Oxford University has responded to calls to revoke Ntokozo Qwabe’s Rhodes scholarship following a controversial incident he was involved in at a cafe in Cape Town.
A petition, signed by at least 40,000 people, was delivered to the vice-chancellor of Oxford University, Louise Richardson, to revoke Ntokozo Qwabe’s Rhodes scholarship, ‘or at the very least, initiate disciplinary action for his recent cowardly and disrespectful behaviour displayed towards a working class female citizen in a Cape Town cafe’.
Qwabe bragged last week on Facebook about the way he treated waitress, Ashleigh Schultz, at a cafe in Observatory, Cape Town.
Schultz was reportedly reduced to tears after Qwabe’s group of friends wrote on the bill: “We will give tip when you return land.”
Following the incident, two separate online campaigns were initiated to raise money for the waitress, purportedly in a show of solidarity against racism and bullying. Both campaigns generated a substantial amount for Schultz, approaching R150,000.
Qwabe is the co-founder of Rhodes Must Fall In Oxford – “an organisation determined to decolonise the space, the curriculum, and the institutional memory at, and to fight inter-sectional oppression within, Oxford”.
He is a former law student at KwaZulu-Natal, and received the Rhodes Scholarship to further his studies at England’s Oxford University, in 2013.
A spokesman for Oxford told TimesLive that the university encouraged freedom of speech, however offensive it might be.
“Our duty of care to all members of the university means we do not discuss individuals. Oxford is a place where non-violent speech, however objectionable, can be expressed and challenged. Our students may voice opinions which others believe to be misguided or which they find offensive. They have a right to do this, but in exercising it we expect them to respect other people and the law.”
TimesLive reported that a counter online petition to keep the student at Oxford was also launched. It read: “The university is a place where views coalesce and it cannot be allowed to exclude people based on the whim of those who feel superior than others. His not tipping was a choice and daily black Africans experience the rejection felt by that young white woman and he stood up for them.”
Qwabe however, urged his supporters not to sign the petition. “Leave whiteness to its hysterical ways,” he said.