Call to rename Smuts Hall after spurned lecturer

The statue of Jan Smuts on the UCT upper campus has been covered in plastic bags after the university agreed to rename Smuts Hall.

The statue of Jan Smuts on the UCT upper campus was covered in plastic bags on Monday after the university agreed to rename Smuts Hall.

The UCT council approved the name change at a meeting on Saturday June 19. This decision took immediate effect and Smuts Hall will be known as the Upper Campus Residence until a new name is decided on.

The Economic Freedom Fighters Students’ Command at UCT welcomed the decision, which it said it had pushed hard for.

“The university community cannot allow a residence to be named after a man who believed in and advanced the racist Native Policy,” the group said.

#RhodesMustFall international organiser Chumani Maxwele said: “I am very pleased to learn that UCT will finally implement our resolutions that we put together at UCT in 2015 as #RhodesMustFall South Africa. We were very clear on the need to transform signs and symbols of UCT.”

Mr Maxwele said many signs and symptoms at UCT still celebrated a colonial legacy that was painful for black people at the institution.

“UCT council is just implementing #RhodesMustFall resolutions, and we can’t celebrate them for doing something that they should have done 20 years ago,” he said.

UCT chair of council Babalwa Ngonyama said: “The utter pain and anguish at the time of the decision to remove the Rhodes statue from campus was significant.

“The changing of names should not be seen as merely replacing what we do not like with what we feel resonates well with us or what we feel we relate better to. It should go beyond the view that the name we are changing is a source of discomfort or pain for those advocating for change.

“Nor should it be viewed as an act of diminishing, discarding or deviating from history by those who would wish that the status quo should remain.”

Ms Ngonyama said that over the coming months, UCT would hold discussions across the campus community about a new name for Smuts Hall, including other buildings.

Mr Maxwele said #RhodesMustFall International would like to see the hall named after Professor Archie Mafeje.

According to History Online, Professor Mafeje was appointed a senior lecturer at UCT, but his appointment was reversed because of an apartheid law. In August 1968, some 600 students began a nine-day occupation of the Bremner Building, demanding his reinstatement, but this didn’t happen.

Professor Mafeje left UCT and obtained a PhD. in anthropology from Cambridge University in England.

From 1969 to 1971, he was appointed as the head of the sociology department at the University of Dar Es Salaam, in Tanzania. In 1973, he was made Professor of Anthropology and Sociology of Development at the Institute of Social Studies at The Hague.

After many years in exile, Professor Mafeje returned to South Africa in 2000 to take up a post as a research fellow by the National Research Foundation working at Unisa’s African Renaissance Centre. In 2001, he became a member of the scientific committee of the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa. He died in 2007.