The South African Union of Jewish Students (SAUJS) has condemned anti-Semitic graffiti that had been found on buildings at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), which read “Fuck the Jews” and “Kill a Jew”. Wits Fees Must Fall student leader Catherine Seabe suspects the graffiti may be linked to demands for fomer Wits SRC president’s Mcebo Dlamini’s release from prison.
— Doron Isaacs (@doronisaacs) November 1, 2016
Seabe told the Mail & Guardian that she would be meeting with one of the people involved in the graffiti work on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the statement.
“At this point in time I’m waiting to get a report from other SRC members with regards to the “inspiration”, I guess, of the graffiti, but I will be speaking to one of the graffiti artists so I can probably only say something more a bit later,” Seabe said.
As yet, no one has publicly taken responsibility for the graffiti.
A possible link to calls for Dlamini’s release
Seabe speculated that the graffiti may be linked to demands for Dlamini to be released from prison.
“He does have a lot of influence and also it is part of the students’ call and their demand to have Mcebo released,” Seabe said.
Dlamini was sent to Johannesburg Prison after he was denied bail following his arrest in relation to Fees Must Fall protests. Student leaders across the country have been detained in what many protesters believe is a deliberate action to target and demoralise student protests.
In June 2015, Dlamini made discriminatory comments about Jewish people in an interview with PowerFM. His remarks drew outrage from many in South Africa who said it was hate speech, but there were also those who defended Dlamini.
“They (Jews) are devils. They are good for nothing. They are hypocritical‚ just like Adam Habib. They are uncircumcised in heart,” Dlamini told PowerFM.
Dlamini made the comments on PowerFm after he had been condemned for admiring Hitler in a Facebook post, where he wrote: “I love Adolf Hitler … There is an element of Hitler in every white person”.
‘It is also not divorced from the fuck white people campaign’
In February 2016, an image of a Wits student wearing a t-shirt that said “Fuck white people” went viral, after it ignited outrage when it was viewed as hate speech.
Others defended the t-shirt as an “expression of black pain”.
In response to the criticism, a group of students began putting up graffiti that said “Fuck white people” around Wits and on more T-shirts. Seabe said the graffiti found yesterday could relate to what happened to the “Fuck white people” incidents.
“Outside of [Dlamini] as well, I think it is also not divorced from the ‘fuck white people’ campaign that was there earlier throughout the year,” Seabe said.
SAUJS has meanwhile condemned the graffiti as anti-Semitic. The union tweeted their statement, saying that two weeks ago a Jewish student had faced anti-Semitic verbal discrimination on campus.
“SAUJS unequivocally condemns the blatant anti-Semitism that is being demonstrated. There can be no justification for such hateful acts,” the union said.
“SAUJS maintains that every student on campus should be free from intimidation, regardless of race, religion, gender or self-identification.”
‘Perpetrators will be held accountable’
Wits University spokesperson Shirona Patel has said that the graffiti has been cleaned from the walls and the dean of students will meet with SAUJS representatives today.
“The university condemns the offensive messages being propagated and we deeply regret the insult that it may cause to members of the Wits community,” Wits management said in a statement.
“We strongly urge the perpetrators to desist from this offensive and hurtful behaviour. Should we identify any of the perpetrators, they will be held accountable for their actions. Anyone with information should report it to Campus Control.”
Seabe, meanwhile, has said that she will have a clearer idea of how the graffiti happened once the meeting with the artist has concluded.
“As soon as I’m done speaking to one of the artists I’ll probably have an idea of what led them to write that, particularly now,” Seabe said.