EFF and LGBTQI+ students clash over queerphobic professor’s UCT lecture


Dozens of LGBTIQ+ and allied students gathered at UCT to speak out against queerphobic Kenyan professor Patrick Lumumba. (Photos: Beverly Dhliwayo / Safeplace International)

Tensions ran high on Monday as scuffles nearly erupted between EFF supporters and LGBTQI+ demonstrators protesting against a lecture by queerphobic professor Patrick Lumumba at the University of Cape Town (UCT).

Despite a concerted campaign and a petition supported by over 1,000 university staff members and students, the EFF refused to cancel Lumumba’s invitation to speak at UCT to mark the party’s tenth anniversary. The university also rejected calls for it to block the use of its facilities for the talk.

Dozens of LGBTQI+ and allied individuals, as well as members of organisations such as Triangle Project, Gender Dynamix, and the South African Students Congress (SASCO), gathered outside the Sarah Baartman Hall on Monday afternoon in the hours leading up to the lecture.

They sang and chanted while holding up signs with slogans like “Queer & African – No Contradiction,” “Here, Queer and African,” and “I’m a Criminal in 72 Countries.” One person held up a sign proclaiming, “EFF has blood on its hands.”

The protestors expressed their outright rejection of Lumumba’s statements that homosexuality is Un-African, that queer people should be cured, and that he supports Uganda’s draconian new anti-homosexuality law.

SASCO UCT accused Lumumba of perpetuating queerphobia “under the pretence of Pan-Africanism.” It stated that giving a platform to a homophobic person “not only leads to more acts of hate crimes against humanity but also regresses all the work that was done by revolutionaries of the LGBTQIA+ community.”

As the sun set, the demonstrators held up illuminated cellphones and sang mournfully to remember and honour the many LGBTQI+ lives lost through homophobia and transphobia on the continent.

Earlier in the day, the EFF on social media called on its members and supporters to “report to UCT … to defend academic freedom, tolerance, and the good image of the organisation.”

As EFF supporters joined the crowd outside the hall, tensions escalated, and at least one brief near-scuffle occurred, with university security struggling to keep EFF members and the protestors apart.

In a statement, the EFF claimed that the protest was organised by “ANC-aligned youth and student organisations” and was “opportunistically disguised as a pro-LGBTQI+ protest.”

The party defended Lumumba’s lecture by arguing that “academic freedom is the bedrock of all institutions of knowledge production.”

It further claimed that the protest was an example of “selective outrage” by “white lecturers and academics” frustrated that “a fully black-owned political organisation, whose policy and ideals they cannot control, is hosting an event in their white university.”

The party, however, failed to address its hypocrisy of claiming to be an LGBTQI+ ally and opponent of Uganda’s anti-homosexuality law while feting Lumumba, a friend of Julius Malema.

There is no doubt that the EFF would have been (rightly) outraged if an avowed racist had been invited to speak at the university, yet it chose to defend “academic freedom” when it came to a virulently homophobic speaker.

Triangle Project stated that “The presence of a homophobe today displayed hypocrisy from both the EFF and UCT,” asserting that “this protest was about resistance against victory and solidarity with queer Africans.” The organisation added, “It is un-African to be homophobic and transphobic!”

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