JOHANNESBURG - An “art activation” against private security on campus and a T-shirt painted with the words “F*ck White People” has led to a human rights complaint against a Wits student, a protest and a social media storm.
Protesting against the presence of security personnel and the financial exclusion of students, Zama Mthunzi, a scholar in the science faculty decided that he would protest artistically by painting the words“F**k White People” on his T-shirt. He wore the shirt for a week, resulting in a photo of him making the rounds on social media platforms.
Mthunzi received a call last weekend telling him there was a complaint and he would be appearing at a hearing set up by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC).
On Monday, other students protested in solidarity with Mthunzi, arguing that he was being silenced and the move was an attempt to “police black anger”.
T-shirts with various slogans ranging from “F**k White Privilege” to “F**k Patriarchy” graced the front of the Great Hall piazza on Monday afternoon.
SAHRC spokesperson Issac Mangena confirmed that a complaint had been levelled against Mthunzi. “The complainant is requesting that we investigate the possibility that the writing on the T-shirt could be hate speech,” Mangena said.
For its part, the university released a statement on Monday afternoon saying that “apparently” a complaint had been laid.
“We are not sure who laid the complaint with the SAHRC,” read the statement.
The university has maintained it was not involved in the SAHRC complaint, but there were previous matters involving Mthunzi and other students, relating to vandalism, that the university will investigate internally. Mthunzi said the phone call he had received left him more questions than answers.
“Thing is he acted like he’s from the university, to say the complaint was laid via the university. But the university also doesn’t know … When I went to the legal office they told me ‘hai, we know about these things’ but they were speaking to me about things from other cases, not this one,” Mthunzi said.
Mangena explained that the commission was not at liberty to divulge whom the complainant is.
“We are not at liberty to divulge the names of complainants unless they go to the media to inform them they have lodged a complaint with the SAHRC.”
Mangena said the commission would follow the normal process that’s followed in their investigations.
“We will receive the complaint, assess it to decide whether to investigate or not, then get submissions from the parties before a preliminary report is sent to them. We will release the final report to the public.”
Story by Masego Panyane courtesy of Wits Vuvuzela