Video ignites racial fury

2008-02-27 00:00

Bloemfontein — A line in the sand has been drawn between black and white students on the campus of the University of the Free State (UFS).

That’s the shared sentiment of several black students who took part in a protest march by several hundred students and members of Nehawu on UFS campus.

The protest followed on the shocking video produced by white male students at Reitz Hostel, showing five cleaners being “initiated” into the hostel.

The video shows cleaners drinking a brew in which the students appear to have urinated. At the end, the words “That’s what we really think of integration” appear on screen.

Ntombenhle Buthelezi, one of the students protesting, said: “This is just the tip of the iceberg. Racial tension at this campus has been going on for far too long …”

Another student in the march, who preferred not to be named, said the video was one of the most humiliating things he has ever seen. “This is war between the black and the whites. Since I started studying here, I’ve always been afraid …”

The march ended at the main building, where Free State premier Beatrice Marshoff addressed the crowd and expressed her disgust at the contents of the wretched video. “It is unacceptable! If the University won’t act, the government will!”

A letter of protest was handed to Free State MEC for Education Casca Mokitlane, and the rector of UFS Professor Frederick Fourie. Fourie stressed that he shared the indignation of students at the video contents.

The cleaners who appeared in the video were at the front of the protest march. They did not want to speak to Volksblad. A Nehawu spokesperson said the cleaners were still “too badly traumatised”.

The morning’s march was just the beginning. Pandemonium broke out shortly afterwards and police had their hands full when the students split into small groups and swept the campus.

A large group gathered at the Reitz hostel, protesting and throwing stones, and five of the group were arrested.

Stun grenades were used to disperse protesting students.

Theology student Cornus Botha said shortly after the 10 am lecture started in the CR Swart building, there was a loud bang. The building filled rapidly with students shouting “Come out. Come out … We didn’t know how to respond and so we walked out. The guys half-manhandled me. I was kicked in my back and side …”

The unrest was quieted down shortly before lunchtime. But the mood was far from calm, and for the rest of the day, for black and white students, it ranged between fear, fury and above all, uncertainty.

See the video below. Give us your opinion: does this incite racial tension, or is this a prank misinterpreted?

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