UCT removes “One Settler, One Bullet” poster amid controversy

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By Julia Rowley

This article is exclusive to the Online Edition 1 of VARSITY News.



A poster using the slogan “One Settler, One Bullet” was found mid-February in the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Cape Town and later removed amidst controversy. The controversial phrase, first used during anti-apartheid rallies by the Azanian People’s Liberation Army, was placed on the poster by the Pan Africanist Student Movement of Azania and has sparked a debate about UCT’s free speech policy.


This is not the first time that the phrase has faced controversy after being used within the context of UCT. In November 2018, Vice-Chancellor Mamokgethi Phakeng received backlash after she praised #FeesMustFall leader Masixole Mlandu’s dissertation, which contained the slogan in the acknowledgments.


Phakeng reacted to the social media outcry by commenting that those using the phrase have a right to express their views. However, the University’s decision to take down a poster using the same phrase has led some to question the freedom of speech policy at UCT.


Although the posters were removed, it was not because they contained controversial speech, said Elijah Moholola, Senior Manager of Media Liaison at UCT, who issued a statement to VARSITY Newspaper on behalf of the UCT Communication and Marketing Department. Rather, they did not adhere to the protocol on the display of posters on campus set by the Department of Student Affairs, as the posters were not approved by the Student Representative Council, he said.


Although UCT is seen as an institution where “diverse ideas and opinions matter and should be expressed,” the administration does not approve of the slogan being used, Moholola said.
“[The UCT administration believes that] the slogan may lead to a divisive, hostile and intimidating environment,” he said. “[It] does not advance the vision of being an inclusive campus where all people are respected and treated with dignity.” However, Moholola did acknowledge that in UCT’s attempt to be inclusive, members of the UCT community will have to learn how to “share the space with those [who] have different opinions.”


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