Racism complaint against UFS lecturer is being investigated: SAHRC
University of the Free State (UFS) lecturer Dr Pedro Mzileni says he is not being investigated by the South African Human Rights Commission regarding allegations of racism.
His comments, which were posted on X on Saturday, follow a TimesLIVE report on the matter on Thursday.
“In the past two days, I have witnessed journalists and reputable media houses publishing a story about me that is false, a story that did not ask for my comments and a story that says I'm being investigated by the Human Rights Commission, whereas I am not.”
However, SAHRC Free State provincial manager Thabang Kheswa confirmed that a complaint from AfriForum had been received.
"In terms of our Complaints Handling Procedures, a respondent is afforded 21 days to respond to allegations. The commission is thus awaiting response," Kheswa said.
He confirmed the complaint relates to the lecturer allegedly referring to white people as “land thieves” and coloured and Indian people as “deputy whites”.
René van der Vyver, spokesperson for AfriForum Youth, said: “His divisive rhetoric appeared to be aimed at stoking the fires of racial division and hostility.”
Mzileni said those who accuse him of referring to coloured and Indian South Africans as “deputy whites” are twisting his words because they’re opposed to his teachings on decoloniality.
He said he appeared before a UFS investigating committee on September 14 after the university received correspondence on the matter.
At the hearing, the final report on which “should be made available to UFS any day now”, Mzileni said he told the university's attorneys the allegations were not true.
“I did not make such remarks. In fact, the people who have been following my teaching, research, engagement and activism life for the past 10 years would know that I generally do not even speak or write like that. I further showed the investigating team the actual lecture slides I used at this guest lecture ... my teaching notes and my published writings."
Mzileni added that there was an effort to target him as a scholar. “This effort is also being creatively applied through the distortion of the words and sentences I use in my teaching engagements in order to illegitimise me personally as a scholar and to illegitimise and silence the teaching of decolonisation, history and sociology disciplines.
“More than anything else, I remain committed to the ethical teaching, research and engagement on decolonisation ... I teach my students these things because I love all of them in their different races and nationalities, and I want them to grow up to become resilient and knowledgeable adult citizens who will make productive contributions to the growth and development of this country,” Mzileni said in relation to universities having a duty to uncover the truth, however painful it may be, through rigorous debate.
* This article has been updated with further comment from the SAHRC since its initial publication.
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