UCT needs a zero-tolerance approach to crimen injuria in general and racist utterances in particular

06 October 2018 | Opinion Emeritus Professor Tim Crowe. Read time 6 min.

The views and opinions expressed here are solely those of the individual authors in their private capacity; they do not represent or reflect the views, opinions or policies of the University of Cape Town or the Communication and Marketing Department.

UCT academic Kelly Phelps has recently published a piece in The Conversation that calls for a “much smarter, zero tolerance approach” to crimen injuria in general and racist utterances in particular.

I would like to report on incidents of crimen injuria committed at Annual General Meetings (AGMs) of the UCT Convocation held on 15 December 2016 and the reconvened meeting held on 28 February 2017 and the subsequent meeting held on 14 December 2017 and hear a response on this from the author, the UCT Council and UCT Executive.

At the meeting held in December 2017, I suggested amendments to the minutes of the AGM of 15 December 2016 and the reconvened meeting held on February 2017.

Extracted from draft minutes by Convocation Secretary and UCT Registrar Royston Pillay for the Annual General Meeting of Convocation held in Kramer Law Building LT1 on Thursday 14 December 2017

 “The meeting considered the minutes of the AGM, held on 15 December 2016.

Professor Crowe suggested several corrections to the minutes: These included p 2, Third paragraph, first sentence: “At this point a group of protestors entered invaded the venue add: disrupted proceedings employing profanity and lewd behaviour, and demanded to address the house p2, third paragraph, fourth line from the bottom at the end of the sentence, add new sentences as follows: “Despite this decision, invading protesters did not protest silently. Their heckling (including defamatory comments) inhibited legitimate members of the convocation from engaging effectively.”

In respect of the minutes of the reconvened meeting, held on 28 February 2017, Professor Crowe proposed the following amendment:

p 2. Item 2; line number 1: “Mr Simon Rakei addressed the convocation. He made the following points, some of which included provocative defamatory comments about UCT and members of the convocation.

Four members spoke out against the proposed amendments. They argued that:

  • Words like defamatory and lewd were emotive words that were based on perception and experienced by different people in different ways;
  • The minutes should not be recorded in a way that would cause further provocation;
  • The statements made by the student were made by him and should not be amended to reflect Professor Crowe’s views;
  • The proposed amendments were personal views reflecting the way in which Professor Crowe experienced the meeting. Every person experienced the meeting in different ways;
  • The proposed amendments sought to introduce an evaluation of what a speaker said and which in Professor Crowe’s view was out of order.”

[During the course of this ‘speaking out’, from the audience, Fallist Brian Kamanzi referred to me repeatedly as “Jim Crow”.]

“When a member Mr Hugh Amoore called on the President to request the person who had referred to Professor Tim Crowe as “Jim Crow” to withdraw and apologise. The President, Ms Lorna Houston  [who was sitting next to Secretary Pillay], responded that she did not hear any person referring to calling Professor Tim Crowe as Jim Crow to which Mr Kamanzi responded that he had referred to Professor Crowe as Jim Crow. Mr Amoore put it to the President that it was incumbent upon her, as the presiding officer, to protect the dignity of each member of Convocation. Mr Kamanzi asked that the record reflect that he had used the term but that it should be seen in the context of what else was said. He asked that it be recorded that Professor Crowe had used aggressive language in e-mails to Mr Simon Rakei.” [Kamanzi presented no evidence of aggressive e-mails.]

“Professor Crowe then proceeded to motivate his suggested amendments, giving examples from both meetings of what he thought were defamatory and provocative statements and lewd behaviour.”

[Mr Pillay makes no mention of these “examples”. Some are obvious in a video   https://photos.app.goo.gl/cH3CASCKKsCVFp533 which records 14 minutes of 1916 meeting. Some “examples” captured by the video include: demands by an invader “There will be no vote of no confidence in Max Price!” “This is a right-wing attack!” “This is an assault on black people.”; a female invader at centre stage, Khanyisa Ntombi, stripping naked to the waist; soon after President Pityana ruled “There’s been a disruption by the students who will conduct a silent protest.” when an old member of the convocation objects, two invaders heckle him, one shouting “Get the f**k out!”; another invader, Simon Rakei shouted “Whatever the outcome of the vote, the protest will continue.”; a white-bloused-long-braided-haired woman invader shouted “Shut the F**k up you white man.” to an old member of the Convocation, followed by repeated “F**k you” and “Shut the F**k up”.  “I’m not talking to you.”  “Tell him [the Convocation member] to “leave”. ; the semi-nude invader shouted: “This place is full of bloody white men afraid of black breasts.”

Subsequent to that, when I attempted to present my motion to the 1916 meeting, I was labelled variously: “racist”, “Jim Crow

http://black-face.com/jim-crow.htm, “apartheid activist” and “killer of black people” by the female infiltrator(?) in the audience who, at 05 36 of the video, shouted “Get the f**k out!” at a member of the Convocation. When (as required) the seconder of my motion (Dr Anna Crowe) attempted to add her perspective on my motion, she was also harassed repeatedly using words such as “bitch”. Adv Geoff Budlender followed, opposing my motion because he erroneously maintained that it called for the removal of Price et al. He was similarly harassed by clemency-violating Chumani Maxwele



(who again referred to me a “known racist”). When academic Cathy Powell from the Law Faculty attempted to speak about the failure of the executive to consult staff during negotiations with the protesters, she was mocked openly, with mimed clown-tears and cat-calling, and shouted down by ‘silent’ invaders/infiltrators with: “Shut up you bitch”. Next, when Gwen Ngwenya (former UCT SRC President and current Member of parliament) attempted to speak on her amendments to my motion, she was continuously interrupted by Maxwele and other invaders. Indeed, subsequently, Ngwenya was subjected to ‘hate speech’ by Fallists and referred to as a “sell out” and “house ni**er”.  At the reconvened meeting I February 2017, although he was “cautioned against engagement in acts of provocation” by convocation President Pityana, in his Statement by Students, Fallist Simon Rakei thrice referred to me as “Jim Crow”.]

“On a point of order, Professor Pityana pointed out that the matter at hand was the consideration of the minutes within which there was a point of order, which suspended the substantive discussion of the minutes. The matter that was brought to discussion was the reference to Professor Crowe in derogatory terms. The invitation to the Chair was to request the speaker to withdraw and apologise. He noted that the speaker had indicated that he would not withdraw his statements and suggested that it was now up the Chair, or the house, to resolve the matter, whereafter the house should conclude discussions of the minutes.

A member of the convocation argued that the point of order had been concluded as the Chair had given the speaker a platform to withdraw his statements, which he declined to do and suggested that the meeting proceed with its business.

The Chair put it to the meeting that Professor Crowe had proposed his suggested amendments; that members at the meeting had argued against the proposed amendments; and that Professor Crowe had replied.

Ms [Dianna] Yach [member of UCT Council and Chair of the UCT Alumni Advisory Board] moved that the minutes of the meetings held on 14 December 2016 and 28 February 2017 be adopted.”

In short, at AGMs of the UCT Convocation attended by VC Max Price and DVC Loretta Ferris, invading Fallists and their supporters committed crimen injuria and the UCT Council and Executive took no action against the perpetrators.

Will this ‘policy’ continue?

Emeritus Professor Tim Crowe

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Please view the republishing articles page for more information.