BRYNLEY VAN AARDT
Progress SA, a liberal student movement that started at the University of Cape Town (UCT), made their mark at Stellenbosch University (SU) on Monday morning by putting up posters around campus which have since been taken down in several areas. “We plan to spark debate by running controversial campaigns and inviting speakers to campus. The posters aim to challenge ideas that are politically correct. These ideas tend to constrict free thought,” Tariq Khan, the spokesperson for Progress SA at Stellenbosch, said.
Tami Jackson, a co-founder of Progress SA, said the organisation was started by students and young people who have an “interest in the principles of an open society”. The campaigns they run regards academic freedom, individuality and free speech. According to Jackson, Progress SA spread to Stellenbosch because “the events happening [aren’t] exclusive to UCT”.
“Progress wants to provide a platform to those who have been vilified as well as open up space for new ideas,” Jackson said. “Inevitably, we expected them to be removed. [It] proves the point we are trying to make regarding intolerance,” continued Jackson. SRC member, Leighton September, said that even though the posters were stamped, the stamping of the posters went against the SRC Code of Conduct with regards to an SRC member “[acting] as an agent or in the interest of another organisation”.
September also said, “Some members feel that the posters speak to issues that marginalised bodies still face and feels like it further marginalises them,” but said “the SRC was not responsible for taking the posters down”. Although the SRC is not at liberty to say which SRC member stamped the posters, they will be having a closed meeting this week with the relevant member(s) and release an official statement once they have come to a decision on the posters.
François Arnuad, a first-year BA (International Studies) student is of the opinion that any organisation that promotes freedom of speech should be welcomed. “The need for free speech has never been greater in our society and if they can be an organisation with people who are willing to champion free speech and our right to it then I think they are of great value,” said Arnuad.
According to Luke Waltham, third-year BA (Law) student, the organisation’s arguments are inaccurate. “The belief by Progress SA is that freedom of speech is absolute which is absurd from a legal and moral perspective, especially considering our [South African] historical and political context. Their arguments of collectivising all left-wing people and saying we act like victims and are oppressing them is flawed, and is, in fact, extremely hypocritical,” Waltham said.