Jansen: I stand by my decision

2009-10-24 16:43

THE victims of the racist video say they hardly leave their homes because going out means being ridiculed, but University of Free State vice-chancellor Jonathan Jansen says he stands by his decision.

The workers say they have lost their dignity. Sobbing, Emma Koko (42) said: “We feel we are just like toilets.”

Life for Koko, David Molete (45), Naomi Phororo (54), Rebecca Adams (52) and Mttah Ntlatseng (49) has changed after the humiliation they suffered at the hands of four young white students from the Free State University.

Despite a political firestorm, Jansen is standing firmly by his decision to drop internal charges against the students, and invite them back to complete their studies.

The world saw images of them on their knees eating stew into which one of the students had apparently urinated.

The images caused a massive outcry and the students were eventually expelled and the hostel closed.

Talking about the night the video was produced, Koko said they had been asked to prepare food for a cultural evening at the hostel and were later offered food and alcohol.

‘‘The food tasted so bad that one of us (Mttah) later vomited. We were not aware that we were being filmed, but we did see some of the students with cameras.’’

She said they ate on their knees as they were told it was part of the rituals for the evening.

“Yes, they did drink the alcohol but they were not drunk. And yes, they participated in everything they were told to do,” they said.
Months later their humiliation made global news as evidence of festering racism in South Africa.

‘‘Since then we are no longer sure about our dignity. We are no longer sure whether we are still human ­beings We feel we are just like ­toilets,’’ Koko said, sobbing.

The students – Johnny Roberts, Schalk van der Merwe, Danie Grobler and Roelef Malherbe – or their families have made no effort to contact the workers, though they claim the workers’ union, the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu), stopped them from doing so.

Nehawu has denied the claim.

The workers, who have been at the university for more than 20 years, say they were not told about any internal charges the university laid against the students.

They were not asked for statements by the university.

The first they heard of Jansen’s decision to drop charges was on the radio.

Ntlatseng said her three teenagers were so badly affected they continue to receive church counselling.

‘‘I lost my dignity overnight as a church woman, and the university takes the matter lightly.”

In spite of the ordeal, all five have not missed a single day of work – except for time they were given off.

“How do you forgive people whose parents you have never met, and who do not even see anything wrong with what their children have done?” Koko asked.

“If you are a parent of a child who is raped and the father of the perpetrator negotiates with you to pardon the rapist and you agree, without consulting with your daughter, who is the victim?

“There is something wrong with you,” said Tsiu Matsepe, the workers’ lawyer.

Jansen said: “Legally I could not speak to the workers about the case because I was advised that that could jeopardise the case in the court. In that sense it is true, I did not speak to them about the specifics of the case or its resolution.”
He said that he informed them about his plan to deal with the case out of court.

The four will appear in the ­Bloemfontein Magistrates’ Court ­tomorrow on charges of crimen injuria.

The Free State Human Rights Commission has also taken them to the Equality Court.

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