Transformation and “Hitler committed no crime” – UCT is under fire

UCT, fountain, university

The academic year is yet to properly begin but the University of Cape Town (UCT) is embroiled in controversy. 

Hitler comments

A lecturer at the University of Cape Town has come under severe criticism for comments he made during a pre-recorded political studies lecture. Lwazi Lushaba, a lecturer in the political studies department said: “Hitler committed no crime. All Hitler did was to do to white people what white people had normally reserved for black people. We must see the Holocaust in exactly the same light as we see the massacre of the Herero people. We must not privilege one massacre over another.” Lushaba has shared the lecture with The Daily Vox. The full video can be found here. The context of Lushaba’s comments were around a discussion on the limitations of the political studies discipline. 

Read more: Student groups condemn goose-step, Hitler salute at Wits 

UCT spokesperson Elijah Moholola said the university was investigating the matter. “We are verifying all the facts. In the meantime, the university is clear that all brutalities of genocide constitute both formal crimes against humanity and ongoing sources of pain. We distance ourselves very strongly from any other view.” 

The Democratic Alliance has said they will be lodging a complaint against Lushaba, with the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) for his comments. 

The Cape SAJBD (South African Jewish Board of Deputies) said they find Lushaba’s comments close to Shoah deplorable and deeply saddening. Yom HaShoah is the Holocaust Remembrance Day. The Cape SAJBD Antisemitism & Legal subcommittee is currently investigating the matter, and are also willing to meet with Dr Lushaba who is yet to issue an apology.

In a statement  released earlier today, the Cape SAJBD says the bounds of academic freedom and freedom of expression must not undermine building a united and democratic South Africa based on mutual respect, understanding and human dignity. “Universities help shape the minds of the future leaders of our country. The personal views shared by Dr Lushaba were received as hateful and deeply offensive and should not be part of an academic syllabus of a public university, nor be disseminated as such,” said their statement.

Read more: Supporting Hitler to protest white racism is “dangerous territory” – Steven Friedman

Transformation officer

These comments made Lushaba come days after British historical archaeologist and Emeritus Professor Martin Hall was appointed as the acting deputy vice-chancellor (DVC) for transformation at UCT. 

Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng, UCT vice-chancellor, said in a statement that Professor Loretta Feris had indicated that she will not be seeking a second term as deputy DVC for Transformation. In the same statement, Phakeng confirmed that the council had approved the appointment of Hall as the acting DVC. Hall started in his role from April 1. 

UCT’s Black Academic Caucus (BAC) was just one of the organisations that criticised Hall’s appointment. It said Hall’s appointment is at odds with the university’s own policy on employment equity. “The BAC reiterates its rejection of the reliance on white retirees being roped in to act in vacant (senior) positions,” the statement said. 

Following Hall’s appointment, UCT’s president of convocation Eddy Maloka announced that he would be resigning. He said he cannot continue to be a part of a team that does not consensus amongst themselves on the basics of transformation. 

Reporting by Ling Shepherd and Fatima Moosa.

Featured image via Flickr