'Punish, then forgive Reitz 4'

2009-10-21 22:31

Cape Town - The students at the heart of the Reitz hostel racism row should be punished before being forgiven, an international jurist said on Wednesday.

"You must punish, and then [reconcile]. You don't start by reconciling.

"Because if you don't punish, what are you doing? You are developing impunity. It will be repeated again and again," Michelo Hansungule told an Africa Human Rights Day meeting in Cape Town.

Hansangule teaches law at the University of Pretoria and is a member of the International Commission of Jurists.

His remarks followed the decision by the university's new rector, Jonathan Jansen, to withdraw disciplinary charges against four white students behind a 2007 racist incident.

The students videotaped three Reitz cleaners eating meat which had been apparently been urinated on.

Jansen's decision aroused the ire of the ANC and the higher education ministry, but was supported by archbishop emeritus Desmond Tutu, who said Jansen had "done us proud".

The SA Human Rights Commission said this week it would still pursue civil action against the university and the students.

The four are expected to appear in the Bloemfontein Magistrate's Court on October 26 on charges of crimen injuria.