Chumani Maxwele

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Chumani Maxwele
Born1985 (age 32–33)
NationalitySouth African
Known forRhodes Must Fall protest

Chumani Maxwele (born 1985) is a South African political activist best known for his involvement in the Rhodes Must Fall and the #FeesMustFall movements.[2] Maxwele first gained prominence in 2010 after his wrongful arrest and interrogation for allegedly giving an obscene hand gesture to President Jacob Zuma's presidential motorcade convoy in Cape Town city traffic.[3]

Early years[edit]

Maxwele spent most of his early years in a village in the Eastern Cape region of South Africa. His mother was a domestic worker and his father was a miner.[4] Two years after South Africa's first democratic elections in 1994 he moved to the Cape Town township of Delft where he spent time volunteering for an HIV awareness campaign in nearby Khayelitsha. He gained a scholarship to study Political Science at the University of Cape Town.[2]

Presidential hand gesture[edit]

On 10 February 2010 Maxwele was arrested and detained in Cape Town by members of the president's bodyguard for allegedly giving the finger to the South African presidential motorcade. Following on this incident, the FW de Klerk Foundation's Centre for Constitutional Rights lodged a complaint with the South African Human Rights Commission, arguing that members of the Presidential Special Protection Unit violated Maxwele's human rights as enshrined in the South African Constitution.

Following an investigation, the Commission found that the following among Maxwele's rights had been violated during his wrongful arrest: Human Dignity (Section 10); Freedom and Security of the Person (Section 12); Privacy (Section 14); Freedom of Expression and peaceful/unarmed demonstration (Sections 16 & 17); Political Choice (Section 19) and the Rights of Detained Persons (Section 35).[5]

Rhodes Must Fall & #FeesMustFall[edit]

In March 2015 Maxwele ignited a vigorous national debate about post-apartheid racial transformation by hurling human excrement at a prominent statue of Cecil John Rhodes on the University of Cape Town's Rondebosch campus,[6] a result of which some media started referring to Maxwele as 'poo-flinger'.[7] He was subsequently an active member of the Rhodes Must Fall protest movement,[2] before being suspended by the University after alleged abuse of a UCT staff member.[7]

In October 2015, Maxwele was involved in a nationwide protest against rising costs of attending university otherwise known as the #FeesMustFall movement, during which he was arrested outside Parliament. The case is to be heard in February 2016.[2][8]

In April 2016, Maxwele was again involved in violent protests during an illegal #FeesMustFall protest taking place at the University of the Witwatersrand. During the protest, a lecture hall at the University was set on fire. Maxwele was photographed allegedly sexually assaulting a female protester by violently grabbing her breast, after a scuffle broke out due to the presence of a group of self labeled feminists and "queer persons".[9][10]

Alleged death threats against and physical intimidation of female lecturer[edit]

On 7 May 2015, Chumani Maxwele was given a provisional suspension order because UCT authorities "considered his continued presence on the campus as being a threat to the maintenance of good order."[11]

The suspension related to an incident which is alleged to have occurred on 1 May 2015. According to a statement issued by UCT, "Maxwele insisted on being allowed into the Mathematics building after being informed that as it was a public holiday, all lecture theatres and classrooms were locked." Once inside the building, and after ascertaining that the said rooms were in fact locked, he is alleged to have shouted, screamed and sworn aggressively at a female lecturer and two other witnesses to the incident and to have banged on her door after she locked herself in her office. Maxwele allegedly gained entry to her office where he pushed her and proceeded to bang on her desk whilst shouting and screaming at her.

It is alleged that Maxwele shouted that the lecturer was "a white woman who takes all the rights of the black students," that "the statue fell, now it's time for all whites to go," that he was "not interested in the opinion of whites and that they should be killed" and that "we must not listen to whites, we do not need their apologies, they have to be removed from UCT and have to be killed."[11]

Maxwele is alleged to have shouted that: "We must not listen to whites, we do not need their apologies, they have to be removed from UCT and have to be killed."

— Gerda Kruger, University of Cape Town[11]

Upon appeal by Maxwele, UCT varied the suspension to allow him to attend classes and use the library.[12] Maxwele successfully challenged his suspension in the Western Cape High Court on the grounds that the presence of the deputy registrar of academic administration, Karen van Heerden, at his suspension hearing tainted the hearing with bias.[12][dead link]

UCT spokesperson Patricia Lucas said while the university would abide by the court’s findings, its decision did not interfere with UCT’s disciplinary process and that disciplinary action in connection with the incident on 1 May 2015 would go ahead.[12] Maxwele had previously failed to attend a disciplinary hearing scheduled for 4 and 5 June 2015 after submitting a medical certificate indicating that he was unwell.[11]


  1. ^ "Newsmaker – Chumani Maxwele: No regrets for throwing faeces at Rhodes statue". News24. 29 March 2015. Retrieved 1 February 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d Eve Fairbanks (18 November 2015). "Why South African students have turned on their parents' generation". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 February 2016.
  3. ^ Moaga, Vincent (7 July 2011). "Chumani Maxwele's rights were violated - SAHRC". politicsweb. Retrieved 7 April 2015.
  4. ^ Linda Fekisi & Sylvia Vollenhoven (June 2015). "We Love UCT: Says Student who covered Rhodes in shit". The Journalist. Retrieved 1 February 2016.
  5. ^ Moaga, Vincent (7 July 2011). "Chumani Maxwele's rights were violated - SAHRC". politicsweb. Retrieved 7 April 2015.
  6. ^ Pitso, Smillie & Louw (19 March 2015). "'Rhodes rage' shifts up a gear". Times Live. Retrieved 7 April 2015.
  7. ^ a b Lisa Isaacs and Carlo Petersen (12 May 2015). "UCT poo-flinger lays own charge". Cape Times. Retrieved 22 May 2015.
  8. ^ "South Africa: Arrested Protesters Released On Warning, Case Postponed". allAfrica. 22 October 2015. Retrieved 30 October 2015.
  9. ^ Digital, TMG. "#NotMyFMF - sjamboks and muscles in Wits gender showdown". Times LIVE. Retrieved 2016-04-05.
  10. ^ "Protesters start fire in Wits lecture hall". News24. Retrieved 2016-04-05.
  11. ^ a b c d "Suspension of Mr Chumani Maxwele" (PDF). University of Cape Town. 10 June 2015. Retrieved 1 February 2016.
  12. ^ a b c Isaacs, Lisa (16 September 2015). "Maxwele beats UCT in court". IOL News. Retrieved 1 February 2016.