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    ‘Adam Habib is no racist,’ says Thuli Madonsela and others

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    Former public protector, advocate Thuli Madonsela is one of several people who have come to Professor Adam Habib’s defence, in the wake of racism allegations which led to him being asked to step aside from his post as the director of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London.

    Madonsela, United States-based writers Justice Malala, Palesa Morudu and former chairman of the South African Human Rights Commission Barney Pityana, penned an article in which warned against Habib’s removal, saying this would lead to “the silencing of all voices.”

    Habib found himself at the centre of a racial storm after he used the n-word, during a virtual session with SOAS students. During that meeting, a participant read a question from another student asking how SOAS could make statements about Black Lives Matter while at the same time, lecturers are allowed to use n-word.

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    “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,” Madonsela and co said.

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    Thuli Madonsela and co: Adam Habib ‘exercised poor judgement’ in using n-word

    Responding to that question, Habib uttered the actual word and said its use would be a disciplinary matter. Students in the meeting reacted angrily and said he had no right to verbalise the racial pejorative.

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    “Habib exercised poor judgement in verbalizing the n-word. 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 group said.

    Thuli Madonsela, Justice Malala, Palesa Morudu and Barney Pityana have also hit back at assertions that Habib is not black and should not be allowed to even use the n-word.

    “Habib’s lived experience is that of Indians in South Africa, most of whom are descendants of indentured laborers brought to the eastern province of Natal between 1860 and 1911. The legacies of indentured servitude, land dispossession, and apartheid racism have shaped South African history, and their effects continue in the present day,” the group said.

    “Universities that allow this to happen will contribute to the death of culture and knowledge production. They will no longer be places of learning, opting to become “safe spaces” where diversity of views is not tolerated — and only loud voices that claim to be the “authentic” voices of historic oppression. In a university there ought to be a level of intellectual rigor and debate about meanings, strategy and intended outcomes”

    Thuli Madonsela, Justice Malala, Palesa Morudu and Barney Pityanathuli

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