South African student leader spared sanction for Hitler comments

University of Witwatersrand describes statements as 'abhorrent' but defends freedom of speech

July 29, 2015
Freedom of speech

A South African university has decided that it will not take disciplinary action over a former student leader’s statement that he loved Hitler.

The University of Witwatersrand said that while it judged comments made by Mcebo Dlamini, an ex-president of the Students’ Representative Council, to be “abhorrent”, it did not consider them to be hate speech.

It was in April that Mr Dlamini said that he loved Hitler, and he followed this up with an interview in which he said he was looking at the Nazi leader’s “good side”, and the way in which he “managed to uplift the spirit of the German people”.

“What I love about Hitler is his charisma and his capabilities to organize people,” Mr Dlamini was quoted as saying. “We need more leaders of such calibre.”

Mr Dlamini was subsequently removed from his position on the representative council for unrelated reasons, and Witwatersrand said an independent committee had found him guilty of misconduct.

But this process had nothing to do with the Hitler comments, and Witwatersrand confirmed that Mr Dlamini would be allowed to remain as a student at the institution.

Jewish groups in South Africa had argued that praising Hitler was hate speech, which is exempted from protections of freedom of speech in South Africa’s constitution.

The university took a different view, according to a statement from Randall Carolissen, chair of Witwatersrand’s council.

“On the basis of existing case evidence, the legal office found that Mr Dlamini's utterances did not breach the exceptions to the constitution regarding freedom of speech,” Dr Carolissen said. “There are grounds for him to be charged for failing to meet his fiduciary requirements as SRC president. However, given the fact that he has already been removed from this capacity, the university does not deem it appropriate to charge him in this regard.”

Dr Carolissen added: “Obviously, the university still holds the view that Mr Dlamini's remarks were abhorrent and not in standing with the values of this institution. The university remains embarrassed that one of its own could have made such comments.

“However, given its commitment to freedom of speech as espoused in the constitution, the university is committed to providing a space for the free exchange of ideas, whether or not it agrees with those ideas.”

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Related universities

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Professor in Music and Performance UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH WALES
Professor of Storytelling UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH WALES
Professor of Creative Industries UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH WALES
Postdoctoral Position in Modelling of Farming Systems SWEDISH UNIVERSITY OF AGRICULTURAL SCIENCES SLU

Most Commented

question marks PhD study

Selecting the right doctorate is crucial for success. Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O'Gorman share top 10 tips on how to pick a PhD

Pencil lying on open diary

Requesting a log of daily activity means that trust between the institution and the scholar has broken down, says Toby Miller

India, UK, flag

Sir Keith Burnett reflects on what he learned about international students while in India with the UK prime minister

Application for graduate job
Universities producing the most employable graduates have been ranked by companies around the world in the Global University Employability Ranking 2016
Construction workers erecting barriers

Directly linking non-EU recruitment to award levels in teaching assessment has also been under consideration, sources suggest