ANC criticises UFS decision

2009-10-20 17:05

Bloemfontein - The ANC in the Free State on Tuesday criticised the University of the Free State's decision to withdraw its charges against four students who landed the institution in a racial storm in 2008.

Provincial African National Congress spokesperson Teboho Sikisi said the party's view remained that racism was a crime against humanity and had no space in the country's democracy.

"The actions of these four boys were not an act of a joke gone wrong," he said in a provincial executive committee statement.

The Reitz Men's hostel was the centre of a racial storm in February 2008 when a video of a mock initiation of five black staff members by white students emerged.

Sikisi said while the ANC supported reconciliation and non-racialism, the acts of the four students who made the video stayed a criminal matter which must be dealt with through the criminal justice system.

He said neither UFS rector Jonathan Jansen nor the university could speak on behalf of the victims in the name of so-called reconciliation.

Misplaced arrogance

Sikisi also criticised Jansen for his "misplaced arrogance" which only served to reinforce racial stereotypes.

The ANC in the province would support the Human Rights Commission in bringing a case to the Equality Court.

The party also planned to organise various marches and picketing events at the UFS over the next two weeks.

On Monday, Jansen issued a statement to "clarify" the university's position.

He said the criminal charges by the Directorate of Public Prosecutions in the province, and the human rights charges by the Human Rights Commission were still underway.

"The university simply withdrew its own complaint against the students, insofar as university processes are concerned, and on that basis decided to invite the students back to continue their studies," he said in a statement.

Jansen said the decision, which fell within the university's authority, was based on two things.

Firstly, the institution's own accountability for what happened and creating the conditions under which racism and racist attacks were possible.

Secondly, the institution's desire to create the conditions for racial reconciliation, on a deeply divided campus, and in doing so to accelerate the chances of transformation at the UFS.