Wits SRC president removed from position

2015-05-04 17:32
Mcebo Dlamini (Elizabeth Sejake, City Press)

Mcebo Dlamini (Elizabeth Sejake, City Press)

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Johannesburg - Controversial University of Witwatersrand SRC president Mcebo Dlamini, who expressed admiration for Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, has been removed from his position pending an appeal against his expulsion from the institution for a different matter.

Wits Vice-Chancellor Adam Habib said Dlamini was found guilty of misconduct by a disciplinary panel in February and given a sentence of one year suspended exclusion in respect of each charge against him.

Habib did not mention the charges.

"In terms of the SRC [Students' Representative Council] Constitution, a member of the SRC ceases to be a member if s/he is found guilty of misconduct by a student disciplinary committee. The SRC member may appeal against his/her removal," he said in a statement on Monday.

Dlamini initially appealed to Habib and asked to defer the judgment, pending a review of the panel's decision. Habib agreed, provided the review happened within 14 days.

"Unfortunately, this did not happen. I met Mr Dlamini on 22 April 2015 and informed him that it was not in the best interests of the university for him to continue to hold office while having a disciplinary finding against him."

Deliberate delay

Habib gave Dlamini until April 30 to make written representations regarding why he should not withdraw his decision for him to continue in office. Dlamini said the extention of the decision should be granted because of a delay in the legal process that was the fault of the university's legal office.

"I believe that this argument is disingenuous since it appears that... he did not submit the relevant documentation to the legal office with enough time before the hearing for the legal office and the committee to properly consider his arguments.

"This leads me to believe that he is deliberately delaying a final decision until the end of his presidential tenure. To allow this to happen would be a violation of the SRC constitution and the principle of justice," Habib said.

"Therefore, after consultation with the chair of council, Dr Randall Carolissen, I have decided to withdraw my decision for Mr Dlamini to remain in office.

"As of immediately, he is required to stand down from his position in the SRC. Both Mr Dlamini and the SRC have been informed in this regard. Appropriate provisions will be made for the continued operations of the SRC."

Hitler comment didn’t influence decision

Wits spokesperson Shirona Patel said the university could not comment on the charges Dlamini faced as the matter was being appealed.

Dlamini could not be immediately reached for comment. The SRC office told News24 that he and the rest of the council were in a meeting with Habib until 20:00 on Monday.

Habib said Dlamini's declaration of admiration for Hitler did not influence his decision.

"However, they cannot be ignored and I have referred the matter to the legal office for investigation. This matter will take its due course."

Dlamini has come under heavy criticism following a recent post of Facebook in which he said: "I love Adolf Hitler... There is an element of Hitler in every white person."

He subsequently defended his comments, and refused to apologise.

He admitted that it would be ignorant of him to ignore the fact that Hitler had committed atrocious crimes against the Jewish people. However, what he admired, he said, was the German's leader ability to organise a nation and get the people to rally behind him.

"He started killing people when he was already in power. Power had corrupted him. It has corrupted [Israeli prime minister] Benjamin Netanyahu, it corrupted [former US president] George Bush, it corrupted [former UK prime minister] Tony Blair..." he recently told News24.

"I'm deciding to look at the good Hitler stood for. He rebuilt the country, the economy, the infrastructure, he uplifted the spirit of Germany."

Single-handed damage

Habib said on Monday that Dlamini's comments had brought the university into disrepute.

"As someone who claims to love this institution, I believe that Mr Dlamini has single-handedly wrought more damage on its reputation than any other person who I can think of in at least the last two decades," he said.

"This damage has the potential to impact on the credibility of our degrees, and therefore on the employment prospects of all of our students and graduates."

Habib also mentioned that a previous Facebook post by Dlamini, where he reportedly threatened to kill a man and his children, were "an indication that he lacks the maturity that is required of a student leader who is meant to represent a diverse and cosmopolitan community of over 30 000 students".

He said he disagreed with those arguing that the university's commitment to free speech meant that Dlamini should not be sanctioned for his comments.

"While I am committed to ensuring that Wits remains a free space for the contestation of ideas, including those with which we do not agree, I believe that the officials and leadership figures of this University must act in accordance with its values."

Read more on:    wits university  |  adam habib  |  mcebo dlamini  |  johannesburg  |  racism  |  education

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