Sasco ‘will shut down campuses’ to rally against racism

2014-08-12 16:42

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South Africans of all walks of life need to rally against racism at universities, the South African Students Congress (Sasco) has said.

“We are not only talking about students, but our sisters and brothers, mothers and fathers, and all people living in this country. The so-called blackface incident, where two white students depict themselves as black domestic [workers], is an insult to black people,” Sasco president Ntuthuko Makhombothi said in Johannesburg today.

He was referring to an incident where two white female students were recently photographed in domestic worker outfits with their faces and arms smeared with black paint. The photo was widely published in newspapers and on social networks.

The students’ action was considered racist by many people who commented on social networks with the hashtag #blackface.

“We are seriously considering having a nationwide campaign against racism in our universities, more particularly at the University of Pretoria where this incident took place,” Makhombothi said.

“We are calling for the permanent expulsion of those two racist students who insulted our black parents in a manner reminiscent of the oppression of Saartjie Baartman.”

Sasco will “shut down all campuses” in the week of September 16 to rally against racism and to demand free education.

The two students, who took the picture at a private 21st birthday party, were temporarily suspended from their residences on Friday, but not from the university itself. A full disciplinary investigation will be held.

The South African Human Rights Commission on Thursday also launched an investigation into the matter.

“The commission has still not received a complaint ... but it decided to launch an investigation on its own initiative,” spokesperson Isaac Mangena said at the time.

Sasco also launched its Free Education One Million Signatures campaign earlier this month. The campaign will culminate in a march to the department of higher education in Pretoria to demand free education from minister Blade Nzimande, Makhombothi said.

He said universities that punished students for fighting for their rights were out of order. He said it was “a backward way of dealing with their concerns”, and gave recent protests at the Medical University of South Africa and the Central University of Technology as examples of this behaviour.

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