UCT Senate votes on motion to boycott Israel

The Senate considered only one of the motions yesterday and commenced its vote on it, which was expected to conclude tomorrow. Picture: Tracey Adams/Cape Argus

The Senate considered only one of the motions yesterday and commenced its vote on it, which was expected to conclude tomorrow. Picture: Tracey Adams/Cape Argus

Published Mar 12, 2024


Cape Town - The University of Cape Town (UCT) Senate has started voting on a motion calling for an academic boycott of persons and institutions linked to Israel.

This follows a reconvened meeting by the Senate on Friday, which was presented three separate motions on the agenda pertaining to the situation in Gaza, UCT spokesperson Elijah Moholola said.

The Senate considered only one of the motions on Monday and commenced its vote on it, which was expected to conclude tomorrow.

“The Senate will reconvene at a later stage to consider the other two motions on the Gaza conflict. UCT will provide further updates on this matter at an appropriate time,” Moholola said.

The motion that will reportedly be voted on, which could, however, not be confirmed with the university, read: “UCT resolves not to participate and co-operate in any events, activities, agreements or academic projects involving Israeli academic institutions, research entities, lobby groups, corporations, foundations, academic forums and entities that accept funding from Israel … until these institutions clearly condemn the ongoing genocide of Palestinians at the hands of Israel; until these institutions categorically condemn violations of Palestinian human rights and violations of international law; and until they announce their commitment to safeguarding Palestinian people’s right to life, equality and dignity.”

According to the UCT website, the Senate, with a membership of around 439 as of January 2024, “organises and controls the teaching, curricula, syllabuses, examinations and research activities of the university”.

The duty of the Senate also includes carrying out additional functions assigned by the Council.

Another motion reportedly read: “No UCT academic may enter into relations, or continue relations with any research group and/or network that includes members of the Israeli Defence Forces, and/or any member of the broader Israeli military establishment.”

UCT Palestine Solidarity Forum chairperson, Muhammad Anwar Adams, said the motions were brought by UCT Senate members and/or executives and academic staff who felt the university should no longer remain silent and continue co-operation with Israeli institutions and universities. According to Adams, voting on the motion started yesterday and should be concluded by tomorrow.

“The academic boycott proposal was formally presented to the UCT Senate and executives last year by the UCT Palestine Solidarity Forum.

“It had been presented in the past but UCT either takes a neutral stance or votes against it.

“There was a time in 2019 that the Senate did in fact pass a limited boycott motion, which was later that year reversed by the Senate, after Council had declined to support the motion,” Adams said.

According to the Health Ministry of Gaza, at least 30 878 Palestinians have been killed since October 7, of whom 70% were reported to be women and children. A further 72 402 Palestinians were reportedly injured as a result of Israeli attacks.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East said intense Israeli bombardment from air, land and sea continued to be reported across much of the Gaza Strip, including airstrikes on the heavy populated Rafah in southern Gaza, where around 1.5 million people are seeking refuge.

By March 9, up to 1.7 million people, representing 75% of the population, have been displaced across the Gaza Strip, some multiple times as they were forced to repeatedly search for places of safety, of which many have said there were no places regarded as safe in Gaza.

The UCT campus has been a site of numerous pro-Palestine solidarity events from academic discourses to multi-faith vigils.

Recently a vigil was held marking five months of the genocide, hosted by the Cape Youth Collective.

Collective UCT desk member, Roomaan Leach, said some of the reasons the university had not implemented an academic boycott was that it stood to lose a lot of money or funding.

“Although there hasn’t been a lot of clarity on where that money comes from and what it’s being used for,” Leach said.

“I think there’s also a fair amount of research published in conjunction with Israeli universities. From the senators against the vote the claim is that a boycott is a violation of their right to academic freedom.”