Reitz 4 want R1m to talk
Piet Rampedi and Herman Scholtz, City Press
Johannesburg - The Reitz Four are truly sorry about humiliating five workers in a racist video and they are willing to talk about their experience – for a fee of R1m.
Last Friday night’s reconciliation ceremony at the Free State University campus took an unpleasant turn on Saturday when it was revealed that that was the amount the four former students wanted to pocket from speaking to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) about the event.
The bid came just 30 minutes before Roelof Malherbe, Schalk van der Merwe, Johnny Roberts and Danie Grobler stood on a podium and asked the workers for forgiveness.
The BBC asked the men’s lawyer, Christo Dippenaar, who attended the reconciliation function with them, for an interview with the four after the university banned interviews.
Dippenaar responded with a text message to the BBC’s correspondent in South Africa, Karen Allen, in which he demanded R1m for an exclusive interview.
The BBC refused.
Dippenaar said their negotiations with the BBC did not mean the men’s gesture on Friday night was not honest. “They have been through hell, mainly because of the media,” he said.
Friday night’s ceremony was hailed by the university and the SA Human Rights Commission (HRC) as a “historic” gesture “crucial to national reconciliation and social cohesion in the country”.
The university’s vice chancellor, Jonathan Jansen, denied that they “manufactured” reconciliation rather than allowing it to happen naturally.
At the ceremony the four former students read a statement of apology which was then accepted by the victims in a corresponding statement.
Sceptical workers, ordinary citizens and students from all race groups criticised the move as a “stage-managed” attempt at reconciliation and a further humiliation for the victims and the perpetrators.
Jansen said: “When Nelson Mandela started the process of reconciliation there were always those who asked these kinds of questions [about the honesty of the process].”
Jansen stressed that reconciliation at the university was a process, and said it was not possible for the institution’s 30 000 students and 2 000 staff to agree on everything.
“Are we there? No. Are we getting there? Yes,” he said.
Pregs Govender, deputy chairperson of the HRC, added: “This is not an event. It is a social process. What we have seen here is a significant step towards transformation.”
Commission chairperson Lawrence Mushwana said the saga was “difficult and heart-breaking” but “we crafted what ended up as a reconciliation agreement”.