Zizipho Pae, the UCT student who recently posted on her Facebook page that “we are institutionalizing and normalizing sin! May God have mercy on us …”, has been ‘expelled’ from the SRC following an irregular SRC meeting on Tuesday, 22 July 2015.
Below is the statement released today by Zizi’s church, His People and Every Nation Churches regarding the gross violation of Zizi’s constitutional rights.
As an organisation that works specifically to protect and promote religious freedom rights (including the right to religious speech), FOR SA’s leadership has endorsed the statement (along with the Executive Committee of the Consultation of Christian Churches (Cape Town) and Transformation Africa).
Statement by His People and Every Nation Churches [South Africa]
The following statement has also been wholeheartedly endorsed by the Executive Committee of the Consultation of Christian Churches [Cape Town], Transformation Africa and Freedom of Religion South Africa:
It is with deep concern that we are witnessing an unacceptable level of vitriol and animosity levelled against SRC Vice President, Zizipho Pae. This culminated in a meeting called by the SRC on the evening of Tuesday 21st July to discuss the matter of her personal Facebook statement (“We are institutionalising and normalising sin! May God have mercy on us….”). The conduct and outcome of this meeting was evidently unconstitutional and demonstrated a total disregard for due process, with the President of the UCT SRC adjourning the meeting and walking out having lost control of the proceedings to LGBT+ activists. An illegitimate motion was subsequently passed by the remainder of the SRC to remove Zizipho from office. This is not only a violation of the rights of Zizipho to a proper disciplinary hearing but also a violation of the UCT SRC’s own Constitution with reference to Article 2.3 (Termination of membership)* which states that an SRC member can only be dismissed if he/she has received two separate motions of censure arising by being found guilty of a serious offence in the University’s disciplinary structures. It would seem that the demand for tolerance is very one sided.
We equally realise that we live in an age where many people do not agree with what the Bible says about many moral issues such as adultery, homosexuality and sex before marriage. We also realise that freedom of choice is something God has given to each individual and should be respected unless one’s choices or actions infringe upon the rights of others. We therefore respect the rights of members of the LGBT+ community to choose their own lifestyles. We distance ourselves from any hate speech, unfair discrimination or incitement to violence against any members of the LGBT+ community. Whether or not we agree with a person’s choices, behaviour or views, is not the issue. We respect their right to choose for themselves. We are also committed to accept, respect and demonstrate unconditional love to all people irrespective of their lifestyle choices. We are committed to do whatever we can to show all people the value, worth and human dignity that they inherently deserve as instructed by the Bible and protected by the Bill of Rights in our Constitution.
However, when Zizipho’s Facebook comment is examined in a rational light it is evident that she – like countless thousands of other people worldwide – was simply expressing an opinion on the recent majority US Supreme Court decision that granted the right to same sex marriages, based upon the sincere conviction of her Christian faith. It may have been unwise or naive of her to think that this was a private opinion when she is a public office bearer. It is also clear that the opinion she expressed is contrary to politically correct thinking and that it would not be well received by LGBT+ activists. However, the remark can in no way be construed as “hate speech” – although by contrast, the level of unrelenting vilification, harassment, abuse and intimidation that she has been subjected to by her critics, most certainly can. She has been referred to as an “idiot”, a “homophobe” and an “ignorant bitch” and the office she shares in campus with a fellow worker has been broken into and vandalised.
The Constitution of South Africa protects the right of a citizen to freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom of conscience in the same way that it protects their right to choose their sexual preference, orientation and identity. Yet it would seem that there is a growing and militant trend to suppress any voice or opinion that might even vaguely be construed to offend the latter while zero consideration is given to the former. The Honourable Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke stated “in our constitutional democracy the constitution is supreme and there is no hierarchy of rights. All rank equally. We all have the right to be different.” Section 15 states “Everyone has the right to freedom of conscience, religion, thought, belief and opinion” which is only limited by Section 16 if there is “an incitement of imminent violence; or advocacy of hatred that is based on race, ethnicity, gender or religion, and that constitutes incitement to cause harm.” Zizipho’s statement should therefore be protected by our Constitution because it is a legitimate expression of her right to express her religious belief and opinion and does not violate the rights of others.
Since the current furore has been sparked by a comment on the recent majority US Supreme Court decision that granted the right to same sex marriages, it is significant and pertinent to note that this judgement also included a passage requiring that the same freedom of conscience and belief of those who may not agree with the decision be respected:
“Finally, it must be emphasised that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned. The First Amendment ensures that religious organisations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered.”
This is the essence of a constitutional democracy, where the rights of all are respected and upheld. As a movement of churches and as Christians, we are committed to preaching and teaching the truths of the Holy Bible, which we believe is divinely authored and as such is not subject to human censorship. While all that we do must be based in the selfless and sacrificial love of Christ for all mankind, we would be failing in our mandate and responsibility if we remain silent on an issue that is contrary to the very Scriptures that form the foundation of our faith. Our right – and the right of Zizipho Pae – to express this sincere conviction of faith must therefore be accorded equal protection under law.
Contact Esther Henderson
His People Cape Town
*Article 2.3 (Termination of membership) of the SRC Constitution
A member of the SRC ceases to hold office if and when:
2.3.1 he/she ceases to be a student of the University;
2.3.2 he/she tenders his/her resignation in writing and such resignation is accepted by the SRC; or
2.3.3 he/she has had two motions of censure passed on him/her during a single term of office by the SRC on one or more of the following grounds:
- a) Failure to attend two consecutive meetings of the SRC without an acceptable written apology;
- b) failure, without an excuse acceptable to the SRC, to carry out duties entrusted to him/her by the SRC;
- c) failure to submit quarterly and final reports acceptable to the SRC;
- d) Bringing the name of the SRC into disrepute by being found guilty of a serious offence in the University disciplinary structures.