NWU vice-chancellor steps down after ‘Nazi salute’ debacle

2014-03-06 11:52

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North-West University’s vice-chancellor Dr Theuns Eloff, who was due to vacate his position at the end of May, will now step down at the end of March.

Eloff said it made sense that he stepped down earlier so as to allow the university’s new head, Dr Dan Kgwadi, to deal with issues at the institution since he will be in power for the next six years.

This follows revelations in the media last month that some first-year students had performed Nazi-style salutes as part of their initiation and induction.

Eloff said: “I never run away from fights. We just thought it would be better to let the man who will lead for the next six years take this bull by the horns and run with it.”

Responding to the assertion of Gwebs Qonde, director-general of the department of higher education and training, that the university was in denial about the existence of a “fascist culture”, Eloff said: “The university is not in denial. We have shown that we are serious. There is no culture of fascism. It’s a normal campus with black and white students mingling together.”

Earlier, the university apologised unconditionally for human rights abuses at the institution.

Chair of the university’s council, Peet van der Walt said in a statement: “Council once again reiterated its stance that it will not tolerate any infringements of human rights and regrets the fact that [while] policies and procedures are in place at the university, it became evident that offensive practices did occur and there were indeed violations of human rights. “Therefore council unconditionally apologises and trusts that the measures, which will be put in place, will prevent a recurrence of such incidents.”

The university has now appointed a task team to investigate the welcoming and introduction of students at all three campuses.

Among others, they will investigate:

» Cultural, induction, orientation, initiation and other demeaning practices, including acts of fascism and Nazism;

» Determine if these are approved by the university’s management;

» Determine the level to which first years are exposed to initiation practices; and

» Evaluate the university’s residential culture to determine if it is open and welcoming.

Van der Walt said the “whole culture” in the university will now be reviewed. He also announced that an internal investigation had revealed “irregularities” in three residences. “The disciplinary process will now continue. It was, however, resolved that further actions are needed in order to protect the reputation of the university as a whole.”

Save to say there were human rights abuses, he wouldn’t elaborate on the irregularities.

Kgwadi said he was happy to be inheriting a stable university that was doing well. “We will move to greater heights. I will accelerate transformation and I will take that very seriously.”

» This story was updated after first published.

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