Humiliated cleaners speak of being duped

2008-02-29 00:00

The cleaners involved in the video that caused all the furore on the campus of the University of the Free State (UFS) briefly spoke to the media through a lawyer yesterday and said plainly that they had not realised what they were participating in. The four female cleaners were present.

Lesley Mokgoro of the firm of attorneys Phatshoane Henney said his clients had been misled into thinking the video was being shot for a competition and that it was being done in a good spirit. They saw the video last year, but it was a completely different version from the one that was now causing the uproar.

Mokgoro was speaking on behalf of the cleaners, who appeared shy and confused by all the media attention as they sat in the council chamber on the UFS campus.

'What happened is still very fresh and still very hurtful. It is, therefore, difficult for the cleaners to answer all the questions comprehensively,' said Mokgoro.

An interpreter translated the questions that the cleaners were prepared to answer and the answers they gave.

The cleaners indicated that they knew the students in the Reitz residence very well and that the students and cleaners were quite used to one another.

They hadn't thought it at all strange to take part in the competition. However, now that they knew what the video had been used for, they felt hurt.

'We trusted these children, but that trust was completely broken,' they said through the interpreter.

The interpreter also told journalists that the word 'skwiza', which the students used to refer to the cleaners, means 'your brother's wife or girlfriend'.

Mokgoro indicated that the cleaners will grant further interviews at a later stage.

One of the 'journalists' at the news conference had to leave the venue when it became known that he was a student and not an employee of any news publication.

He had repeatedly asked whether the cleaners wanted the Reitz residence to close, and why the whole residence should be punished and not only the four students responsible for shooting the video.

One of the cleaners' representatives jumped up and shouted, 'Are you in Reitz?' The 'journalist' denied it and said he was from another residence and had come to take pictures purely for his own records.

However, the representative maintained that he recognised the 'journalist' and was sure he was a Reitz resident. An opportunity was then given to anyone not employed by a news publication to leave the news conference. The 'journalist' then left the venue.

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