'One settler, one bullet' slogan is divisive - UCT vice-chancellor

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University of Cape Town new vice-chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng is seen during an interview. (Esa Alexander, Gallo Images, Sunday Times, file)
University of Cape Town new vice-chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng is seen during an interview. (Esa Alexander, Gallo Images, Sunday Times, file)

The University of Cape Town (UCT) said it does not support the slogan "one settler, one bullet" after its new vice-chancellor found herself caught in controversy after congratulating a student for completing a dissertation that included the slogan.

"The executive's own view is that the slogan 'one settler, one bullet' may lead to a divisive, hostile and intimidating environment," said vice-chancellor Mamokgethi Phakeng in a statement.

"It is not conducive to the kind of institution we wish to be. It does not advance our vision of being an inclusive campus where all people are respected and treated with dignity."

Phakeng said when she congratulated well-known #FeesMustFall leader Masixole Mlandu earlier this month she did so because of the significant academic milestone he had reached, and had not read the dissertation in its entirety.

She said she did not see the words "one settler, one bullet" in the acknowledgments section.

The slogan is believed to have been first coined by the armed wing of the Pan Africanist Congress, the Azanian People's Liberation Army, during apartheid.

Phakeng said the university was a place of different ideas, and so there would not be disciplinary action against Mlandu, but there would be broad discussion about the issue on campus in a "restorative" way. It will also be referred to the office for inclusivity and change for "discussion" with the student.

"Having said that, I accept my error and it is an obvious one - I did not read the complete post and should have done so. I regret that. I realise that as the VC [vice-chancellor] every word I utter or write is scrutinised, and I have certainly learnt from the experience."

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