Statement on the Constitution and lawful protest

25 Feb 2016
25 Feb 2016

We live in a constitutional democracy, the achievement of centuries of struggle and sacrifice by countless South Africans, especially Black South Africans. Our Constitution is based, above all, on the achievement of equality, dignity and freedom for all, and government under law. We are particularly privileged to enjoy the right of free expression, which does not include advocacy of hatred based on race, ethnicity, gender or religion (section 15), and the right, peacefully and unarmed, to assemble, to demonstrate, to picket and to present petitions (section 17). We unreservedly endorse the values of the Constitution, and these rights.

We also recognise the profound and devastating effects of past practices of exploitation based primarily on race and class, and stress the urgency of our commitment to address them, within the university and beyond.

We further acknowledge that many of the concerns highlighted by the student movements over the last year are of national significance, particularly the issues relating to designated groups having access to opportunities to study and work at institutions of higher learning and to thrive successfully at those institutions. However, we do not condone unlawful, violent and morally reprehensible modes of protest that among others, manifest in racist speak and action, as well as acts of violence against persons and property.   Members of this faculty have as recently as October condemned the use of excessive force by the SAPS, and this view still holds.

Consistent with that stance, we therefore condemn, without qualification, the following acts, performed on the university’s campuses during the past two weeks:

1.    The petrol-bombing and destruction of the Vice-Chancellor’s office.  
2.    The destruction by stoning and burning of vehicles on the campus.
3.    The removal of artworks and memorial plaques from various University buildings and their destruction by burning.
4.    The invasion of Smuts and Fuller Halls and the instruction, issued during the invasion, that “white” students [some reports stated “coloured” and Indian students too] should leave the dining halls as they were not welcome there.
5.    The wearing of a T-shirt bearing the slogan “Kill All Whites” in a university dining hall.  

Our condemnation of these acts does not entail our condemnation of the aims that they were intended to achieve. However, those aims, even in so far as meritorious, do not – indeed cannot – justify these acts.

Nor does our condemnation of these acts entail that we reject robust, even temporarily disruptive, protest as a legitimate form of political expression. However, free expression has its limits. And those limits were exceeded by these acts.

In so far as the acts listed are criminal, we support the pressing of charges against, and the prosecution of, the perpetrators and the institution of disciplinary proceedings against any University student who performed or participated in these acts, or incited or otherwise helped others to perform them.

We are especially outraged by the petrol-bombing of the Vice Chancellor's office. To the extent that this was an attack on the Vice Chancellor in his official capacity, we take it to be an attack on every one of us. To the extent that the effects of the attack will be personally felt by the Vice Chancellor, both in the loss of his private possessions and documents, and in the sense of personal violation that such attack must engender, we would like to express to him our sympathy and concern.
We would like to express our continued confidence in and support of the Vice-Chancellor and his leadership team, and acknowledge the immense patience and considerable effort they have put into resolving the current crisis.  
Pauline Alexander
Waheeda Amien
Penelope Andrews
Elaine Atkins
Jaco Barnard-Naude
Thomas Bennett
Julie Berg
Graham Bradfield
Richard Bradstreet
Richard Calland
Sashni Chetty
Danwood Chirwa
Debbie Collier
Liesel Collins
Hugh Corder
Donnaleen Coue
Pierre de Vos
Wouter de Vos
Anton Fagan
Jane Franco
Jan Glazewski
Lesley Greenbaum
Tracy Gutuza
Jenny Hall
Johann Hattingh
Chuma Himonga
Andrew Hutchison
Dale Hutchison
Evance Kalula
Sadiq Keraan
Julian Kinderlerer
Lauren Kohn
Thalia Kruger
Micha Lau
James Leach
Karin Lehmann
Rochelle le Roux
Salona Lutchman
Salvatore Mancuso
Hanri Mostert
Tjakie Naude
Caroline Ncube
Ada Ordor
Fatima Osman
Mohamed Paleker
Alexander Paterson
Kelly Phelps
Anne Pope
Cathleen Powell
Alistair Price
Alan Rycroft
PJ Schwikkard
Tobias Schonwetter
Helen Scott
Mark Shaw
Clifford Shearing
Sufinnah Singlee
Helena Stoop
Lee Ann Tong
Elrena Van Der Spuy
Margareet Visser
Irena Wasserfall
Jean Wilke
Hannah Woolaver
Jacqueline Yeats