Ministry calls for suspension of Reitz four decision

2009-10-22 07:43

University of the Free State vice-chancellor Jonathan Jansen must

suspend his decision to drop a complaint against the “Reitz Four”, the ministry

for higher education said today.

“We call for the suspension of the decision to withdraw the

complaint and re-admit the students, pending the outcome of a process of

institution-wide, meaningful consultation, and that the minister be advised on

any consequent action that might need to be taken,” the ministry said in a


Four former students of the now-closed Reitz Men’s residence in

Bloemfontein – RC Malherbe, Johnny Roberts, Schalk van der Merwe and Danie

Grobler – are accused of filming a mock initiation of five black staff members

into hostel activities.

Black university employees were seen on their hands and knees

eating food which had apparently been urinated into by a white student.

The students will go on trial for crimen injuria on October 26, but

in the meantime, Jansen decided to reopen the hostel and withdraw the

university’s internal processes against the students in the interests of racial


But the ministry believed the decision was insensitive and taken

without consultation and Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande had not

received a report on the matter by close of business on Monday, as


“We had hoped that the report would explain the circumstances and

processes which led to the announcement.

“Contrary to public assertions by Professor Jansen, neither the

minister nor any member of his staff was consulted nor informed of this decision

prior to the announcement last Friday.”

When making the announcement, Jansen had said he had consulted

people across the country.

Nzimande and his colleagues left the university after a recent

visit inspired by Jansen’s vision and plans for transformation.

“However the minister wishes to express his strong disapproval and

shock at the decision by the university to withdraw its complaint against the

former students and intention to re-admit them.”

This has caused further divisions and will open wounds which are

“still very fresh“.

The ministry also wanted clarity on talk of compensation for the

workers, saying there had been no consultation on that either.

“The view of the department of higher education and training is

that we cannot allow victims of racism to be unconditional unilateral


They feared that Jansen had decided to absolve the students on

behalf of the victims and compensate the victims on behalf of the


“This would constitute a superficial trade off which further

impugns the dignity of the victims and is unfortunately an apology for the

perpetrators of racism.”

The university’s spokesperson Lacea Loader said: “Professor Jansen

is busy studying the statement and he is not going to give comment now.”

However, she said in a later email that with reference to whether

Jansen consulted with the workers, he was advised by the university’s legal team

not to talk to the workers about his decision to pay reparations to them as it

might jeopardise their case.

“He did, however, talk to their union representatives about the

possibility of a settlement outside of court.”

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