UCT staff, students launch petition to stop 'homophobic' Lumumba lecture on campus
Staff members and students have asked the University of Cape Town to rescind permission to the EFF to host Prof Patrick Loch Otieno Lumumba on campus for the party's 10th-anniversary lecture next month.
The EFF invited the professor to address its anniversary public lecture at the Sarah Baartman Hall at the university on July 24.
Lumumba has been a vocal supporter of an anti-homosexuality bill recently passed in Uganda. The bill recommends heavy sentences, including the death penalty, for homosexuality. The EFF held a picket against the bill last month.
In a recent interview on DigiTalk TV, Lumamba said he was a homophobe and believed homosexuality could be cured.
The staff members and students wrote to UCT interim vice-chancellor Prof Daya Reddy to condemn Lumumba.
“We believe that by providing Prof Lumumba a platform on campus to deliver a public lecture, UCT signals its tacit acceptance of his homophobic and, in South Africa, unconstitutional, pronouncements which border on hate speech.
“Allowing a self-admitted homophobe to continue with a public lecture on our campus signals to LGBTIQA+ staff and students that we are not valued or safe in our workplace and place of study,” read the petition.
It has garnered signatures from more than 150 staff members and 400 students.
The petition called on UCT to not provide any space for Lumumba to speak, saying they find it notably unacceptable that a lecture by such a “hateful and divisive figure” be held in a hall renamed to honour Sarah Baartman.
“It is ironic that Prof Lumumba, who similarly dehumanises and objectifies LGBTIQA+ Africans, and applauds the curtailing of their freedoms in Uganda through imprisonment, has free rein to continue his homophobic discursive violence in a venue named in remembrance of and as a gesture of restorative justice towards Sarah Baartman,” it said.
It said the university has a responsibility to protect communities from discrimination and harm.
“Freedom of speech is central to the notion of academic freedom, in support of fostering critical thinking in the pursuit of knowledge. However, it cannot be mobilised to justify promoting homophobia or any prejudice that causes harm and potentially death to already marginalised individuals and communities,” it said.
“While universities should be spaces of open discourse and freedom of speech, they have an immutable responsibility to protect their community from discrimination and harm and to actively challenge the normalisation of discrimination and violence in the broader society.
“Ensuring a homophobe does not have access to the University of Cape Town’s most prestigious platform is a fulfilment of the university’s responsibility to protect its community of staff and students.”
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