Media ban after new UFS video
Petro-Anne Morkel and Hlengiwe Mnguni
Cape Town - The University of the Free State on Tuesday refused to address questions about the latest initiation video to spark controversy at the university. Students and staff members have also been instructed not to talk to the media about the video.
The video, shot in October 2009, shows students Wessel Wessels, Jonathan Bosman, Pieter Cockeran and Theuns du Buisson being splashed with water, kicked and dragged by their legs on the wet floor as they are "initiated" into Villa Bravado - a predominantly black student hostel.
The four are part of the university’s racial integration plan to make hostel house committees more racially representative.
University spokesperson Lacea Loader referred News24 to a media statement the university released on Monday following the surfacing of the video.
In the statement, the university said an investigation was underway in the case of Villa Bravado head Chris Ntakeni and that the student head, Paseka Mokoena, had been suspended as a member of the residential committee.
However, Volksblad reported on Tuesday that Ntakeni had been expelled and that a disciplinary hearing against Mokoena, who is still working at university, was underway.
The university dispelled accusations that the video was racist.
"The UFS is convinced that the event was not an incident where black students acted against white students, because black members of the residence committee had undergone the same initiation exercise earlier," it said.
It also reiterated that the practice of initiation was not allowed by the institution.
The situation has caused racial tensions to flare up in the university after four former students from Reitz hostel were fined R20 000 each for making a video of black university cleaners participating in a mock initiation. The four pled guilty to crimen injuria.
A source close to the matter concerning the latest video told News24 that the timing of the leak of the video to the media was suspect.
“It is not a surprise that it only comes out after the Reitz 4 (were fined),” the source said on condition of anonymity.
He said those who were behind the leak wanted to harm integration efforts at the university.
“They want to spite the architects of human rights,” he said.
Asked who “they” were, he said it was those who wanted to preserve “white culture and benefits” at the university.
Freedom Front Plus Youth spokesperson Wouter Wessels said they believe that the strained race relations at the university were caused by double standards in disciplinary action against students involved in initiation practices.
"Why is it that when a black student does something to a white student not the same disciplinary action is taken as when a white student does something to a black student?" said Wessels.
"Last year when it was found that house committee members from House Armentum were initiated, the whole house committee was expelled from the residence. The university took radical action."
"But in the case of Villa Bravado, it was kept quiet. They only expelled the student head of hostel, nothing else was done," said Wessels.
SAHRC called in
When asked how he could draw parallels between this video and the Reitz 4 video, Wessels said that both videos displayed racist undertones and should be dealt with similarly.
The FF Plus wants the university to expel Villa Bravado's house committee and investigate if other students were involved in the initiation process.
It has also asked for the Human Rights Commission to intervene as it has in the Reitz 4 matter.
The commission's Vincent Moaga said however that they would only comment after they had had a proper look at the video.
Meanwhile proceedings brought against the Reitz 4 by the commission were continuing at the Equality Court.
"The decision and sentencing of the criminal court will not affect the proceeding in the Equality Court," it said.
The commission will ask that the court fine the four up to R1m each as punishment.
The ANCYL, which has been vocal on the Reitz 4 incident, was not immediately available for comment.