Tuesday, 17 April 2018

The IRTC at UCT: transparent restorative justice or a pre-planned April fool’s ‘whitewash’


Institutional reconciliation and transformation at the University of Cape Town: transparent restorative justice or a pre-planned April fool’s ‘whitewash’

Emeritus Prof. Tim Crowe – described by some ‘pained’ Fallists as “Jim Crow”, ‘known racist”, “eugenicist”, “apartheid activist” and “killer of black people”

Background

In 1950, before all South African and most ‘colonial’ universities worldwide, the University of Cape Town (UCT) defied the Apartheid government and ceased to be institutionally racist in principle. For the next three decades, unlike most other South African universities, UCT refused to collude with Apartheid oppressors to advance their aims, earning the name “Little Moscow on the Hill”. From 1980, the moment the opportunity arose without employing violence, it defied Apartheid openly in practice. During the last half of the 1990s, its leaders aggressively pursued non-racial transformation across the board.

Sadly, there was a decline in transformational momentum at the onset of the 21st Century. The key reasons for this were UCT’s initial failure to accelerate the adaptation of its academic strategy and institutional structures to foster the development of ALL members of its community; and the increased centralization of administrative control over matters academic. Evidence (as opposed to undocumented assertion) for this thesis in presented in, literally, dozens of pieces in my Blog Site [timguineacrowe.blogspot.co.za], especially Was/Is UCT an institutionally colonialist/sexist/racist institution? Parts 1 & 2. Many others [e.g. David Benatar, Jeremy Seekings, Jared Sacks, Eliza Galgut, Thomas Johnson, Michele Kuttel, William Daniels, William Gild, et al.] have independently, and for a range of reasons, provided additional supportive evidence and arguments – also with little or no rebuttal from the UCT Executive and/or Fallists.

Tragically, from late 2012, this decline became a collapse when ‘Transformer’ VC Dr Max  Price failed to decisively rebut and hold accountable staff (e.g. Imraan Coovadia and Xolela Mangcu [plus many pieces in the Cape Times and Sunday Independent]) who have decried transformation at UCT and defamed UCT and various members of its Community, including Nobel Laureate J.M. Coetzee.  The faeces literally ‘hit the fan’ in 2015 when Founding Finger-flicking Fallist Chumani Maxwele [see Chumani Maxwele: who is he … Parts 1&2 on my Blog Site] defaced the Rhodes Statue. This calculated vulgar act transformed a relatively peaceful and widespread protest movement into a ‘blitzkrieg’ of increasingly anti-‘white’-racist, violent and destructive acts that, by the end of 2016, led to the extended and complete shutdown of UCT, adversely affecting tens of thousands who form a “Silenced Majority” who just wanted to get about their business. This assault on academic freedom only ended with controversial November Agreement for “non-violence” between Price and radical, destructive, non-representative Fallists, one of whom had to be bailed out of jail for destructive acts. Two key provisions of this ‘Agreement’ were the conditional amnesty of lawbreaking Fallists (including one Agreement ‘negotiator/signatory’) and establishment of an Institutional Reconciliation and Transformation Commission (IRTC). The IRTC’s primary tasks (determined by its Steering Committee – IRTC-SC) are to make recommendations that deal transparently with clemency/amnesty for Fallist law-breakers, address demands for the elimination of fees, reduce security on campus and, fundamentally, to “decolonize” UCT.


Progress to date
Not much. The IRTC-SC is comprised of 14 “Constituencies”, presumably agreed upon by Price and radical Fallists, supposed to represent (and consult with/report to) the broad UCT Community. I (and many others I’ve contacted) have never been consulted by or reported to by either of the two representatives of the Alumni Constituency. One representative appears to have been physically present at only one SC meeting. Their major contribution to proceedings was the representative-drafted ALUMNI CONSTITUENT’S PROPOSED FRAMEWORK. This document (endorsed by only about 60 putative alumni) was never discussed, let alone debated, by alumni, or at an IRTC-SC meeting. It was circulated widely to the UCT Community and IRT Commissioners, despite VC Price’s opposition.
This document was only mentioned at the very end of the IRTC-SC Workshop after many attendees had left. It asserts that there is “recurring invisible violence and racism perpetrated by individuals” “at UCT since 1829” that “triggered” the students’ “protest” that “led to criminal charges”. It also alleges multiple and simultaneous “othering’ of black, LGBTIQA, poor students, and staff”; and “internalised superiority and inferiority”; “epistemic violence”, amongst other exclusionary practices that marginalized black scholars and scholarship. Taking this cultural violence as a given, it justifies and legitimises “other forms” of overt “counter-violence” by protesters. It talks of “black people who left UCT and current staff who experience institutional racism, saying that their lived experiences are written off as ‘anecdotes that cannot inform policy’ and/or that are not worthy of ‘real’ attention”.  “These manifestations have a cumulative effect and result in black people being pathologised or criminalised for expressing justified anger and or protests.”
In short, it argues for unconditional amnesty for lawbreaking Fallists in the “spirit” of “expansive indigenous, religious, trans-historical restorative justice”.

The document was not accompanied by supporting testimony or written evidence.

Price objected to its inclusion because to do so was “not honest”.  It held “different status” and would be perceived to have the “stamp of approval” by the IRTC-SC. 
Alumni Representative and UCT Convocation President Lorna Houston described Price’s objections as “classic UCT behaviour” that is “actually outrageous”. For her, UCT’s racist past is “still present”.
SC Council Representative Debbie Budlender disagreed with Price and motioned for “attaching” the document.  Another unidentified ‘black’ attendee described it as a document “from black alumni”. 
Budlender’s motion was supported by the few still present, and it was included among the “relevant documents” distributed by UCT to its Community and IRT Commissioners.
Furthermore, the SC has even failed to agree on what is “unacceptable” behaviour by protestors and disagreed on what constitutes “clemency” vs “amnesty”. Indeed, many of the meetings have been dominated by inter-constituency bickering and insults, and representatives of the SRC, Shackville and Black Academic Caucus failed to attend the meeting of a sub-committee set up to consolidate terms of reference for IRT Commissioners.
In the end, five eminent persons were appointed as IRT Commissioners. It is rumoured that some were identified as early as November 2016.
                                                                             
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           The IRTC’s Recommendation on Amnesty
The IRTC’s first task was to consider applications relating to the status of disciplinary actions against seven students concerning their participation in the Shackville protests in February 2016 and subsequent events.  They were required to make written submissions and to appear at a hearing before the IRTC in order to make oral submissions and to respond to questions. The Commission held hearings at the UCT on 27-28 March 2018. Sadly, contrary to the undertaking by the IRTC-SC, all hearings were confidential and actions by, and on, the applicants remain outside of the public domain. How can one believe the Fallist victims if they refuse to chronicle their “lived experience” and expose racists and racist practices and institutional structures. My lived experience is available on my Blog Site.

The IRTC has now released (on April 1, 2018) its first recommendation to the IRTC-SC which, in a nutshell, is that all seven applicants be granted full amnesty and, where applicable, be allowed to graduate.  This makes it virtually impossible for ALL UCT’s Constituencies to achieve greater understanding, reconciliation and transformation, let alone gain a sense of justice, however defined.

In its recommendation, the IRTC indicated that it was “satisfied that the incidents were acts associated with their objective of raising awareness of the [students’] dissatisfaction” “with the institutional culture at UCT which they perceived to be racist”. It also was “satisfied that the applicants have made a full disclosure of all relevant facts and that individually they have acknowledged and taken responsibility for their actions and the incidents and events that unfolded between 2015 and 2017 at the University”.  They mention the students’ “pain and suffering”, and “the loss of academic years and opportunities through their expulsions, rustications and exclusions from the University, as well as the financial loss incurred”. Finally, the Commission “believes that the students are fully aware of the consequences of their actions and have fully paid their dues”.

This recommendation and clarification may satisfy Fallists and their supporters, but does little to satisfy thousands of staff, students, parents and alumni who do NOT perceive post-apartheid UCT as populated by racists whose ‘privilege’ or ‘superiority’ is underpinned by institutionally racist structures. How does repeated forcing of people to abandon their lecture theatres or offices “raise awareness”? How does shouting “now it's time for all whites to go" or “be killed" relieve Fallist pain? How does smearing kitchens, offices and works or art with human excrement demonstrate a person’s good and decent character? Are the amnestied allow to continue to insult and assault defenceless women? Why have the chosen few not been required (according to the spirit and letter of restorative justice) to apologize to and make peace with those they intimidated? Is there some ironclad guarantee that the amnestied will be held fully accountable for any new illegal acts? What will happen to non-protesters who may counter-insult Fallists when they are defamed?
In short, is this granting of amnesty also a license to re-offend, as it has been in the past, or more worryingly, one for neoFallists to emulate their amnestied heroes?

The answer is YES!

One 29 March, the day after the Fallists were amnestied by the IRTC, neo-Fallists invaded the kitchens of Graça Machel, Kopano, Leo Marquard and Tugwell residences and rendered them unusable by covering essential surfaces with human waste. At the April graduation Maxwele made a mockery of the proceedings. Once again, he insulted Price personally, despite the fact that the VC had made concessions that allowed him to graduate.

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