Update: 12 March 2013

SAUJS has written to Wits Vuvuzela retracting allegations of hate speech against Tokelo Nhlapo, as explained in the original article below,  and offered a formal apology.

SAUJS further said that Nhlapo painting over the mural was not “against university regulations”.

The organisation attributes their initial allegations to “an unfortunate internal error in communication within SAUJS”. Wits Vuvuzela quoted SAUJS media officer Gabriella Tobias throughout the article below and according to SAUJS national liaison officer Harry Hoshovsky an “erroneous and incorrect” release was sent from Tobias’s email address “without her knowledge”.

 

“SAUJS fundamentally respects Mr Nhlapo’s right to freedom of expression, even though we may not agree with his opinions regarding Israel. Thus, we wish to sincerely apologise to Mr Nhlapo with respect to this dubious accusation being erroneously published on our behalf,” Hoshovsky said in an updated statement.

Hoshovsky added that SAUJS did not intend to accuse Nhlapo of hate speech, despite him calling the mural “racist and wrong”.

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Original: 11 March 2013

The South African Union of Jewish Students (SAUJS) have accused an SRC member of hate speech, following what they label as “racist remarks” uttered during Israel Awareness Week.

Earlier this week Wits Vuvuzela reported that SRC vice president Tokelo Nhlapo and a fellow student painted over the mural as the duo believed that the mural was “racist and wrong”. Nhlapo also said: “most of these countries (portrayed on the wall) have signed a peace treaty with Israel”. SAUJS maintains that only two Arab countries (Egypt and Jordan) have signed peace treaties with Israel.

“As it stands, Nhlapo has been given a clear platform to spew his totally inaccurate, virulent and defamatory hate speech,” SAUJS media officer Gabriella Tobias said in a statement sent to Wits Vuvuzela.

SAUJS painted the wall in conjunction with an exhibition to raise awareness about Israel’s small geographical size compared to its hostile neighbouring states and Israel’s existence among students.

Nhlapo further alleged that if Israel wanted peace it “would stop the illegal occupation of Gaza”, a comment which SAUJS has rubbished.  “This is factually wrong as Israel unilaterally and totally withdrew its military presence in Gaza in 2005 along with all its Jewish population.”

“Currently Israel maintains a UN-supported blockade on Gaza so as to prevent military material reaching Hamas terrorists,” Tobias added.

According to Nhlapo, the Muslim Students Association (MSA) and Palestinian Solidarity Alliance (PSA) have lodged a complaint with the Dean of Student Affairs Prem Coopoo, “who approved the artwork”.

Tobias said that Nhlapo contravened Wits regulation when he painted over the mural, as the wall was not booked by any society. However the Dean of Student Affairs Prem Coopoo said: “The time that SAUJS had booked the wall had expired. The next day onwards, it was booked by the MSA and that’s the reason for clearing the wall”.