University of Cape Town SRC Vice President Zizipho Pae has issued a statement in response to a reportedly chaotic SRC meeting on Tuesday at which a group of SRC members took a decision to expel her because of a personal Facebook post in which she expressed an opinion on the legalisation of same sex marriage in the United States.
Her statement which was issued on her behalf by Freedom of Religion SA (FOR SA) yesterday evening, reads:
“Through reports in the newspaper and on social media this week, it has come to my attention that I was expelled from the UCT SRC at a SRC meeting on Tuesday, 21 July.
“After consulting with my legal representatives this week, I have now informed the Vice-Chancellor of UCT that I do not accept the decision arising from what was undoubtedly an irregular meeting. I have requested the Vice-Chancellor to exercise his power to review the decision, and for UCT to intervene in order to protect my rights.
“The SRC meeting, which took place in my absence on Tuesday night, was initially called to discuss my Facebook post that “we are institutionalizing and normalizing sin! May God have mercy on us”. Never did I imagine that a comment in my personal capacity on my personal wall, on a news event that people around the world have commented on in social media and elsewhere, would lead to such violent reaction against me.
“I have maliciously been branded as a “homophobe” and someone who “hates” LGBTQIA+ people. I respect that my conviction may be different to that of the LGBTQIA+ community, but that does not make me a “homophobe” or my conviction “hate speech”. The South African Constitution guarantees the human right to freedom of expression (section 16) and also to freedom of conscience, religion, belief and opinion (section 15), to every person. This means that everyone (Christians, the LGBTQIA+ community and everyone else) should be free to say what they believe – even if others disagree therewith. This respect and tolerance for difference forms the bedrock of our Constitution, is part of the UCT ethos and values statement and also of the SRC’s Constitution itself.
ABUSE AND HARASSMENT SUFFERED
“Unfortunately however, my experience has been quite different to the above. Instead of respect and tolerance, I have experienced victimization and persecution.
“As a result of this post, I was suspended from the SRC’s Vacation Committee without proper process or reasons. I received ‘hate mail’ on Facebook (even from a DA MP and National Spokesperson, and also from other SRC members), suffered various instances of intimidation, harassment and threats, had my office vandalised, and also had members of the LGBTQIA+ community take lewd pictures in my office which they then posted on my Facebook wall. Requests were even made to Allan Gray, my bursary holder, to withdraw my bursary. Had Allan Gray complied with this request, it would of course have had inconceivable negative consequences for me as I would not have been able to complete my studies!
A FLAWED PROCESS AND DECISION
“I have been informed by reliable sources that the SRC meeting on Tuesday night, was chaotic and that members of the UCT Queer Revolution and associates who participated in the meeting, demonstrated a total disregard for due process as well as a blatant disrespect and intolerance for anyone who had an opinion or contribution that differed with their viewpoint. I have been informed further that when the SRC President adjourned the meeting as a result thereof, he was held ransom by some members of the LGBTQIA+ community and also suffered gross insult when they surrounded him and removed their clothes. I find such blatant criminal conduct completely incompatible with the dignity which should be the hallmark of a body such as the SRC and of which I have been a proud member. In my view, such conduct also does not accord with the democratic values which UCT claims to espouse.
“I understand further that after the SRC President had already adjourned the meeting, an illegitimate motion was passed by the remainder of the SRC to remove me from office. This is not only a violation of my procedural rights to a proper disciplinary hearing, but also a violation of the SRC’s own Constitution which lists the limited grounds on which a SRC member will cease to hold office – none of which finds application in the present instance.
REQUEST FOR INTERVENTION
“In the circumstances, I do not accept, and strongly object to, the unconstitutional and irregular decision to expel me from the SRC.
“I have written a letter to the Vice-Chancellor informing him of my position and requesting him to, in terms of his institutional powers, review the decision and set it aside. In the absence of appropriate steps, I shall launch a review application to the High Court.
“In terms of my letter to the Vice-Chancellor, a response from the University was expected by close of business on Friday, 24 July. By 17:00 on Friday, no response has of yet been received.”