Jansen: Reitz case not dropped

2009-10-19 20:08

Johannesburg - Charges against four University of the Free State students over a videotaped racist incident which sparked a national outcry have not been withdrawn, UFS rector Jonathan Jansen said on Monday.

"This needs to be clarified," he said in an evening statement.

"There are three processes underway, and they must not be confused."

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

"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 and to re-open Reitz as a model of social justice and racial reconciliation as an exemplary university residence."

Decision based on two factors

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

These were "the institution's own accountability for what happened, and creating the conditions under which racism and racist attacks were even possible on the campus...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."

There were "broad consultations" about the need to resolve the issue, he said.

Legal expert, Tom Coetzee from North West University said that UFS's decision to withdraw its complaint against the four was irrelevant to the criminal matter.

"The State is the only one who can decide if the criminal prosecution continues or not," Coetzee said on Monday.

"The rector's (Jansen) announcement is irrelevant at this stage."

The Reitz hostel was at the centre of a racial storm in February 2008, caused by a video of a mock initiation of five black staff members into hostel activities.

Reparations for workers

In the video, black university employees are seen on their hands and knees eating food which had apparently been urinated on by a white student.

Two of the four students dropped their studies at the institution after the incident. The other two had graduated at the end of the previous year.

The accused - RC Malherbe, Johnny Roberts, Schalk van der Merwe and Danie Grobler - face charges of crimen injuria in the Bloemfontein Regional Court.

The case is expected to start on October 26.

Jansen said the university had offered reparations for harm to the dignity and esteem of the five workers.