CAPE TOWN – A group of students calling themselves Black Monday has taken responsibility for plastering images of Adolf Hitler and a swastika on the pillars of Jameson Hall at the University of Cape Town (UCT).
The group supports the Rhodes Must Fall campaign at the university.
A Facebook user posted the images and commented saying, “Today at UCT these symbols of the worst form of hatred and oppression were plastered around campus. I am at a loss for words."
In a statement, UCT spokesperson Patricia Lucas said, “The University of Cape Town urges all students and staff to respect one another and exercise care in their manner of expression. We condemn any action where people are intimidated and urge all to be sensitive to other people’s views.”
When contacted for comment, Black Monday responded in a statement, "This morning (we) put out posters of Adolf Hitler and the swastika on the pillars of Jameson Hall without offering sufficient context.
"The Student Representative Council received a complaint from a group of students who were offended by the act. Black Monday was asked to account; and we acknowledged that the use of the swastika without sufficient context was done in ill-taste.
"We are aware that the swastika has been used to incite violence against the Jewish community, and would like to apologise if our actions were interpreted as being anti-semitic.
"Black Monday is not anti-semitic, and we condemn the use of the swastika to incite any kind of violence, especially at this sensitive time when the Jewish community is under siege in some parts of Europe.
"However we would like to provide context to the use of symbols of evil as a tool to appeal to the non-white community to support the Rhodes Must Fall campaign."
Vice President of the Students Representative Council (SRC) external at UCT, Zizipho Pae, said, “The images were an attempt by the group [Black Monday] to create an understanding for white students what the image of Cecil John Rhodes means to black people in South Africa.”
She said the group's aim was to create a level of black consciousness among students of colour at the university.
“By putting up those images they were trying to drive home the message to white students by using different types of evils to show what Rhodes means to black people,” she said.
Pae added, “The problem is that they failed to provide context when putting up the pictures – these are now not received well by the Jewish community, because of what these images stand for to Jewish people.
“The SRC did ask them to remove the images – which they did.”
Black Monday's statement clarified the intent of its campaign, “Black Monday attempted to present Rhodes in a way that is relatable to the majority of students. That is, we decided to use symbols that represent the worst extreme of evil in living memory to represent what Rhodes did to Africans.
"The response we received was anticipated. We wanted people to walk to campus and see symbols of evil.
“We wanted them to feel uncomfortable and to complain. But mostly we wanted people to empathise with our cause. To ask themselves why they are not uncomfortable with the statue of Rhodes and why they do not complain about these issues.
"We had hoped that by putting up symbols of evil that are relatable to the majority of society, we would have activated people to feel what we are feeling and to see what we see.”
On Friday, more than 400 students, led by the SRC, marched through the UCT campus in protest, vowing to occupy the main administration building until the statue of Cecil John Rhodes is removed.
Despite facing criminal charges for his deed, he pleaded with students to join him in his fight.
Black Monday said that in solidarity with #Rhodesmustfall, they would be putting up symbols of Adolf Hitler, the Ku Klux Klan, the Confederation flag and the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging throughout the week .
“We note that these symbols are offensive, and we distance ourselves from the propagation of violence and xenophobia. However we maintain that our actions are educational. We urge the public to understand and discuss the use of these symbols in the right context.”
The group says it is an organised response to white supremacy, referring to a historically-based, institutionally perpetuated system of exploitation and oppression of non-whites by white people for the purpose of maintaining and defending a system of wealth, power, and privilege.
eNCA attempted to contact the SA Union of Jewish Students at UCT for comment but was unable to reach them by phone or email as at time of publication.