8 August 2015
UCT SAYS SRC’s DECISION “INVALID”
On 2 August 2015, Zizipho Pae received a letter from the UCT Vice-Chancellor, advising that the SRC’s decision to expel her has been found “invalid” and that she should be allowed to remain an elected member of the 2014/2015 SRC. This letter from the Vice-Chancellor followed an earlier letter of 25 July 2015, advising that the University had dismissed the UCT Queer Revolution’s complaint since there is “no basis for bringing a charge against [her] for [her] Facebook posting”.
This decision by the UCT leadership is a great victory for Zizipho, but also for free speech and religious freedom in South Africa. It recognises that we live in a pluralistic society where people should be tolerant and accommodating of difference, and engage with one another in a lawful and fair manner in spite of difference.
SRC “RESHUFFLES” MS PAE
In a Press Statement dated 5 August 2015, the SRC stated that they have “been given no choice but to accept the instruction given by Dr Price to reinstate Ms Pae to the membership of the SRC”. From their Statement and subsequent conduct however, it is clear that they themselves will not recognise Ms Pae’s constitutional right to freedom of speech and freedom of religion. Neither do they accept any responsibility for the lack of proper procedure or grounds (as the University has found), in expelling her from the SRC.
The reinstated Ms Pae continues to suffer insult and abuse (including screaming, shouting and swearing at her) as well as bullying, intimidation and harassment by fellow SRC members (including threats that, if she dared say anything about what happened at the SRC meeting this week, a motion of censure would be passed against her).
Having failed at removing Ms Pae from the SRC altogether, the SRC has now devised a different plan to make Ms Pae feel the consequences of her actions. The SRC, who cannot have a “bigot” and a “homophobe” as their Vice-President, this week decided that Ms Pae (who currently serves as Vice-President: External Affairs and as such also has a seat in other institutional bodies of the University) should be “reshuffled” into non-executive portfolios and committees of the SRC.
FOR SA regards the SRC’s decision to “reshuffle” Ms Pae, as a blatant attempt to punish, silence and shun her for expressing her religious convictions and beliefs. It is clear that the SRC, who is supposed to be representative of all students on campus and not just the LGBTQIA+ members, is not an environment where difference of belief or opinion is welcomed or accommodated. This is an affront to the South African Constitution that is founded on, and embraces, the very values of respect for, tolerance and accommodation of the other.
VOTE OF “NO CONFIDENCE”
In their Press Statement of 5 August 2015 further, the SRC stated that they “will be urgently reviewing and amend[ing] its Constitution to lessen the risk of future debacles that occurred as a result of Ms Pae’s Facebook comment” and “will be tabling this matter for discussion at Student Parliament”.
Although it was not placed on the agenda as a discussion item for the evening, “the Pae situation” dominated discussion at the meeting of the Student Parliament on 6 August 2015. Demands were made upon Ms Pae to explain herself, but she was soon shut down. During the course of the meeting, the Speaker (who has openly and repeatedly condemned Ms Pae following her Facebook post) stated that he was “not a neutral chair” but that he was “an objective chair”. The meeting concluded with the adoption of a vote of no confidence in Ms Pae – again without proper procedure being followed, or proper reasons being put forward, for this motion.
As an organisation that works to protect and promote religious freedom in South Africa, FOR SA is deeply concerned about the statements, conduct and attitudes displayed by members of the UCT SRC, Student Parliament and UCT Queer Revolution. It smacks of a disrespect and disregard for rule of law and authority (also of the UCT leadership, who has already dismissed the accusations against Ms Pae). More alarmingly, it smacks of religious oppression and intolerance towards Christians, who are now the most widely persecuted people group in the world.
As an institution, UCT prides itself on protecting and promoting the rights of LGBTQIA+ people as vulnerable individuals who have suffered “overt abuse and violence” at times. Our hope is that the same concern for the equality and dignity of vulnerable individuals, will guide the UCT Leadership to protect Ms Pae from the ongoing threats, insult and harassment by members of the LGBTQIA+ community. Our plea to the University is to take as firm a position to protect and promote the rights of students who hold to a different worldview to that of the LGBTQIA+ community and who, in the current climate of religious intolerance, seem to be most vulnerable.
Nadene Badenhorst, Spokesperson of FOR SA
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:
Pauline Sayers, Media Relations Manager of FOR SA
Ph: 021-5510658 of Cell: 082 568 5117