News24

Reitz 4 found guilty

2010-07-27 16:58

Bloemfontein - The four former Free State University students known as the Reitz Four were found guilty on a charge of crimen injuria by the Bloemfontein Magistrate's Court on Tuesday.

Bloemfontein's chief magistrate Mziwonke Hinxa found the four guilty after they entered a guilty plea.

The matter was delayed for most of the day but proceedings started at 14:00.

State prosecutor Johan Kruger read the plea into the record as well as the charges of crimen injuria.

Kemp J Kemp, counsel for the students, said the four pleaded guilty on the basis of certain facts and circumstances which would be set out in a statement.

The students said the video was a sketch of workers taking part in hostel activities and traditions - as a demonstration on how things would look when Reitz fell under the university's integration policy.

It was submitted when the integration policy for hostels was contentious and a sensitive issue because the students had no say in it.

RC Malherbe, Johnny Roberts, Schalk van der Merwe and Danie Grobler submitted that the workers took part freely and voluntary and could have withdrawn from the activities at any time because they knew they were acting.

The specific workers were asked to take part in the video because they were on good terms with the students and had a good relationship with some of the accused, it was heard.

Friendly and light-hearted

Describing the scene where the women and gardener were on their knees eating or drinking a mixture, allegedly urinated in, the students said it was a demonstration of an initiation for second year students at the hostel.

Usually, the second year students would stand naked and had to eat or drink a "disgusting mixture" as part of the "fear factor" section of the initiation.

The mixture contained water, bread, coffee, protein powder, raw garlic and milk -- the impression would be created that someone had urinated into it, but it never happens.

The former students said the plaintiff's in the matter were explicitly told not to swallow the mixture, but to "play-act" the vomiting, not to smile and act seriously during the scene.

Nevertheless, the students admitted that the scene of the urination was recorded without the plaintiff's knowledge and included in the final video.

The former students said during the making of the video the atmosphere between the plaintiffs and them was friendly and light-hearted.

A bottle of whiskey was also handed to the women as payment for the work done, as agreed.

Kemp also submitted that although the students did not have the motive of incriminating the dignity of the workers in the video, they later realised that it had done exactly that.

"The accused did not realise the effect of the video and what it would have on the university and the plaintiffs. They now, in retrospect, accept that the use of the workers for the video was insensitive, ill considered and wrong."

Apologies


The students then apologise for the making the video and specifically apologised to the women.

"I just want to make sure he (the translator) says it to the women as well," Kemp interrupted himself while reading the statement.

Later the court looked in total silence at a screening of the video as agreed with the State.

The State accepted the guilty plea, but reiterated that the alleged urination scene was included without the plaintiffs knowledge.

Kruger said the students must have foreknown that the public making of the video would have affected the dignity of the workers.

"It shows all the elements of crimen injuria."

On a question by Hinxa, Kemp confirmed that the urination scene was "pretending", which was also accepted by the State because they could not prove it was urine.

However, Kemp also accepted that a viewer of the video would think it was an act of "urinating" and therefore crimen injuria.

Hinxa postponed the case to 14:00 on Wednesday to hear arguments on sentencing.