Last week we spoke to Wits Â University students who expressed, if not solidarity with formerÂ Students Representative Council (SRC) president Mcebo Dlamini, then definite disapproval of vice chancellor Adam Habibâ€™s decision to remove him. In light of aÂ recent protest earlierÂ calling for Dlamini’s reinstatement, MUHAMMED ISMAIL BULBULIA spoke to more Wits students toÂ get a broader perspective.Â
Katleho Mchalla, thirdÂ year BA,Â 20, Little Falls
I can sum this up with a one-liner: if the decision was perfectly
constitutional, then I have no problem with it. If Mceboâ€™s Hitler
comments had any role to play in Habibâ€™s decision, then I donâ€™t see
what the problem is: his comments were deplorable, and given the
position that he holds he should have been a lot more responsible.
Naturally, any praise of Hitler is going to bring an individual and
the institution that individual represents into disrepute. However, we cannot simply write Mcebo off for that â€“ everyÂ person has good and bad elements, and every leader is bound to doÂ things for which people applaud him and, conversely, jeer at him. Iâ€™ve got myÂ reservations about the fact that Mcebo is completely democraticallyÂ elected, if you take into account that just over 10% of students votedÂ in the SRC elections, and an even smaller number people elected him toÂ presidency. Itâ€™s not really our loss.
James Hunt, first year medicine, 19,Â Kyalami
I think [Dlamini’s removal]Â is justified because he was given warning â€“ theÂ decision didnâ€™t come out of nowhere and there was adequate time givenÂ to Mcebo to appeal the ruling of the disciplinary charges. I donâ€™tÂ know what Habib was thinking when he arrived at his decision to removeÂ Mcebo, but I do think that the Hitler comments definitely put pressureÂ on Habib to seem like he was taking action. What I read is thatÂ according to the SRCâ€™s constitution, a student cannot be president ifÂ theyâ€™ve been found guilty of disciplinary charges, and if Mcebo has been found guilty, then the decision is fair. Everybody has the rightÂ to freedom of speech, but when a public figure makes statements ofÂ hate speech, like this case, then there has to be some form ofÂ accountability. As SRC president, Mcebo has a responsibility to upholdÂ Witsâ€™ good name, and that overrules his right to say whatever heÂ wants.
Itumeleng Mmila, second year BCom, Â 20
Basically, as an individual I donâ€™t follow politics that much, but I cannot make a personal judgement against Mcebo based on what Habib decided. I donâ€™t really know anything about the assault charges, but the Hitler comments definitely propelled the decision for the removal. Itâ€™s not fair for Mcebo or anyone else to be removed because of any comments they make in their personal capacity,Â but if he was found guilty of the assault charges then thatâ€™s something different and very serious. The comments didnâ€™t bring WitsÂ as a whole into disrepute because they were just one manâ€™s opinion â€“Â if I were to publicly say that I love George Bush, for example, what you understand and the ideals you grasp from that statement is yourÂ own issue. Finally, students should have at least been consulted inÂ the decision because they are the ones that elected the president.
Kathleen Boshoff,Â BSc, firstÂ year,Â 18,Â Roodepoort
I agree that Mcebo had to be removed, but I do not like the reasoningÂ that the vice chancellor gave because it seemed a lot like propaganda â€“ itâ€™s almostÂ as if he was saying that the Hitler comments were serious but notÂ serious enough to remove Mcebo so he was going to remove him on anÂ unrelated matter [the assault charges]. As Habib said in his decision statement, when youÂ are put in a position of power you need to realise that you influenceÂ a lot of people and I believe that your freedom of speech needs toÂ come with a responsibility of knowing you affect others. He does have the right to say whatever he wants, butÂ also as SRC president he has a responsibility to be wary of what heÂ says, as he is representing the students of Wits. If someone isÂ democratically elected but they do something wrong, is it still theÂ role of the people to decide if whether or not this is acceptable? What the majority believes shouldnâ€™t supersede the law.
Gerhard Vermaak*, BA, third year, 21, south of Johannesburg
[The removal]Â shouldnâ€™t be motivated against an individual, but rather a case of whether Mcebo damaged the reputation of the entire university or just his own reputation. As long as the decision wasnâ€™t individually motivated, itâ€™s acceptable. The Hitler comments unambiguously played a role in the decision â€“ otherwise why would it have taken so long to remove him based solely on the assault charges? Mcebo can say whatever he wants, but obviously that comes with consequences â€“ clearly Wits was brought into disrepute due to his praise of Hitler. In terms of the decision coming from the vice chancellor, I feelÂ that the constituency that voted Mcebo in should have at least beenÂ consulted in the decision.