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Adam Habib cracks the disciplinary whip hard




Because Wits had given permission for Israel Apartheid Week (IAW) and the SA Union of Jewish Students’ (SAUJS) Give Peace Wings had been given permission to run concurrently, Wits University’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Adam Habib has moved to ensure that discipline is strictly maintained and that there is no repeat of last year’s hooliganism and violent confrontation which led to the cancellation of the Yossi Reshef concert and the disciplining of almost the entire SRC.

“I had a meeting with two groups (SAUJS and PSC)” Habib confirmed to SAJR last week, “so we don’t find ourselves taken by surprise like last year.” Habib was not the VC at the time last year but has had to deal with the ramifications.

“We put out a set a set of suggestions and we are waiting for their replies,” Prof Habib said in an exclusive interview.

Prof Habib said that there had been “a statement that some people have said that they will not participate.” He would not elaborate further by Jewish Report has established that it was the PSC.

“Anybody, on any side, who doesn’t abide by the rules or policies of Wits will be disciplined,” said the VC. He had asked the students groups to submit any objections by last week Friday and sign a document of “good faith.”

If anyone didn’t participate in the process, said a tough-talking VC, “I will transmit that these are the rules!”

Dean of Student Affairs, Dr Pamela Dube, told SAJR this week that the university’s management was taking the matter very seriously, “which is why the Vice-Chancellor had engaged with both groups personally” before handing the matter over to her for finalisation, she said.

Habib is at pains to explain that there are no new rules. “We already have the rules, they exist,” he explained. But he had put them together in a single document and defined all the wording precisely. He says he has been facing differing definitions of words like “coercion,” and “protest.” “When is blowing a vuvuzela allowed and when not?” he explained.

“So,” says Habib, “what we are doing is clarifying the intent of the rules and the deputy Vice-Chancellor will work with all sides” to ensure that clarity, he said.

Prof Habib’s intention: “To ensure that within the free space of Wits we will protect the right of free speech and the right to protest – and agree on how to balance the two.”

With this in mind Habib issued the two sides with five documents and a letter to sign saying that they had studied and agreed with them and would be responsible for policing them. The documents (SEE PDFs BELOW) were:

1. Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act 4 of 2000;

2. Rules for Student Conduct 2014;

3. Rules for Student Discipline;

4. Statement of Principles and Values Regarding Protest on the Wits University Campus; and

5. Media Policy.

No-Nonsense Approach

To illustrate Prof Habib’s no-nonsense approach, the 12-page discipline document includes issues such as: Vice-Chancellor’s powers of suspension; Powers of suspension of assistant registrar and dean of students; Summary inquiry by the vice-chancellor or a deputy vice-chancellor and by an ad hoc committee; Disciplinary powers of the students’ representative council; Appeals and reviews; Withholding of examination results/conferment of a degree; Amendment of monetary penalties; Delegation of vice-chancellor’s powers; Hindering or obstructing of proceedings; Remission of fees; Payment of fines or performance of some other act; and Application of rules.

SAUJS national chair Ariela Carno told SAJR that “Prof Habib is playing by the rules, which we appreciate. He is formalising some existing rules and defining them by consensus with both sides.”

Seeking comment from the PSC was less easy. Dr Dube gave details of Tasneem Essop, who is listed on the Wits website as PSC president. But she was one of the students sanctioned for misbehaviour after the Reshef concert and told Jewish Report that she was the Wits IAW co-ordinator. Jewish Report was unable to get contact details for Wits PSC chair Sharia Kalla or deputy-chair Alex Freeman (who is Jewish) from either the Dean of Students’ Affairs office or the Wits website.

Tasneem Essop confirmed today that “We did sign a document of good faith” but was none too happy with the rules that came with it. Among the rules is a comprehensive “On-campus Media Policy” in which Prof Habib elucidates on what will be considered “hate speech” and it appears to be defined more tightly than in the SA constitution. This applies to all graffiti, pamphlets, posters, etc.

SAUJS have pulled out all the stops and outdone themselves in organising counter-IAW protests this year – not just at Wits. They have been supported and financed by organised Jewry from all quarters but the students have done all the work. Campus chair Zac Feldman and the teams behind and in front of them – it seems that, at Wits at least, despite BDS boasts of being three times bigger than last year, SAUJS’ “Give Peace Wings” campaign may even outdo the IAW’s.

And, says Ariela, the last day of IAW is Purim (which she is sure will be peaceful). There are two days a year that all students, even Palestinian students, love SAUJS, Ariela told SAJR in a recent interview: One is on Purim “because we give out free hommentaschen which they love”; and the second is on Yom Ha’atzmaut, when we bring camels to campus and students queue up all day for a free camel-ride.

Both sides, SAJS and IAW, are playing their cards close to their chests and have yet to publish their respective programmes for the week-long events.


Related PDF documents on SAJR:





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  1. Barry Shaw

    Mar 6, 2014 at 8:00 am

    ‘Another way of countering IAW on South African campuses is the establishment of South African Lawyers for Israel and have them challenge the notion that any campus would allow a week-long political slander.

    Heads of campuses should be challenged by law to prove that Israel is an apartheid state. Should they fail to do so, as they inevitably will, they must be warned that allowing a slanderous event to take place on their campus would bring legal consequences.

    There must be a cost for permitting what is clearly a fraudulent event to be staged under the banner of free speech.’

  2. samuel

    Mar 6, 2014 at 11:09 am

    ‘A bit late in the day for Wits Vice Chancellor Adam Habib and his belated attempts to crackdown on freedom of speech and movement dissenters  on the campus ,after so many former donors ,many Jewish dumped Adam Habib from the donation  list , a lesson in humility for the VC,better late than never .’

  3. Concerned

    Mar 7, 2014 at 6:37 am

    ‘There is a real sensationalist tone and self congratulatory innuendo that has crept into the SAJR. Sensationalist reporting trumps grammar it would seem. Its truly difficult to read this stuff. Does no one even review it?
    \nAdam Habib cracks the disciplinarty whip hard
    \nIn the headline? disciplineARTY
    \nI cant believe that after some of the controversy with what has been printed in My Shtetl, the editor of that online rag has been given the task of editing the online SAJR. This Jewish community has lost the plot.


    Mar 7, 2014 at 7:02 am

    Thanks “Concerned” for bringing that to our attention. The typo has now been corrected. While our RULES RELATING TO ANONYMOUS COMMENTS would normally not permit our publishing of such a vitriolic and personal attack on an individual, I am happy to allow you to share your views with the community. Is there anything specific you would like to share with our users about your concerns relating to MyShtetl?

    Please feel free to answer online (it would be good manners if you didn’t hide behind a veil of anonymity) or email me directly if you prefer   -Ant Katz,

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