The allegations made against him are untrue and no lecturer should be prosecuted in this way for simply fulfilling his duties.
That’s how Dr. Pedro Mzileni, a lecturer at the University of the Free State (UF), said after students apparently complained about his allegedly racist lecture while he was acting as a guest speaker.
AfriForum Youth reported Mzileni to the Human Rights Commission (HRC) and last month also sent an urgent letter to Prof. Francis Petersen, vice-chancellor of the UFS, directed to demand that an investigation be instituted into Mzileni’s lecture in July 2023.
On 25 July, Mzileni addressed second-year LLB students of South African indigenous law at the UFS on the theme of colonialism, social justice and constitutionalism. According to AfriForum Youth, his lecture was loaded with a series of “deeply inflammatory and prejudiced comments that fuel racial division and hostility”. Among other things, he said that white people are the enemy and referred to colored people and Asians as “deputy white people”.
According to Mzileni, he participated in the investigation process on 14 September. “I did not make such comments. In fact, those who have followed my teaching, research, engagement and activism life for the past ten years will know that I generally don’t even speak or write like that. I further showed the investigation team the actual lecture slides I used in this particular guest lecture, my teaching notes and my published writings.
“All this academic material is prepared from rigorous research and extensive preparation, and all my speaking engagements as an academic are guided by a strong theoretical and practical commitment to decolonial science of the highest quality.”
According to Mzileni, academics have a professional and an ethical obligation to the truth. “Knowledge in general as an enterprise is a painful pursuit of the truth, and it must be consistently brought to the table with rigor in a university environment. When this obligation is practiced as teaching in decolonial terms among disciplines such as sociology, history, political science and philosophy, in recent times there is an emerging attitude of some white students who centralize themselves personally and their discomfort in this knowledge, and their learning experiences with share their parents at home who then react to us as lecturers with aggressive irritations. This behavior is offensive, unacceptable, and must be condemned in the strongest possible terms.”
Mzileni believes his words are twisted and aim to silence him as an academic as well as the teaching of decolonisation, history and sociology as disciplines.
“I teach my students these things because I actually love all of them in their different races and nationalities – and I want them to grow up to be resilient and knowledgeable adult citizens who will make productive contributions to the growth and development of this country liver.”