with libertarian leanings, so I will tip my hat and bid you adieu.
Yesterday at 13:41 · Like

Roland Fair enough, I’ll as the same questions I posed to RMF:
1. Can you provide precise examples of ‘institutional racism‘ at UCT?
2. Can you provide precise examples of ‘white supremacy and privilege at our campus‘?
3. Can you provide precise examples of how ‘students, workers, academics and interested staff members [are] alienated in their own university‘?
Snap: rolandpj@gmail.com.
Yesterday at 13:41 · Like

Roland And before you bid me adieu, how would you most precisely describe your personal philosophy of society?
Yesterday at 13:42 · Like

Roland Note that I have actually been more productive than simply labeling myself – I have provided data and interpretation that you are welcome to respond to. If you simply can’t or won’t, based on my self-characterisation then fine – but that is a little hypocritical coming from someone who, just above, referenced Pitthouse quoting Fanon motivating for a new dialogue to establish a new philosophy.
Yesterday at 13:47 · Edited · Like

Roland What are you pro? It’s so easy to be against stuff.
Yesterday at 13:47 · Like

Rosemary I don’t have a word to describe my political orientation, other than a general suspicion of those in power, and how they got to be there.
Yesterday at 13:48 · Like

Roland We have something in common
Yesterday at 13:48 · Like

Rosemary I’m pro the destruction of hierarchies and inequality.
Yesterday at 13:49 · Like

Roland Hmm, anarchist, unless you have a cogent vision for a replacement. I agree, somewhat, in principle. Go well.
Yesterday at 13:51 · Like

Rosemary Not an anarchist because I believe in the rule of God… although not a manmade conception of God.
Yesterday at 13:53 · Edited · Like

Roland Surely not a European God? Just messing with you. As I said, I am more of an agnostic buddhist. I have very little faith (ha!) in societies built on religious law.
Yesterday at 13:55 · Like

Rosemary “Not a manmade conception of God” indicates my lack of faith in human interpretations of God, I thought… so I’m hardly advocating religious rule. Sorry, as I said, my beliefs don’t fit boxes.
Yesterday at 14:41 · Edited · Like

Image: Francesco Nassimbeni

Image: Francesco Nassimbeni

Roland Ok, I’m off to the Burn to take maximum advantage of my elite whitey privilege. I leave tertiary academic libertarianism in your capable hands
Yesterday at 15:15 · Like

Roland From a non-anarchist person of colour: “UCT students, direct benefactors of what Cecil Rhodes made possible, have clamored to remove his statue. Now that its gone, and with it an important, though controversial, aspect of its history.. what now?
Where a distinct statue once stood, now stands nothing. Very symbolic of that UTC Azania stands for.. nothing. Its one thing to know what you’re against.. its quite another to know what you are for. All this energy and vigor spent on a piece of stone could have been channeled to create real change. Like instead of focusing on perceived racism of the last century, the students could have protested the real and ugly racism taking place today across South Africa as people are killed in xenophobic attacks. But its always easier to deface and destroy something that can’t defend itself than to spend the blood, sweat and toil to build something better.
I love all the people of South Africa and say this out of love. You can never build yourself up, but putting someone else down..specially when that someone has been dead for a long time.”

What are you for?
Yesterday at 19:28 · Like

Rosemary This is what I am for. The statue affair has catalysed discussions like this one last night which should have been happening in earnest years ago: https://youtu.be/RCkXeMaaSwU
UCT Panel Discussion: Decolonizing the University
Charting a path forward for anti-sexist and anti-racist scholarship and activism. This discussion was hosted by the Van Zyl Slabbert Visiting Chair, the Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and UCT’s SRC and moderated by Prof. Xolela Mangcu on Thursday 23 April 2015.
22 hrs · Like · Remove Preview

Rosemary Listen at 26 minutes to Pumla Gqola. This is the most constructive thing that has happened to UCT in years. I’m really out now. I have nothing further to say on the matter.
22 hrs · Edited · Like

Roland Rose, you have such a narrow perspective. Maths is maths. Engineering is engineering. Medicine is medicine – black people’s bodies look the same to pathologists as white bodies.

If you want to transform your own faculty, then do so, and kudo’s to you. Don’t presume that you speak for the more important pursuits.

As you said, once you are out of varsity, you will find a useful pursuit.

But, society needs scientists – when last did we have 24/7 power to write on FB?

We can do african pottery and weaving together, and even believe it;s important, but in the end, you won’t have electricity to your house, you won’t have water in your taps, you won’t have roads to drive on, you won’t have ‘colonial’ society.

I get that you are a lesbian feminist, just like my mom. But you are being used. Silly girl.
17 hrs · Like

Roland She got to the crux at about 29:00 and then walked away!
17 hrs · Like

Roland Cecil John Rhodes was more gay than straight, for god’s sake.
17 hrs · Like

Roland  33:31 “We are supposed to decolonise gender” – ha ha, “decolonisation” has become the void term for any new personal struggle.
17 hrs · Like

Image: Francesco Nassimbeni

Image: Francesco Nassimbeni

Roland Does anyone in south africa actually know what colonialism is? Apartheid was not colonialsism – the afrikaners had no european master.
17 hrs · Like

Roland Seriously, in Zulu culture, lesbianism is just not cool. Transgender is just not cool. As for you, Rose, just a litany of self-hurt, which, in any non-colonial society would have been a lot more difficult to you all than in learned european society.
16 hrs · Edited · Like

Roland 47:37: “capitalism, patriarchy and racism”. No, that online video is only available, due to technology that your brothers and sisters are learning in the science faculty.
16 hrs · Like

Roland Stop masturbating, Rose.
16 hrs · Like

Roland What the fuck does ‘intersectional‘ actually mean?
16 hrs · Like

Roland Paterson-Jones Sorry, university is not about wanking off about personal experience. It is about important learning. Not about obvious personal sexual proclivities. Seriously, go and wank off on your own.
16 hrs · Like

Roland University is about teaching the important knowledge that really holds our society together. Housing. Food. Water. Electricity. You fucking idiots in humanities will fuck it up for all of us, cos you really don’t get it.
16 hrs · Like

Roland How about you stop toppling statues and focus on maths and science education in primary school?
16 hrs · Like

Roland  And yes, I am angry now.
16 hrs · Like

Roland  You are an idiot, Rosemary, because you lack perspective.
16 hrs · Like

Roland  Patriarchy and the power struggle. Feminist bullshit. Colonialism and the power struggle. Black bullshit.
16 hrs · Like

Roland Rose, you are not old or experienced enough to understand.
16 hrs · Like

Roland  One day you will, or else you are going to be a very bitter old woman.
16 hrs · Like

Image: Francesco Nassimbeni

Image: Francesco Nassimbeni

Roland  I have six kids. Four of them are teenagers right now. Two of them are legal adults. One of them is studying science at UCT.

Seriously, you guys lack perspective. No matter what ideology you aspire to, no matter what gender or race you aspire to, no matter how much you support the underdog, however you see that in your own mind: You still want water in your taps. You still want electricity in your stove, lights, fridge. You still want a fridge to keep you food fresh. You still want a car to drive. You still want roads to drive on.

How does that all work? Could that, perhaps be colonial influence? European influence? Good science?

Fucking idiots, sorry.

What is your counter-proposal? ‘Intersectionality’? ‘Decolonialism’? ‘Africanism’?
16 hrs · Edited · Like

Roland  Rose, you said you wouldn’t be a lecturer, because you were not worthy. But can you take that all the way and be a subsistence farmer? In the true sense of the word. No european technology at all.
15 hrs · Edited · Like

Roland  Don’t pretend you are doing society a favour, Rose. Have the courage of your own (lack of) convictions or fuck off. Seriously. Go find how useful you are to society as a white post-colonial feminist intellectual. Respond when you have grown up a bit, perhaps in 5 years?
13 hrs · Like

Rosemary You’re trolling and I don’t appreciate it, Roland. Turning off my notifications now. I would suggest you go somewhere else to rave to yourself about someone you don’t even know, and events you are very far removed from. Sorry Anne for this mess on your wall.
12 hrs · Like

SCARED-HECK-NO-FACE-AFRAIDRoland Rose, this is not sexist or racist. You are an idiot. Why? You have no idea how little you know. Like, when you turn the kettle on, what actually happens? When you climb into your car and turn the key, what happens?

You and your friends are dangerous because you make the arrogant assumption that your knowledge is more valuable than that of others. It’s going to be a hard hard lesson for you. Good luck.
12 hrs · Like

Rosemary  Don’t patronise me. Nobody is trying to throw out infrastructure and western knowledge. They’re trying to reframe the curriculum and restore the balance. Get a grip on yourself, and leave me alone.
12 hrs · Like

Roland  In case I haven’t beeñ.clear. Thànk you, but please don’t decolonize my faculty. Please don’t decolonize my children’s faculties. I believe that will destroy their education.

By all means decolonize your own studies but don’t be so arrogant as to assume you are doing any more than that.

I will leave you alone just as soon as you stop jeapardising my and my children’s future in our country?

Let’s touch base in 5 years. I predict you will have emigrated to europe.
10 hrs · Edited · Like

Roland I am not trolling. You posted the video. It was drivel. You are trying to change my world. I have a right to respond, and particularly a right to be angry. Anne has the right to remove my contributions, and some of them are admittedly personal. Just like the chairperson in your posted video personally buttering up the young feminist you so admire.

Tough, I know, but I think it needs to be heard lest we descend into the same empirical mess that is the rest of (actually) post colonial africa. Hell, even Anne has found a better life in europe.
10 hrs · Like

Image: Francesco Nassimbeni

Image: Francesco Nassimbeni

Roland I think what worries me most is the supremacist irrationality of you, Rosemary, and RMF.

We are right so we don’t even have to engage in dialogue. We don’t know what we want but in the mean time we are going to tear down what we have.

Welcome back to the dark ages.
6 hrs · Like

Anne Roland Paterson-Jones and Rosemary Lombard firstly let me say that I love you both and you both have extraordinary minds. Debate is great but Roland, please do not be rude to my old friend and family member. She has had her own in depth journey to where she is today. She is kind, thoughtful and highly intelligent and is entitled to her opinion. She is not the only proponent for what is happening today. I agree that we would be nowhere in terms of infrastructure and medicine without European science. I think it is diabolical how people are behaving in this revolution. It is my wish that we and society are civil and maintain the intellectual debate and energy to move forward without resorting to insults, damage and violence. I miss South Africa greatly and look forward to returning with better financial footing thanks to the relative strength of the Euro. Roland, I share your frustrations at having your voice removed from the RMF page. I agree with your debates, but please continue to deliver them in a manner that is respectful. I respect Rosemary’s opinion and believe that brave women like her might help us find a way forward in crazy times like this. Rosemary and Roland, be kind to yourselves and each other you beautiful people.
6 hrs · Like · 2

Roland Mea culpa. Apologies.
4 hrs · Like · 1

*not her real name

uct panel discussion – decolonising the university

Charting a path forward for anti-sexist and anti-racist scholarship and activism. This discussion was hosted by the Van Zyl Slabbert Visiting Chair, the Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and the University of Cape Town’s SRC and moderated by Prof Xolela Mangcu on Thursday 23 April 2015.

“The fact that we are able to have this conversation in South Africa as though it is new, as though these issues have never been thought of before, is precisely because of our inability to engage, and to read…In a staggering display of willful ignorance, we continue to have conversations that have been had, that have been taken in remarkable directions, as though we have just discovered them.” – Pumla Gqola (at 0:26:00)

ameera conrad – on exhaustion over a lack of understanding

ameeraI am tired
God Almighty, I am tired
of being told that we need to move on,
that we need to forget,
that we need to put the past behind us,
that Apartheid is over.

They don’t understand.
We never will.
Our bodies are monuments of centuries of torture,
trauma
terror
these exist in us
we live it every day.
We built this country
slaves
whips at our backs –
The Man holding the whip did not build –
we built.

Apartheid is not over.
No magic TRC wand can bippity-boppity-boo! it away.
Our glass carriage is still a pumpkin,
rotting,
pulled by rats.
A polite revolution over tea and crumpets, good Sir,
‘twas the order of the day.

When could we mourn?
When could we cry?
When could we scream
for our loved ones lost
our chances trampled on?

Please Mastah Baas Meneer,
Asseblief,
Gee my ‘n kans om te huil
vir my ma
en my pa
en my susters
en broers
gee my ‘n kans om te huil.

Let me stand up for myself
and for those who stood before me.
Let me march for myself
and for those who marched before me.
Let me call out AMANDLA
and raise my fist
and let me cry
after hundreds of years
let me cry.

— Ameera Conrad
4th Year
B.A. Theatre and Performance at UCT

Please visit Ameera’s blog, HERE.

UCT black academics: when they arrived!

A substantive account of what students are doing right now at UCT. Fiercely awesome.

briankamanzi

Foreword

Forgive me at this moment, it is difficult to not be romantic in my description of what I feel is History in the making. This story is dedicated to my friends and comrades who are making waves at the University of Cape Town on behalf of many students, on behalf of me, on behalf of our children to change the institutional climate from the restrictions it has been gripped with through it’s inception. This latest wave of energy takes its rightful place as one, among many, of the acts of resistance against the systemic forces that resist change and substantive “transformation” as voices take on a new interpretation of the never ending struggle for liberation.

Forgive me in my limitedness, as I am physically unable to recount to you all that happened but I hope you appreciate my account of what I remember.. along with the moments that, most…

View original post 1,412 more words

statement from students occupying uct’s bremner building aka azania house

BREMNER OCCUPATION STATEMENT

We, the Rhodes Must Fall movement, are occupying the Bremner building with the intention to 1) disrupt the normal processes of management and 2) force management to accept our demands. We have chosen to occupy the Bremner building, and the Archie Mafeje room specifically, because of its strategic and historical significance – it is the place where management carries out its activities, and these are precisely the activities we seek to subvert. In addition, the building is a historical site of protest – in 1968 UCT students opposed the university’s decision to rescind the professorship of one of the continent’s leading anthropologists, Archie Mafeje. We have chosen the Archie Mafeje boardroom to recognise his struggle against the very institutional racism we are fighting against.

We have claimed and transformed this space to begin the decolonisation of the university. We are implementing a programme of rigorous political education under the guidance of a group of black lecturers from UCT and other South African universities that interrogates and problematizes the neo-colonial narratives pertaining to Africa. This education forces us to reject these narratives and their normative nature because they re-inforce our displacement both geographically and existentially.

We have begun to question the entire neo-colonial situation, whether South Africa belongs to all those who live in it and whether it is us the people that are occupying this building or whether we are realising the fact that this building and its land always belonged to the people. This education has extended far beyond the falling of the statue and has reached the language of struggle. How do we organise, how do we mobilise and most importantly how do we get what we want. How do we resolve the tensions between Pan-Africanism and intersectionality, moreover how does that implicate our own movement. Management has told us that they are allowing us to stay in Bremner. This building that sits on the land of black people, this building that was constructed on the sweat and blood of black people. If UCT is not afraid at this point all we have to say is NANG’UMFAZI OMNYAMA MAX PRICE!

We are here because we are calling into question the legitimacy of the supposedly democratic process Dr Max Price has put in place to address the removal of the Rhodes statue.

It is infuriating that management is attempting to open up a process of debate through their plan of action. Alumni have been emailed and asked for input, and notice boards have been put up near the statue to allow for comment from the broader student body. This is unacceptable to the black (by this we mean all oppressed people of colour) students, workers and staff belonging to this movement. It is absurd that anyone besides those who experience the statue as a violent presence should have any say in whether the statue should stay or not. White students in particular cannot be consulted in such a process because they can never truly empathise with the profound violence exerted on the psyche of black students. Management is making clear through this process that they are not interested in alleviating black pain unless the move to do so is validated by white voices. Opening up the discussion to an alumni that is overwhelmingly white and male will only prejudice black people, and black women particularly, in the decision-making process. To refuse to explicitly acknowledge these skewed demographics is unacceptable. Our pain and anger is at the centre of why the statue is being questioned, so this pain and anger must be responded to in a way that only we can define.

Further, the ‘Have Your Say’ notice boards have only made UCT’s black community more vulnerable – UCT has crafted a space that allows students to be blatantly racist with impunity, at the expense of a safe space for black people. This shows that UCT either does not know the violence black people face here, or they truly have no interest in our protection. Finally, it is revealing that while black protestors are threatened with and are facing investigations, the racist backlash from white students has been met with silence by the university.

That the presence of Rhodes is seen as debatable shows that management does not understand the extent of the terrible violence inflicted against black people historically and presently. The push for dialogue around the statue reflects the disturbing normalisation of colonisation and white supremacy at UCT.

In his letter “From the VC’s Desk: Rhodes statue protests and transformation”, Dr Price states that there has never been such university-wide discussion on this issue. He does so without interrogating why this is the case. It is the fault of UCT management that discussion has been suppressed for so long. Black students have clearly not had any channels through which to express their pain within the university, and no genuine steps have been taken by UCT to provide such. It is telling that a student had to go to the lengths that Chumani did in order to garner the university’s attention on issues of black pain. The fact that management has clearly disregarded the experiences of black students, staff and workers for the last 21 years on this campus calls into question their legitimacy in dealing with the issue of removing the statue.

The illegitimate nature of this process is also illustrated by our walk-out last Monday in protest of the disingenuous Heritage, Signage and Symbolism seminar. After the walk-out, the remaining members of the seminar stopped the discussion to respect student protestors and our decision that any conversation on the statue can only happen on our terms. The fact that the Vice-Chancellor mentioned this seminar in his letter without contextualising it reveals that he is committed to upholding a process that is clearly to the detriment of black students.

We take issue with Dr Price’s reasoning that “it is a council decision”. Again, the only view relevant to the decision is that of black students, workers and staff, and we refuse to accept the trivialisation of this fact in the form of management prioritising white stakeholders. We are also fully aware that UCT senior management has taken unilateral decisions before with no delay – we refer here to the decisions taken on the admissions policy which was pushed through by senior management.

We stress that this movement is not simply about the removal of a statue, and removing the statue is only the first step towards the radical decolonisation of this university. The removal of the statue is the first condition of our campaign – from which point we will allow management to engage with us. We demand that Management accepts that there is no decision to make: this movement has decided that the statue must fall. We demand that Dr Price organises an emergency meeting of council this week Friday the 27th of March to discuss the processes involved in removing the statue from this campus. We will remain in Bremner building until we receive confirmation of this.