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UCT students and staff protest against anti-gay academic Patrick Lumumba at EFF event

UCT students and staff protest against anti-gay academic Patrick Lumumba at EFF event
Students, staff and members of the LGBTQIA+ community protest against homophobia at UCT Plaza on 24 July 2023 before a public lecture by Kenyan professor Patrick Lumumba. (Photo: Gallo Images / ER Lombard)

Students protesting in support of the LGBTQI+ community against Kenyan Professor Patrick Lumumba’s lecture at an EFF 10th anniversary event on Monday clashed with supporters of the party.

On Monday evening, the EFF held its 10th anniversary celebrations at the University of Cape Town’s Sarah Baartman Hall, where Professor Patrick Lumumba – a Pan-Africanist scholar from Kenya – was the keynote speaker.

Students, staff and community members protested against Lumumba’s attendance. He is outspoken against the LGBTQI+ community and has openly supported Uganda’s anti-homosexuality bill.

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Professor Patrick Lumumba delivered a lecture at the University of Cape Town in Cape Town, South Africa on 24 July 2023. (Screenshot: Youtube)

Ruth Dubé, a student present at the protest said, “It’s important to protest for what is literally our lives at stake. We heard about our brothers and sisters being murdered for existing as queer, in a country with the ‘most advanced’ Constitution. It is terrifying having to look in the face of people who believe I don’t deserve to live.” 

The LGBTQI+ protesters demonstrated by playing music popular in the queer community while carrying posters and placards condemning the EFF and Lumumba. EFF supporters demonstrated in support of Lumumba.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Tiro Memorial Lecture: In a seminal speech, Patrick Lumumba calls for a ‘fair deal’ for Africa

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People show their support against homophobia at UCT Plaza on 24 July 2023. (Photo: Gallo Images / ER Lombard)

Lusanda Ngidi, a final-year commerce student, said: “I was just busy peacefully protesting. Yes, I was shouting. Yes, I was loud. I wanted the cause to be heard.

“Then EFF members joined and they started barricading us, trying to get us to move. They were running at us full force and knocked me over – my shoe was off and my hat flew off. I had to get people to help me and hold me up.”

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Members of the LGBTQIA+ community at UCT protest against Kenyan Professor Patrick Lumumba’s lecture at an EFF 10th anniversary event. (Photo: Ernst Calitz)

Another individual, not associated with the LGBTQI+ protesters, claimed that she was “manhandled” by the EFF. The passerby, a jogger who preferred to remain anonymous, said she was jogging on the campus when she saw the commotion and came closer to investigate. Scared, she took out her pepper spray.

“When I got to the side of the Sarah Baartman Hall, I saw that there was stuff happening, so I looked in. Then they [the EFF] came aggressively towards me, so I put the pepper spray on the wall there, and then they grabbed the pepper spray and they grabbed me and started manhandling me. I said that I wanted my pepper spray back and they said, ‘Do you know what we can do to you?’ or something very much to that effect.”

Wandile Kasibe, the EFF’s Western Cape spokesperson, *refused to comment to Daily Maverick. 

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Members of the LGBTQIA+ community, students and staff protest as Professor Patrick Lumumba delivers his address at the University of Cape Town. (Photo: Ernst Calitz)

Micha Cerf, the spokesperson for UCT’s Rainbow Society, the university’s LGBTQI+ student organisation, told Daily Maverick: “UCT is an institution which presents itself as a safe and inclusive academic environment where young African people can learn about and express themselves. By allowing a self-proclaimed homophobe who publicly proclaims his support for homophobic laws and actions to have a platform at UCT, it is an implicit way of saying that Lumumba’s actions and words are acceptable.”

The EFF Student Command (EFFSC) at the university released a statement in which it claimed that the protest hosted by the LGBTQI+ community was used as a smokescreen for other political parties to tarnish the image of the EFF.

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Students, staff and members of the LGBTQIA+ community protest against homophobia at UCT Plaza before a public lecture by Kenyan professor Patrick Lumumba. (Photo: Gallo Images / ER Lombard)

“When we observe some of the people involved in the planning of this protest, we have reason to believe that this is nothing but an attempt to undermine and frustrate the programmes of the EFF,” the statement read.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Growing pain(s): Dear EFF, after 10 years of adding fuel to the fire, it’s now time for you to grow up

The statement also said that the EFF did not support the homophobic law passed in Uganda and that the ANC-aligned youth and student organisations had “no moral standing to speak on the human rights violations of Uganda against the LGBTQI+ community” as President Cyril Rhamaphosa had welcomed Uganda’s president, Yoweri Museveni, “with open arms”.

The statement went on to say that Lumumba has no “material impact on the lives and livelihoods of gay people. He remains an individual whose ideals can be canvassed for public engagement and scrutiny”.

In a response to the EFFSC statement, UCT’s Rainbow Society said, “While the EFFSC may proclaim that Lumumba’s words do not hurt anyone, the reality is that someone’s words can shape opinions and actions. Words can cause irreparable harm and can give people implicit permission to commit acts of physical and psychological harm towards marginalised groups.”

The EFFSC went on to write: “When the EFFSC called for the academic boycott of Israel, the same holier-than-thou academics rejected the calls under the guise of academic freedom.”

It claimed the same luxury was not being extended to Lumumba’s guest lecture. DM

Ernst Calitz is the managing editor of UCT’s Varsity newspaper.

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