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SCA rules on UCT’s “Shackville Five”

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In other UCT news, a security guard is in hospital in serious condition

Photo of protesters and paintings on UCT
Alex Hotz, Zola Shokane and two other protesters in animated discussion the night paintings were burnt at UCT. In court papers Hotz said she had a conversation with other protesters “about the wisdom of burning the art.” Photo: Ashleigh Furlong
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The appeal against an interdict that prevented five Shackville protesters from entering the University of Cape Town (UCT) property, has been dismissed but the conditions of the interdict have been altered so that the five are now allowed onto campus.

The five, Alex Hotz, Masixole Mlandu, Chumani Maxwele, Slovo Magida and Zola Shokane, who took the matter to the Supreme Court of Appeal, are now only interdicted and restrained from erecting any unauthorised structures on UCT’s premises, destroying, damaging or defacing any of the UCT’s premised and participating in, or inciting others to participate in, unlawful conduct or protest at UCT.

Most of the High Court costs still need to be paid by the five but each party is ordered to pay their own costs for the Supreme Court of Appeal.

In Judge Malcolm Wallis’s judgement he said that the order granted by the High Court infringed on the protesters’ freedom of movement and freedom of association

“The core problem with the order, as I see it, was that it effectively excluded the appellants from the university campus, which is, as I have pointed out, traversed by public roads and constitutes a public space”.

He said that Hotz, Mlandu and Shokane all acknowledged that they were participants in the Shackville protest and that they were students at UCT. At the time of the protests neither Maxwele nor Magida were registered at the university, but Maxwele admitted to being involved in the protest.

Describing the burning of artworks that occurred, Wallis said that “25 works of art having a value of nearly R700 000 were destroyed”.

“There was no apparent pattern to the removal and burning of portraits, paintings and photographs. Some were by well-known artists were portraits of figures involved in the university in years gone by. Others were paintings by contemporary South African artists.”

He said that given the “vehemence with which the appellants expressed their complaints against the university and its management it was probable that they would have continued their protest and the actions related to it if able to do so”.

Wallis stated that the university was indeed entitled to a final interdict but that in his view they were not entitled to an order in the broad terms that they were granted.

In the court papers Hotz stated, “‘I did not take part in any burning of the art. I was in the vicinity along with many other students having a conversation about the wisdom of burning the art. I had grave reservations about this form of protest but [was] in no position to prevent it.”

But the judge stated that two photographs “belied this explanation”. He stated that it was “difficult to reconcile these photographs, and the fact that the petrol can was brought to campus in her car, with her non-participation in or disavowal of the destruction of the art works.”

The judgement comes as protest action has been escalating at UCT. Yesterday, student protests on the campus led to the attack of two security guards. A TimesLive video shows how one security guard is beaten up by protesters and the university has stated that another guard had a rock dropped on his head.

“It is reported that he is in hospital in a serious condition. The SAPS are investigating charges of assault with the intention of doing grievous bodily harm,” said Vice-Chancellor Max Price in a statement.

Following yesterday’s events, the university has increased the presence of private security, SAPS and public order police on the campus.

In the statement, Price also said that the observed and recorded incidents of excessive force, abuse or unprovoked harassment by security officers was condemned by the university. He added that the university would investigate these cases.

He explained that negotiations with the SRC candidates had resumed yesterday but that the students’ negotiating team needed to secure a mandate from their plenary and had not gotten back to university management by midnight.

“One can only presume that the plenary was unresolved,” he stated.

Meanwhile, the Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences has released a statement saying that they have decided to suspend teaching and exams for first to third years, and instead conduct a mini-semester in January when there will be teaching and exams.

This comes following the faculty’s attempt to continue face-to-face classes, which are essential to teaching and learning in the faculty, were continuously disrupted. Students in first to third year are allowed to return home.

Final year students in the department of Health and Rehabilitation studies and fourth to sixth year MBChB students will complete their studies this year.

In a statement released on Thursday afternoon, the UCT Students’ Representative Council called for the suspension of the academic year. “A mini semester should take place in January 2017 with the aim of completing the curriculum and assessments,” the statement said. 

This article was updated with new information after publication.

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Letters

Dear Editor

My heart goes out to the security officer in serious condition after a heavy object was dropped onto his head by protesters, as well as another security officer viciously beaten with a metal rod and his own baton by other individuals. I wish them speedy recoveries, and hope/trust that their employer will provide every possible support for them.

That said, responsibility for these criminal and despicable assaults (not to mention innumerable other instances of criminal violence, intimidation and arson) lies squarely at the feet of both student "activists" who incite these predictable acts, and with Dr Price, who continues to this day to "engage" with the "leaders" of the revolt. These "leaders" do not have any mandate (they are SRC candidates, not members) that is discernible, and at least one of them is under indictment for public violence, assault and intimidation. Even more galling, Dr Price supported Masixole Mlangu's release on bail solely on the basis of his being one of the "negotiators" with UCT.

Remaining "engaged" with those who have, inter alia, personally assaulted Dr. Price, who have disrespected on more than one occasion the office of the Vice Chancellor, who have violated (Mlangu) their own agreement not to interfere with essential services at UCT, is not only disingenuous, but sets a dangerous precedent.