Cape Town university protest leader gets lawyer to fight back

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

The University of Cape Town (UCT) student accused of racially abusing a staff member is receiving legal assistance to have his suspension from classes overturned.

Chumani Maxwele, a political science student and social activist, was among students who led the recent Rhodes Must Fall campaign at UCT.

Maxwele was also the student who flung human faeces at the statue of Cecil John Rhodes. The statue was removed from the university campus last month after students protested that it represented a lack of transformation at the institution.

His lawyer Barnabas Xulu told Weekend Argus that UCT was “irrational” as it allowed Maxwele access to the campus but not classes.

“We are appealing these conditions. We believe this is victimisation and he is not allowed his right to education. It is irrational,” said Xulu.

Maxwele was suspended earlier this month and UCT said in a statement he “intimidated, harassed, threatened and racially abused a member of staff” on May 1.

“The suspension will be discharged upon either the acquittal of the student or the implementation of any sentence imposed on him by a tribunal in respect of charges arising out of the allegations upon which the suspension order is based,” it said.

The suspension would be upheld until from May 7 until July 19 when the current university semester ended.

Maxwele would sit through a tribunal held at UCT. Xulu would represent him during hearings.

The suspension prohibits Maxwele from “attending lectures or classes, participating in any other activities of the university, including those arranged by students or student groupings, and entering the precincts of the university”.

However, he would be allowed to “attend to write exams in the courses for which he is eligible to write” and “use the library to prepare for the exams in the courses he is eligible to write”.

Last week UCT granted all Rhodes Must Fall campaigners amnesty for any protest activities that contravened university rules during their campaign.

It said Maxwele’s incident was an “unrelated, isolated incident and this occurrence is unrelated to any protest action on campus”.

Maxwele first made news headlines in 2010, according to his Wikipedia page, “after his wrongful arrest and interrogation for allegedly giving the finger to the presidential motorcade convoy (of Jacob Zuma) in Cape Town city traffic”.

An independent commission found his “rights had been violated during his wrongful arrest”.


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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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