Reitz 4: Rector won't back down

2009-10-19 23:01

Bloemfontein - University of the Free State rector Jonathan Jansen has refused to back down on his decision on the Reitz four, despite strong opposition from several quarters.

Jansen announced during his inauguration speech that the university had withdrawn its own complaint against RC Malherbe, Johnny Roberts, Schalk van der Merwe and Danie Grobler, who were at the centre of a videotaped racist incident which sparked a national outcry.

The four would be invited to continue their studies at the university, the workers would be paid compensation, and the Reitz hostel would re-open as "a model of racial reconciliation", he said.

Right decision

Jansen said during a news conference on Monday that it was the right decision for "the UFS and the country" and had been taken after extensive consultation.

Jansen added that he would not be prescribed to by political parties.

The ANC has been among those criticising the move. The party said at the weekend that it would "again harden racial attitudes not only in the university but in the country broadly".

The rector, responding to calls that the four be "punished", said they have been punished. Reitz hostel was closed down, the four students' studies were disrupted and they were no longer allowed to live on campus.

He emphasised, however, that 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.

Missed content of speech

Jansen added that those opposed to the move probably hadn't studied his whole speech, which makes it quite clear that the decision is based on reconciliation as well as social redressing. 

He said The Star's headline "UFS racists free" missed the "spirit and content" of his speech.

The same applies to those who only want to see the Reitz four as racists, but not the social complicity of the university.

"Do we have to harp on the Reitz issue until the blood flows? That isn't the kind of country and campus we want."

Jansen said attention is being given to the practical implications of reopening Reitz hostel on the campus, without its name being changed.

Compensation for workers

He said he would like to speak to Heimat Mannerheim, an independent off-campus hostel where mostly ex-Reitz residents stay, about reintegration but "without the baggage of the past".

Details were being thrashed out with regard to compensation for the workers involved in the Reitz incident, Jansen said. 

A spokesperson for Heimat Mannerheim's students said they welcomed Jansen's gesture.

At the same time, however, he accused the rector of "having his own agenda" adding that he had to first make good on his promises.

Students opposed to Jansen's decision protested on campus on Monday.

  • bee - 2009-10-20 07:23

    i'm really happy with this decision. it was an extremely bad joke and stupid decision from these 4 students. but, being stupid is a way of nature and you cant send someone to jail for being stupid. if it was 4 Mexicans i would still feel the same. no need to over exaggerate the crime.

  • Jakes - 2009-10-20 07:34

    Well done Prof. Jansen, this is the true spirit in which we need to go forward in the new SA.Punish those that did wrong, but don't make it a political issue that becomes another hate generator.Seek the root of the problem, and address the issue.Same goes for crime, joblessness, bad service provision, corruption, etc. Get the message, Mr.Zuma?

  • WERNER FINK - 2009-10-20 07:41

    just another one of those nice incidents where racism is flaunted ad infinitum as an excuse not to get on and focus on the task at hand, namely STUDYING.

  • Kovsie - 2009-10-20 07:48

    I agree with Prof Jansen. We live in a country of forgiveness. This is very similar to the preferential treatment Shabir Shaik got during his so called "imprisonment" and his ultimate pardoning by Zuma. (Don't think for one minute he will not be pardonned.)

  • tseko - 2009-10-20 07:57

    reconcilliation is fetched too far here, we were suppossed to set an example as a nation on this one.

  • bekkie - 2009-10-20 07:58

    The ANC are the ones who have racist minds and they are so sensitive that they must always play the red card. Where were the individual spirits when the game was played, they could have said no, find someone else but they did not, they went along and had a good time, until someone else moaned. Nobody can force me to do something that I do not want to do, it is called personality. I will resist evil and promote good.

  • wr - 2009-10-20 08:15

    This is utterly disgusting. Jansen should be fired. He is a leader that will compromise moral and social values for the sake of reconcilliation. That is pathetic. The students should be banned from any institution of higher learning in South Africa for at least five years. They can study overseas if they so desire. This nation does not need people, irrespective of age, that treat others like they have done. I just find it strange that no-one (police?)has yet clearly come out with the info what was in the stuff that the workers were forced to drink. Maybe I missed that but hoping that will come out clearly in the court case.

  • David. - 2009-10-20 08:20

    Please get a life! The incident is over and done with and cost the country a lot of bad publicity. What's worse? a prank gone wrong or the freeing of more crooks like Schaik and lavish spendiing by ministers as if there is no tomorrow? Why not rather concentrate on service delivery and the needs of the poor? Now they want to change the name of Nelspruit as well ---- more cost down the drain with money that could have fed thousands of schoolchildren. A crooked government run by crooks for the crooks.
    Hats off to the rector for standing his ground. He has my full respect.

  • Hans B - 2009-10-20 08:23

    I think that the rector did the right thing, it is about time that our learning institutions become what they were called to be and not breeding grounds for personal political issues, this is why everything is so screwed up.

  • tired - 2009-10-20 08:26

    Racial reconciliation is all good and well but why should it come at the cost of black people's lives?

  • K McGillivray - 2009-10-20 08:51

    This country is in desperate need of more people of the stature of Jansen, who stand up to ANC intimidation.

  • Manny - 2009-10-20 08:54

    Prof. Jansen, this Country urgently needs more Leaders like you. Thank you. You have restored my faith in the future of our Youth and Country. Please keep up the good work. Nobel Prize for Prof. Johnathan Jansen.

  • JP - 2009-10-20 08:57

    Racial reconciliation is a myth. It is used by those in a spot of bother to get out of it. The divide will always be there. It is generated by the whites for changes being forced on them, and blacks for appartheid.

  • AJ @ tired - 2009-10-20 08:58

    It comes at a cost to white people's lives, that's for sure. Aren't you 'tired' of seeing it only from 1 perspective?

  • Benzo - 2009-10-20 09:05

    @tired..."why should it come at the cost of black people's lives?" Who's lives?? Couple of tannies running 100mtr?? No one died to my knowledge. JJ did the right thing and the tannies seem to bark in the limelight they would never have had if they had not been on film. "Black people" are also clever in exploiting situations. They can still have their they in court. JJ has said so and -indeed- it is not a University issue any longer. If black students do not like this, they can go to any other University where they can protest and thrash at will.

  • frank - 2009-10-20 09:12

    Reitz understands students better than most especially politicians. He remembers what he was like at the age. The government peaches reconcilation so what is the problem? That students for you?

  • Bravo - 2009-10-20 09:15

    I say Bravo to Jonathan Jansen! When other approaches fail to resolve a problem, it is the bold man who tries something different. This is how Nelson and FW would have done it!

  • Marc - 2009-10-20 09:18

    @ tired - why, who died? Didn't realise that someone paid for this with their life - I must have missed most of the story.

  • moloko wa ga Mothemela - 2009-10-20 09:33

    People doesnt get a point here...we are talking about human being who have lost their dignity and respect from small Afrikaneer boytjies.. i do not condone their acts coz this people are taking advantage of black..Personally i know Prof Jansen as a no nonsense man but this time i think he did the right thing to show this stupid people that gone are those days and they have to smell the cofi and get over themselves..we cannot afford a bad publicity..I am telling you if it was a black person who did that to a white person it will be a serious case and he will even rot in jail...for the peace sake i salute Prof Jansen. Do not compare this to service delivery.

  • Rural Black - 2009-10-20 09:36

    This reminds me of when I studied in UP, when it was re-opened for black folk & we suffered humiliation @ the hostels on our 1st year coz of the so-called traditions. I was opposed to the tradition as it is not a uniting tool, and feel so saddened by the decision taken by Prof.Jansen, who I respect as I met him @ UP. I still maintain that the Reitz 4 should be dismissed & barred from studying with UFS or any higher learning for a few years, that way, all those that misbehave or even plan to & play pranks should know that this is a place of higher learning worth respecting & not a juvenile centre for training lucid social evils & tactics & that humans are not guinea pig, regardless of race or creed or social standing. I wonder how they would treat their helpers (nanny, gardener etc) @ home, assuming that they are not of the same race with them, which is not the issue here, however, charity begins @ home. They should be treated just like any other students who incites violence on campus or damage property, mos it stands in the council rules & regulation of the possible punishmnets for transgressors. When you sign the application forms, there is also fine print of rules to follow, and it must be executed without fear or discrimination, not as under-handed whimsical tactis & point scoring grounds under the auspices that one is promoting "reconciliation"! What about the victims? I will give this last comparison, its like asking a rape victim to be friends with the person that did the deed, for reconciliation, imagine! By consultation, he could have spoken to the employees who were victims, but jobs are scarce guys, and for people with less skills & prospects of re-employment elsewhere if they refuse the offer, it is easy to assume that they are in agreement with the one with the means & thus power to hire & fire.

  • James - 2009-10-20 09:45

    I am appalled by comments on this matter. Perhaps we should begin to understand that there is a preponderance of negativity being expressed by, presumably, Black people. I am beginning to believe that there is no middle ground in any issue involving race, or for that matter, language. Student pranks are pranks, the students are not mature enough to know what they are doing is not quite correct. Four so called abused Women cannot equate with gross destruction of public facilities like schools, libraries and more that other "students" perpetrate. My tax pocket is more affected by the latter.

  • GP - Oud Kovsie - 2009-10-20 09:54

    Prof Jansen, I salute you!! Well done in this decision. Young people make mistakes and these four have learned a valuable and hard lesson. Apologize to the workers and all move on with your lives. Three cheers for a brave and remarkable rector - one of the best Kovsies had to date.

  • O - 2009-10-20 10:24

    too bad that they've gotten away with unpunished...Expulsion would have been perfect for stupid boys...Tell me what if it was a case of stealing PC's what would have happened then, would they have asked them to continue their studies with UFS...

  • Vanessa V - 2009-10-20 11:00

    If those 'kids' are allowed to get a way with those disgusting acts now can you only imagine what they will get up to when they are older. They need to be punished and Jonathan Jensen obviously has no childern lives in a huge house with a maid and a gardener. These people have no respect for a South Africa that 'can' be ... its a case of 'im in power and therefore i will do what i want..' - its pathetic!

  • Mary Poppins - 2009-10-20 11:06

    I cannot believe people are actually saying 'forgive' those punks for what they did!!! They are the ones who need to ask those workers for forgiveness!!! The Recotor should set an example and have them banned - this country has too many human rights - the crimals ALWAYS get away and the victims are left to feel like the criminals. I have full respect for the ladies that came forward to tell of their horrific story - that was brave and what did they get - a pay off!! Rector - thats really seeting a great example to your students???

  • Louis - 2009-10-20 11:14

    I wish those stupid racists boys were not only expelled from the UFS, but also blacklisted from studying at any institution of higher learning and not only in this country, but any country around the globe. They are useless and they show us the kind of homesteads they come from.That's what their parents taught them, that a black person is not a human maar 'n bobejaan met die stert. If I was a so-called white I would definately be ashamed of myself.Yes I understand that there are so-called white people with morals, who had a good upbringing and therefore respects any fellow human.To you I say big up.

  • jay - 2009-10-20 12:47

    no wonder there is so much crime in this country. people get away with everything.

  • mandla - 2009-10-20 13:16

    it's amazing for a man who has "consulted widely" and "values forgiveness and reconciliation" that he "wont back down!" It says a lot about the guy. Jansen is not an Induna at OFS and the matter he is presiding on affects all South Africans not because of race but because all criminals must face up to the consequences of their alleged crime. No doubt all institutions have "dismissible offences" except of course the OFS. Jansen achieved his singular feat by confusing a national matter and making it a private and personal matter. Imagine if I hijack a person's car, violate them and I get "approved" earn a "forgiveness" and avoid criminal retribution and carry on with life regardless of the consequences of my act. I fail to see any "broad politics" and "political,historical and cultural" driving forces in the acts of the 4 boys. The TRC was a time bound, unique historical momonet aimed at dealing with intractable justice problems of political violence. Can someone help me to see that in the abuse of 4 loving and trusting women workers by the 4 perverts? What prevented the 4 from going to Maties or Tukkies or Potch? No white or black person has asked for the escape of justice for the 4 except Prof Jansen himself who for unknown reasons seem hell bent in rubbishing the injustice suffered by the victims. How do you determine monetary compensation for the women victims, Prof, when there was no due process of law followed? You sense of personal Greatness is not amazing but very fearful and worrying because you are dealing with other people's lives here!

  • Mike Ambassador - 2009-10-20 13:21

    I can't wait for the court case so that we all can see exactely what happened. I am 100% sure the UFS would not be so accomidating if they had a solid case against these stupid students. I heard these ladies where paid for there acting services, so what does it make them?? as far as I know they where not forced to acted in this immature stupid movie!!!

  • UOFS - 2009-10-20 13:55

    Vir die meisie wat die video in die eerte plek aan die media gelek het.. Ek hoop jy het ook 'n les geleer..

  • cindy @ Louis - 2009-10-20 14:23

    pray tell Louis, what EXACTLY you mean with "so-called white"? To my knowledge, you get white, coloured, indian & black. Haven't seen any "so-called whites" as yet! And besides, don't go rating all the "so-called whites" by the despicable act of four idiotic RACISTS and then still try make the "so-called whites" feel better by pointing out that there are some with morals blah blah blah... fortunately, the wheel turns, and those four "boys" will face the consequences for their deeds, be it now or later in life.

  • CO - 2009-10-20 14:45

    This is a great decision and I fail to see why there is unhappiness about it. Didn't Julius Malema and other political heads say that Chuene should be forgiven for making a mistake in the way he handled the Semenya saga? Why should a senior leader be forgiven and youngsters have to be treated differently? Is it because of race? If the culture of 'forgiving for makng a mistake' was not applicable, then, and only then, should the Reitz 4 be punished more harshly. You gotta sleep on the bed you make ......

  • bytjies - 2009-10-20 15:17

    stop making everything a race issue. we all know about initiations in hostels. those who went to hostels, like myself, went through it. is this the one and only incident of initiantion that ever happend at this campus? where the other initiators also procecuted???? people........... these kids did a discusting act towards other humans. stop saying its white against black or black against white. i am sure if it was white ladies that went through the initiation under white boys, the effect would have been the same. i think the ladies should have stood up, give the boys a mouth full and walked off. they had the power to do it.
    this is a united country. start seeing the acts of violence as human against human and not race against race. maybe then we can start sorting out the problems of this country.

  • Not convinced - 2009-10-20 15:39

    Don't get me wrong here - if this truly a racist incident, I'll be the first to condemn it. BUT: I saw the tape. It looked to me as if those tannies were playing along with the joke and thoroughly enjoying it. By everyone's admission, everyone in the res (including the tannies) were like one big family, and they regarded the students as their "sons". Never did any of the tannies lay a charge against anyone - it was done "on their behalf" by the ANC and human rights activists. Nowhere on that tape is there physical, incontrovertible evidence that anyone urinated in any food. You see a stream of liquid, yes, but was it urine or orange cooldrink? This was blown out of all proportion by people who wanted to use it for their own political ends. I was therefore not surprised when the charges were withdrawn. There is no evidence, probably because nothing obscure happened. What I saw on the tape, was nothing other than what happens at normal student "induction" practices, which was exactly what these guys wanted to portray. Stupid maybe, sick maybe, but aren't all "inductions" like that? Now crucify me if you like, but please come with evidence that I am wrong, before you do it.

  • Dave - 2009-10-20 15:45

    wrong is wrong.......lets not cover bad things by all the technical terms. People who behave in manner that is not acceptable must face the heat. This is a very sensitive matter which is still in the early stages of others to heal and incidents such as this one triggers bad memories. All we want is a Republic that is good for its kids to live freely. I think the Rector got WAY TOO SOFT for this boys, totally unacceptable.

  • WhyWhyWhy - 2009-10-21 19:30

    Another take on this issue – The students involved here were not even properly adults yet. The cleaners on the other hand were adults. How did four youths force the adults to participate in their sick little ceremony? Did they threaten violence? Did they offer money? What could they possibly offer to involve ADULTS to participate in their childish games... Maybe they students did threaten the cleaners, I don’t know. If they didn’t why did the cleaners comply?
    Also, should the cleaners not have been busy doing their jobs while they were being “initiated”? If they did what they were being paid for doing the whole incident would not have happened.
    That being said I believe the best way to deal with the four youths is to let them do community service by cleaning public hospitals for a period of six months.

  • lebo - 2009-10-22 05:12

    To bee maybe if it was your parent who suffered the humiliation you'd understand that this matter is not being exaggerated while i support reconciliation i do not agree with Jansen on this one,those ppl wre made to suffer humiliation that no person should endure in the hands of another human being dogs are treated far better than what they got,those boys deserve to be punished otherwise i dont see him succeding in reconciliation.

  • Mmeli Msibi - 2009-10-22 06:30

    People!! let's open up our eyes.I agree with Prof Jansen. We live in a country of forgiveness BUT these students need to be punished ukuthi they were wrong! We cannot talk about reconcilation if they dont apologise for themselves. Prof Jansen I salute you since i know you well about your articles but now you are giving us another picture of you. Let us think about the didgn ity of those people who ate that meat. Humilating is another thing!!!

  • mara - 2009-10-22 15:15

    this is a very sad and disturbing stance taken by that ractor Jansen and also pitty to humans who regards the stance as reconcilating instead this ivusela iminyele, lot has happend in this countr, didhumaining atricities by one race over the other and yet incidents as this is hailed as an immature acts as if done by grade R's. jeslike this is bad.

  • LUDY - 2009-10-25 19:58


  • john - 2009-10-25 22:55

    its all rubbish i completely disagree with jansen decision,its about respect and humanity!!

  • John Child - 2009-10-26 07:08

    Jonathan Jansen is one of a new generation of leaders in South Africa. He is acting in line with the spirit of the new South Africa, as demonstrated by the likes of Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Tutu. He is also acting as a Christian in line with the Gospel of Jesus. Only the Gospel brings the forgiveness, reconciliation, healing, transformation & wholeness we so desperately need. Give Prof Jansen the chance he needs to bring reconciliation to the campus and to transform the UFS and make it a model university.

  • diane - 2009-10-26 13:05

    The only people that have the right to forgive the perpetrators are the victims, not Prof Jansen. These students should not be allowed on any campus in South Africa for at least 5 years, if at all. Their apologies will not erase the indignity endured by the victims

  • toets - 2009-10-26 15:01

    Prof is just scared of how they(white people in the university) will look at him. The decision he took does not serve justice at all.

  • Roekeya - 2009-10-28 13:16

    Yet another case of the perpetrators being protected. I fully agree with Diane. Its not up to Jansen to forgive and forget. There were victims and above everyone else, THEIR voices should be heard and not the voices of ignorant and arrogant they white/black/coloured. The Reitz 4 should not be allowed back to UFS. What they did was not a "joke gone wrong", it was a crime against human beings. What kind of professional people would the Reitz 4 make upon graduation ? Makes me wonder what kind of professionals UFS is turning out.

  • HaHaHa - 2009-10-29 10:04

    Everyone is so dramatic... I am amazed at what a big issue was created around this in the first place. Concentrate on important things for a change instead of turning petty incidents into an excuse to accuse someone of racism once again...

  • Hilda - 2009-10-29 10:08

    Oh, so dramatic. I don’t understand why such a big issue was created about this in the first place. Start concentrating on the important issues instead of turning petty incidents into an excuse to accuse someone of racism once again…

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