Editor’s note: Mcebo Dlamini is the former President of the University of the Witwatersrand’s Students’ Representative Council. He was expelled from Wits in 2015, but not before he caused much controversy, including his praise of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and use of antisemitic tropes about Jews. After a strong reaction from the South African Jewish community, Dlamini defended his statements, claiming that “the same thing Hitler was doing to the Jews, they are doing to the Palestinians”. Has he now repented on his words and changed? Here is the statement he released today, released after a mediation between the SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) and the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC).
In 2015 I uttered statements about Jews and Israelis that were not only provocative but also extremely offensive. It is only in retrospect that I began to appreciate how much my statements were both ill-advised and to a certain extent dangerous because they ignored the kind of trauma that they caused. As someone who is interested in politics and how they can be used to advance a better world for all I should have known better. But consciousness is not something that you miraculously arrive at but you journey. My journey has made me appreciate that I was wrong and there is no possible excuse for what I said and there can be no way to reverse how it affected others. What I can do though is to supplement my apology with actions as testimony that I am truly remorseful.
I am committed to engage literature that will assist me in learning about the history of Jewish and Israeli people to understand deeply why my sentiments were offensive. Once I have this in-depth knowledge I commit to teaching others about the knowledge that I acquired. But beyond this I take serious interest in the history of all oppressed people in the world so that I do not repeat the same mistake. Once I have enough resources to travel to Israeli so that I understand their culture, tradition, belonging and how their present is shaped by their past. This I think will also help me in my growth as someone who is interested in politics of the world. I also want to have a guided tour at the JFIGC followed by a facilitated engagement with one of the facilitators at the JHGC. I understand these acts alone might not be enough and I am therefore open to any other recommendation that might assist me in demonstrating my penance.
My act is not mitigated by the fact that I was in a leadership position when I said these statement. I had influence on a number of people whom were possibly convinced by what I had said. I highly regret using the platform that I had at the time in such a harmful way, the way I acted was undoubtedly an abuse of power. I have throughout the years met with various people both inside and outside the Jewish community who have helped understand how serious my transgression was. I have also been made aware that my statements were anti-semitic, which is a form of racism. As someone who grew up in South Africa and was/still is affected by the vestiges of apartheid I should have been more sensitive to that.
In conclusion I want to add that I have grown as, matured and have a better understanding. It is because of this that, in good faith, I hope that my apology with be accepted as sincere and honest. This apology is well thought out and is a result of extensive consultation. I have thought very deeply about the kind of leader I want to be and it is definitely not a leader that spreads hate and rejoices at the misfortune of others.