Sat. May 25th, 2019

Julius Malema vs Helen Zille: The race to become UCT’s next chancellor is on

Helen Zille Julius Malema UCT ChancellorWith Graca Machel departing as UCT chancellor, two “chalk and cheese” candidates – Julius Malema and Helen Zille – could go head-to-head for the role.

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Two of South Africans most divisive and successful politicians could be set to lock horns once more. But this particular battle wouldn’t take place in the world of frontline politics. No, Julius Malema and Helen Zille are actually being touted as the front-runners to become the next UCT Chancellor.

After IOL reported that Graca Machel would be leaving her position after 20 years of representing the university, attention soon turned to who could replace her. Kamvelihle Tabata is the institution’s SRC treasurer-general, and he told the publication that Juju is the man to take UCT forward:

“If UCT wants to transform, there is no reason not to appoint Malema as a chancellor, especially considering the political dynamics of South Africa. He is also leading the biggest, fastest-growing movement in the country.”

Kamvelihle Tabata

The pros and cons of Julius Malema as UCT chancellor

The EFF leader is a huge proponent of free education for university students, and he has a rather fitting CV for the role: He was the president of the Congress of South African Students (COSAS) for six years before he eventually became the ANC’s Youth League leader.

However, his political beliefs may work against him in this context. He has criticised institutions – including UCT – for having a history of “whiteness” that still prevails to this day, apparently. Add to that his fierce and violent rhetoric that often surfaces on the campaign trail, and there’s every chance Juju could be a non-starter.

Could Helen Zille be a contender?

Helen Zille is practically the polar opposite of Juju, and it perhaps serves as no surprise her name is also being suggested to replace Machel. The outgoing Western Cape premier has had a good time of things in the province, and her husband lectures at the university.

DASO UCT Chairperson Caleb Kay is one of those people rooting for the stalwart of the opposition party, praising Zille for the service she has given to the whole of South Africa.

“Helen Zille is perfect for the role. She has done so much for this country and for the Western Cape. This is why we will be nominating her as the next chancellor of UCT, which needs someone like Zille. We will rally staff and students behind her.”

Caleb Kay

Of course, should Helen Zille get the gig, the very issues raised by Malema and his cronies would no doubt be up for debate again. Zille’s now-infamous colonialism Tweets still haunt her to this day, and she’s already faced one nepotism row in the past 12 months: Joining her spouse at UCT could raise some further questions.

What does a UCT chancellor actually do?

According to UCT, the chancellor has to be nominated by a minimum of 20 – and no more than 30 – people who have submitted an application in writing naming to name their number one choice, with reasons explaining why. So, what can we expect from either Julius Malema or Helen Zille in their potential new robes?

The role of the chancellor is quite ceremonial, with the winning candidate expected to attend graduation ceremonies and handover degrees from the university. They will also be trusted to promote the facility’s brand and help remove any obstacles that prevent UCT from achieving the goals set out in its mission statement.

It would mark another incredible chapter in the duel between the DA and EFF firebrands, and one we’d welcome with open arms.

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