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SASA statement condemning the attacks on Dr Pedro Mzileni

SASA statement condemning the attacks on Dr Pedro Mzileni

The South African Sociological Association (SASA) writes this to condemn the treatment of Dr Pedro Mzileni, a Sociologist academic and practitioner, at the hands of the University of the Free State and Afriforum. We recognize decolonial scholarship as a key strand of intellectual thought aimed to confront legacies of colonial oppression and defend the right of academics to teach this radical tradition. Academic freedom has been a crucial pillar within the Sociological discipline across the globe because it has been a guiding principle through which this very association itself was able to promote research, teaching, and critical debate about society – both within and outside the academy.

On the 26th October 2023, the University of the Free State concluded its lengthy six-months investigation into what it termed “racist comments” that it claimed Dr Pedro Mzileni had uttered during a guest lecture on coloniality and the history of racism. The findings of this investigation were that no evidence had been found that Dr Mzileni – who willingly participated in all rounds of these investigations - had exposed to students to any hate speech during this lecture; however, this final report is yet to be shared with Dr Mzileni. SASA calls on the University of the Free State, under the leadership of Prof Francis Petersen, to immediately release this report to Dr Mzileni.

We, as SASA, defend the teaching of anti-colonial, anti-racist and radical traditions of social theory. AfriForum has historically continued to be against racial transformation at higher education and societal spheres. At Stellenbosch University, another ‘former white institution’, we continue to witness this with AfriForum’s repeated efforts against English being adopted as the medium of instruction.

We also note that the South African Human Rights Commission has now also launched its own investigation into Dr Pedro Mzileni with AfriForum being the Complainant in the matter, after its two unsuccessful efforts to vilify him through the University of the Free State. We respect and understand the need for ethical academic freedom and freedom of expression and note with great concern the actions of organizations such as AfriForum which attempt to regressively influence the teaching of liberatory history.

Therefore, we strongly demand the following:

- That the University of the Free State, under the leadership of Prof Petersen, release the full contents of the concluded investigation report unto Dr Pedro Mzileni with immediate effect.

- That AfriForum ceases its victimization of a young black Sociologist scholar and practitioner whose work seeks to address legacies of injustice.

SASA Council & Executive, 2023-2024:

Jantjie Xaba (President), Bianca Tame (Vice-president), Nomzamo Ntombela (Secretary), John Mashayamombe (Treasurer), Aisha Lorgat, Crispen Chinguno, Claire-Anne Lester, Hlengiwe Ndlovu, Sihle Lamula, Simangele Cele, Siyabulela Fobosi, Tshepo Maake, Percyval Bayane (webmaster) and Anne Wiltshire (social media & public relations).