Bongani Masuku: An invited guest of UCU

Bongani Masuku, the International Secretary of COSATU (the South African TUC), is touring the UK in the next few days. He, together with Ronnie Kasrils and Omar Barghouti, is speaking at SOAS, Leeds and Manchester Universities, and the Scottish TUC in Glasgow. The tour, to promote a boycott of Israel, is organised by BRICUP.

Bongani Masuku has made inflammatory and threatening statements against the South African Jewish community because of their support for Israel. Alana Pugh-Jones of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies says:

Specifically, Masuku had openly and repeatedly stated that COSATU would target Jewish supporters of Israel and “make their lives hell” and urged that “every Zionist must be made to drink the bitter medicine they are feeding our brothers and sisters in Palestine”.

Ami on Harry’s Place highlighted more examples of Masuku’s threats, and ENGAGE reported that South African Human Rights Commission ruled that Masuku’s comments are Hate Speech. If Masuku does not apologise within 15 days, the Human Rights Commission will take him to court. The commission found:

The comments and statements made are of an extreme nature that advocate and imply that the Jewish and Israeli community are to be despised, scorned, ridiculed and thus subjecting them to ill-treatment on the basis of their religious affiliation.  A prima facie case of hate speech is clearly established as the statements and comments by Mr. Masuku are offensive and unpalatable to society.

Fair Play can now reveal that Bongani Masuku is actually coming to Britain as a guest of UCU.

UCU is hosting a conference on Saturday to strategise on how best to boycott Israel. The agenda of the conference is a secret. The venue is a secret, as are the speakers and attendees. UCU has not told its own membership about the conference and has refused requests for further information – perhaps the conference itself was supposed to be a secret too.

However, we have learnt that Bongani Masuku is one of the invited speakers, along with Kasrils and Barghouti. The BRICUP tour is only an “spin-off” event. UCU has indicated that is paying for international visitors to the conference; this would mean that it is paying for Masuku’s visit to Britain.

We are shocked that UCU would host someone like Masuku, who incites violence against Jews in his home country, as an honoured guest. However, we are not surprised. At its annual conference this year, UCU voted not to investigate why so many of its Jewish members had resigned. One of the arguments against this proposed investigation was that it would undermine the Union’s ability to campaign for the Palestinians.

So UCU members’ subscription money is being used, we believe, to pay for Bongani Masuku to spread his incitement in the UK. UCU is trying to keep this a secret from its own members. UCU is running closed-door strategy meetings on a boycott of Israel, despite its own repeated legal advice that “making a call to boycott Israeli institutions would run a serious risk of infringing discrimination legislation and therefore “an academic boycott of Israel would be unlawful and cannot be implemented“. And Bongani Masuku is a key guest at this conference.

UCU no longer has any credibility as an anti-racist organisation.


  1. Sarah B says:

    Hi – I just wondered if you had considered writing to the Times Higher about this? Perhaps you have already done so. Obviously I could do so myself but I thought it might be better to come directly from you as you have researched the issue and I’d just be repeating your own observations. I’d be happy to sign such a letter of course – I’m sure many others would.

  2. [...] motion comes after five years of UCU passing boycotts of Israel, inviting racists to speak, ignoring the resignations of Jewish members and allowing a deeply uncomfortable atmosphere for [...]

  3. [...] his complaint made no mention of anti-Semitism. More recently, in December 2009, UCU invited Bonganu Masuku, a South African trade unionist who  had just been found by the South African Human Rights [...]

  4. [...] his complaint made no mention of anti-Semitism. More recently, in December 2009, UCU invited Bonganu Masuku, a South African trade unionist who  had just been found by the South African Human Rights [...]

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