Reitz Four incident ‘forgiven and cleansed’

2011-02-26 07:19

The so-called Reitz Four video incident at the University of the Free State (UFS) that led to a national outcry against racism is forgiven and cleansed after a reconciliation ceremony yesterday.

At least 300 guests watched as the four former Reitz students publicly expressed a “deeply regret” for their conduct and the harm it caused for the workers of the UFS, the university itself and the broader community of South Africa.

In a statement read on behalf of all the students, Danie Grobler said during the criminal proceedings they publicly stated their regret and apology to the five UFS staff.

“Since April 2008, we have lived through a most horrible period in our lives. We have been rejected by many within our own community and reviled by people who do not even know us.”

Addressing the workers, Grobler said they had failed the workers and now knew that their conduct had hurt them.

“With true remorse and humility, we ask you to forgive us,” Grobler ended the apology.

One of the workers, Rebecca Adams, accepted the apology on behalf of the women.

“A deed of love has been demonstrated by those young people who firstly pleaded for forgiveness,” she said.

The public reconciliation ceremony followed an out-of-court agreement yesterday between the workers, “the boys”, as the former students were referred to, and the university.

SA Human Rights Commission chairman Lawrence Mushwana said other parts of the out-of-court settlement were pecuniary tributes, an agreement on job security for the workers at the UFS and the establishment of a human rights institute at the university.

The ceremony took place in the old Centenary Hall with tables set in five long rows in front of a stage with a South African flag stick.

The black and white table settings were rounded off with five huge silver five candle stands.

In front of the stage, tables were set for the workers, the students and the UFS representative, Professor Theuns Verschoor, who made a public apology on behalf of the UFS.

Verschoor apologised to the workers for criticising them initially for taking part in student prangs during working hours, to the students for turning its back on them and to the rest of South Africa for not acting in an active manner in the Reitz saga.

Asked whether there was real reconciliation amidst yesterday’s fanfare, deputy chairwoman of the South African Human Rights Commission, Pregs Govender, said reconciliation had been reached through a long process since the video incident.

“It been a long journey to this point and the elements of reconciliation were in the agreement, the issues around equality and the protection against discrimination have been upheld, and a public apology and request for forgiveness.”

Verschoor said during Thursday’s private meeting between the workers and students that there was real remorse shown and acceptance between all the parties.

A small traditional cleansing ceremony was also held after the read statements, which followed a period of hugging, back slapping and congratulations between the students, guests and the workers.

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