Herbst: Max Price’s capitulation to criminality. Should Chumani Maxwele stand trial?

By Ed Herbst*

86. Applicant (UCT) alleged that twelfth respondent (Chumani Maxwele) was present when the bus was torched and he rolled drums into the road shortly before the bus was burned.

87. Twelfth respondent denies this allegation but applicants rely on video footage to support its allegation. – Judge Rosheni Allie, Cape High Court 12/5/2016

It is with dismay that I have learned that you have persuaded the UCT Council to allow you to offer amnesty to the students expelled for assault and arson committed during the “Shackville” protests in February. – Roger Wallace in an open letter to Dr Max Price Rand Daily Mail 19/10/2016

I am not a lawyer but I was a court reporter for more than three decades and my understanding is that if I know that a crime has been committed and, despite having proof of the commission of the crime, I do not take the necessary steps to see justice prevail, then I am complicit in the commission of that crime.

Veteran journalist Ed Herbst
Veteran journalist Ed Herbst

I know, and Dr Max Price knows, that Chumani Maxwele and his RMF/FMF cabal had every hope and every intention of burning the University of Cape Town to the ground on 15 February this year because a Cape High Court judge, Rosheni Allie, has made that a matter of judicial record.

I set out the sequence of events, as described by Judge Allie in a previous article on her ruling.

Incendiary device

The judgment meticulously outlines the facts, the chronology of events and the context of those events which led to an incendiary device being thrown into the office of Dr Max Price which was gutted – something the Cape Times chose not to photograph nor to interview Price about.

Judge Allie describes a collusion between two respondents, nine (Alex Hotz) and twelve (Maxwele Chumani), in the torching of a Mazda bakkie used by the Department of Biological Sciences to service rural communities, then a Jammie shuttle bus. This was followed, later that night, by the office of Dr Max Price being petrol-bombed.

In her judgment she pulls together these threads.

Judge Allie reveals that three litres of petrol were found in the shack erected on the campus, an edifice that ostensibly symbolised a shortage of accommodation for students but was, in fact, the headquarters of what happened in the next few hours.

Turning to the evidence about Hotz she says: “The circumstantial evidence points to ninth respondent’s direct involvement in facilitating the lighting of fires and consequently the burning of artwork on campus.”

UCT led evidence that the car driven by Hotz was on the campus that night and it played a significant role in the arson. The car was used to transport three tyres onto the campus. A student was seen alighting from the car carrying “… a red Castrol can that later contained approximately 3 litres of petrol.”

“Applicant alleged that ninth respondent was seen walking in Residence Road after alighting from her car, carrying a tyre to the area where protesters had already made the fire that was used to burn paintings and photographs.”

Hotz did not deny this.

The judgment also reveals the role played by Chumani Maxwele in the arson attacks, the role which the Cape Times kept from its readers.

  1. Applicant alleged that twelfth respondent (Maxwele) was present when the bus was torched and he rolled drums into the road shortly before the bus was burned.
  2. Twelfth respondent denies this allegation but applicants rely on video footage to support its allegation.

Shackville gridlock

When the “shack” was erected early on 15 February, stopping traffic on Residence Road on the campus, there was gridlock on the M3 highway all the way to Muizenberg.

The protest shack that is no more - pic from Twitter.
The protest shack that is no more – picture from Twitter.

If you were a commuter who got to work late as a result, you will have read with interest about the recently-updated Criminal Matters Amendment Act.

It was announced on 2 June in the Cape Times under the headline “Stricter law to crack down on vandals.”

The Criminal Matters Amendment Act makes provision for harsher sentences for those vandalising state property – a minimum sentence of three years for first offenders, five years for second offenders and seven years for third-time offenders.

But what of those who, with specific reference to its arsonist leader, perennial student, Chumani Maxwele and the Rhodes Must Fall movement members, vandalised the private property of UCT, from buildings to statues, paintings and vehicles? Nothing was sacrosanct in that vandalism – not even the memories of those who died in battle. “Students looked on as workers removed graffiti on a war memorial that read “f**k black exclusion” and “f**k white people”. This desecration was the work of Masixole Mlandu, one of five RMF activists prohibited by Judge Rosheni Allie from entering the UCT campus, a prohibition which they have subsequently repeatedly and with contempt, ignored.

Those whose memories were thus desecrated included the black soldiers who, with extraordinary fortitude, lost their lives in the sinking of the SS Mendi in February 1917 and one recalls the voice of one of them, Isaac Williams Wauchope:

Be quiet and calm, my countrymen. What is happening now is what you came to do…you are going to die, but that is what you came to do. Brothers, we are drilling the death drill. I, a Xhosa, say you are my brothers…Swazis, Pondos, Basotho…so let us die like brothers. We are the sons of Africa. Raise your war-cries, brothers, for though they made us leave our assegais in the kraal, our voices are left with our bodies.”

Stand trial

Given the fact that, as Judge Allie pointed out, security cameras caught Chumani Maxwele playing a singular role in the UCT arson on 15 February, there is no doubt in my mind that he should stand trial. Simply put, if UCT has prima facie evidence in the form of video footage of Maxwele’s involvement in the arson and property destruction at UCT – as Judge Allie states – then it would be outrageous if he did not stand trial.

uct_protests

Since then, of course, the RMF/FMF movement, constantly lauded by the Cape Times, has gone on to bigger and better things – looting, flooding computer laboratories, setting libraries alight, setting another bus alight as an encore to the torching of the Jammie Shuttle on 15 February, attacking reporters and news photographers and stealing from them, causing property destruction estimated to cost the country more than a billion rand in reconstruction costs, vicious assault  which saw security guards critically injured in at UKZN and UCT and attempted murder.

British historian Prof. Mary Beard described the demand by two people from privileged backgrounds, Ntokozo Qwabe and Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh that a statue of Cecil Rhodes be removed from Oriel College at Oxford University as “barking” mad.

She would probably regard the recent utterances by the RMF/FMF activists on lightning as rabidly mad but such views are also held within the African National Congress which has, for years, consistently failed to provide our universities with adequate funding.

It was Qwabe whose vicious misogyny and ethnic hatred against a waitress working for R15 an hour to support her mother who had terminal cancer resulted in international revulsion and her receiving the biggest tip in world history – more than R140 000.

Lowering the bar

Qwabe is the poster boy of the RMF/FMF movement and the fact that his deliberate humiliation of Ashleigh Schultz because she was white, a woman and poorer than him was condemned by his own father but did not deter him from further lowering the bar.

Having achieved his doctorate in the tranquillity of a university which traces its origins to 1096, he sought to deny that tranquillity to students at the University of Cape Town just before the end-of-year examinations.

The statue of Cecil Rhodes is seen on the facade of Oriel College in Oxford, southern England, December 30, 2015. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh
The statue of Cecil Rhodes is seen on the facade of Oriel College in Oxford, southern England. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh

After a vehicle by UCT used to assist poor rural communities in the Northern Cape was set alight on 15 February, the Fallists returned and, as an encore, torched another UCT research vehicle a week ago.

A compromise, cravenly tendered by Max Price to the five banned activists has been rejected with the contempt they clearly feel he deserves.

It thus came as a shock to read in the open letter from Roger Walsh to Dr Max Price that Price, who has again been assaulted on campus, seemingly has no intention of seeing the RMF/FMF thugs, to whom he genuflects, face justice.

In his open letter to Price, Walsh says:

If you grant this amnesty you will further advance the culture of impunity that plagues the nation generally‚ and which began at UCT with your granting of a general amnesty for violations committed during the RMF protests last year and the dropping of related criminal charges.

Would this capitulation to criminality and its effective condonation not encourage continuing campus carnage and would Price, thus, not be complicit in that carnage?

As I finished writing this article the news broke that UWC has become the first university to close its doors for the rest of the year.

Let us never forget where this started.

In Uganda, Idi Amin suggested that everything would change for the better if people of Asian descent could be driven out of the country. Dr Iqbal Survé, owner, thanks to ANC magnanimity, of most of the English newspapers in the country advocated a similar approach for UCT last year – only this time the target was white administrative and academic staff.

7 April 2015 – At a meeting of the UCT Association of Black Alumni (UCTABA) hosted in the Kramer Building at the university, Dr Iqbal Survé, owner of the Cape Times, makes the following statements as reflected on a YouTube clip:

  • At 50 minutes and 11 seconds he says that UCT “… does not respect me as a black man.’
  • At 52:37 he says: Frankly speaking it is a racist institution.’
  • At 56:40 he says: ‘If you want real change, I suggest you change the leadership of this institution, change it in its entirety.’
Chumani Maxwele
Chumani Maxwele

In February this year Cape Times editor Aneez Salie chose an article, ‘Arrest Max Price’ by Carlo Petersen, the man who excels at putting words in the mouths of lawyers and judges, as his front page lead – even though Price has never committed a crime or engaged in any criminal activity.

A week ago students from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) were arrested after two security guards were locked in a campus building and, with the clear intention of burning them to death, set the building alight.

The article was carried very small on the front page of the Cape Times – it was not given nearly the same prominence as the Arrest Max Price article.

Draw your own conclusions

A closing quote:

“Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book has been rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street and building has been renamed, every date has been altered … History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.” – George Orwell 1984

  • Ed Herbst is a retired veteran journalist who writes in his own capacity.
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