University rejects petition to revoke Rhodes scholarship

40,000 sign petition following controversial Facebook post by RMF organiser Ntokozo Qwabe

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A petition to revoke Ntokozo Qwabe’s scholarship or to “initiate disciplinary action” has been rejected by the University after collecting over 41,000 signatures. The petition was started after a controversial Facebook post about a comment made to a waitress in a South African cafe.

The petition was less than 10,000 signatures away from its set goal of 50,000. At that number, the petition would have been presented to Oxford Vice-Chancellor Professor Louise Richardson. Nonetheless, it has continued to attract attention even after its rejection.

In a statement officially rejecting the petition, a spokesperson for the University said, “Our duty of care to all members of the University means we do not discuss individuals.

“Oxford is a place where non-violent speech, however objectionable, can be expressed and challenged. Our students may voice opinions which others believe to be misguided or which they find offensive. “

They have a right to do this, but in exercising it we expect them to respect other people and the law,” the spokesperson added. The Rhodes Trust and other concerned institutions have equally stressed the importance of student confidentiality in this case.

London-based South African Jan Hendrik Ferreira, the launcher of the petition, wrote in its online description, “Mr Ntokozo Qwabe and friend violated a person’s dignity, publicly degraded and humiliated her, and created a highly offensive situation.

“Mr Ntokozo Qwabe has since taken great pleasure in narcissistically boasting over her reaction across social media.”

The petition description continues, “Mr Ntokozo Qwabe clearly does not uphold the values expected of an institution such as Oxford University and his actions have ultimately brought your educational establishment’s image into disrepute.”

“I will continue to ask you to rally to empower you to rally to empower and recognise the black nation.”
Zibu MaSotobe

Countering this initiative, Zibu MaSotobe started a petition to stop the revocation from happening. This was based on the academic merits of Law student Qwabe, stating that his action had been a move to stand up for the black Africans who “experience the rejection felt by that young white woman” as an inherent part of their daily life.

However, this petition was closed after it had rapidly reached 1,169 signatures. Zibu MaSotobe explained,“whiteness has never been shaken by a black petition. I fell into the trap of treating whiteness as a thing that one can use reason against. “I will continue to ask you to rally behind the movement to empower and recognise the black nation.”

RMF co-founder Ntokozo Qwabe’s actions in a Cape Town cafe called Obz have sparked a series of strong reactions, both in support of the activist and of the waitress who was involved.

The words “We will give tip when you return the land” were written by Rhodes Must Fall activist Wandile Dlamini in lieu of a tip for the white waitress who had served them, and triggered the latter’s tears. In a Facebook post for which, along with earlier comments of the same nature, he allegedly received a temporary ban from the social media, Qwabe subsequently dubbed these “typical white tears”, saying that something wonderfully “black” had taken place in the cafe. “We are here, and we want the sto-
len land back,” the activist stated. “No white person will be out here living their best life while we are out here being a landless and dispossessed black mass.”

A fundraising campaign named “Tip Ashleigh Schultz” was set to compensate for what was described by its online launcher Ernst Shea-Kruger as racism towards the 24-year-old waitress, raising $6,500 in five days. Cabanac, the author of a similar campaign told Cherwell, “The market and decency ensured that bigotry of this nature does not go unpunished.” The supporters of both initiatives evoked Schultz’ mother struggling with cancer as well as the assumption that the young woman was on minimum wage to demonstrate that the two RMF activists’ note had been unfairly aggressive. Schultz has expressed her gratitude on Facebook.

The question of whether a black waitress in the same situation would have received the same support from international media was raised by multiple users.

Although members of Rhodes Must Fall are divided over the matter, controversial ‘Rhodes Must Not Fall’ founder Jacob Williams told Cherwell, “It’s time we valued individuals, not just politicised identities.”

Similarly, Roman Cabanac, the host of South African podcast “The Renegade Report”, has publicly condemned Qwabe and told Cherwell, “The fact that he publicly gloated about humiliating a woman based on her race shows a malicious and racial prejudice.”

Joining Flemming in this statement, Brian Wong, a first year PPE student at Pembroke, said “Intersectional egalitarianism is about recognising that one can be oppressed in more than one way – due to their sex, race, gender, and such.

“I do not think Qwabe’s actions were intersectional; I think he acted unacceptably. I think the media probably also overreacted.”

Ntokozo Qwabe himself refused to answer Cherwell’s request for comment, stating only, “Maybe we will engage when indigenous South Afrikans have their stolen land and wealth back from white people.”

Colin Donnelly contributed reporting

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