A number of public figures have come in defence of former University of Witwatersrand vice-chancellor Professor Adam Habib following the controversy of his use of the “N-word”.
Former public protector Thuli Madonsela, Justice Malala, Palesa Morudu and Barney Pityana have called for Habib’s reinstatement as director at the University of London School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS)“without delay”.
In an article published on Wednesday, Madonsela, Malala, Morudu and Pityana noted that Habibexercised poor judgment in saying the N-word, but “he is no racist”.
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“He’s only been at the school for six weeks and Habib and his students need time to get to know one another. But context is everything and Habib is no racist. He should be reinstated at SOAS without delay,” the joint article said.
“Allowing the self-righteous to act as universal thought police can only lead to the silencing of all voices. If this trend is not reversed, books and films that have the N-word will have to be revised or banned.”
— pro black (@ibt1sam) March 11, 2021
The four argued that Habib was “a black man who suffered racial oppression” in South Africa and said online petitions were “likening him to a war criminal”.
“Habib. was an activist against apartheid in his youth, became a professor of politics and now heads an academic institution. Yet the lens of wokeness and identity politics filters out history and context to present both individuals in the same light.
“In the US, where the N-word has indelible connections to chattel slavery and Jim Crow, the racist announcer kept his job. Habib, on the other hand, has been forced to step aside after sayingin context that the use of the N-word would result in disciplinary action.
“He faces an organised social media campaign that seeks his removal from SOAS, with one online petitioner likening him to a war criminal.”
Last month, Habib stepped aside as director at the university investigates his use of the American racial slur while addressing students during a webinar.
A motion of no confidence in Habib was recently also passed.
Many people on social media petitioned for the removal of Habib after he sparked outrage over his comment, to which he responded to by saying “some people were deliberately misrepresenting the conversation” and “turning it into a political spectacle”.
Habib has since apologised for the incident.
Article by Molefe Seeletsa