Transformation group highlights 'othering' at Maties

2015-05-27 17:55
Stellenbosch University

Stellenbosch University

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Cape Town - It will still take a long time before a culture of exclusion and “othering” is removed from Stellenbosch University, a transformation movement has said ahead of the planned removal of an apartheid plaque from campus on Wednesday evening.

“Steps have been taken, but these have not been enough. It’s going to be an ongoing process, but I think we need to stop hearing words and start hearing things being done,” said Open Stellenbosch spokesperson Sikhulekile Duma, 20, a second-year sociology student.

He said it really depended on the willpower of individuals at the university to combat an atmosphere of treating one culture better than another.

“There is a group of white Afrikaners that marginally controls it and if you don’t fit into that mould you are othered.”

The Oxford English Dictionary defines "othering" as viewing or treating a person or group as intrinsically different from, and alien to, oneself.

Duma said this phenomenon occurred when students’ cultures were not accepted, when they were kept out of normal conversation because of language barriers, when they were racially abused and when they were called names.

“It happens when they [students] are told that ‘your people want to change the university’,” Duma said.

“A lot of people in the Open Stellenbosch movement have had a lot of these experiences and there are also a lot of people who have seen these things happen and they empathise.”

Duma was speaking ahead of the removal of a plaque commemorating former Prime Minister HF Verwoerd from the accounting and statistics building (formerly known as the HF Verwoerd Building) at 5:30pm.

It would be temporarily replaced with the national flag, as a symbol of unity, and a declaration that people could add their names to.

The plaque would be kept in the university archives until a decision had been taken on the preservation and contextualisation of historical artefacts and symbols.

'Discussion without borders'

During his inauguration speech last month, Rector and Vice Chancellor Professor Wim de Villiers said that removing the plaque would give students and staff “the opportunity to talk about symbols on campus, as an institution of learning and critical debate rightly should.”

He also emphasised that the university should be a place where people could openly debate transformation and feel welcome.

De Villiers said a “discussion without borders” or an “open debate”, which led to mutual understanding, was needed around transformation.

At the end of last month, Duma received an SMS which read: “Jou swart moer van die wit boer.”

This loosely translates to “You black bastard from the white farmer”.

The number was traced to physics lecturer Anton Stander and the university announced two weeks ago that it had terminated his contract after he admitted making the remarks.

The university said at the time that it was reaffirming its “total repugnance” towards such comments and would act decisively in each case, regardless of its origin.

Duma did admit that there had been a shift in the university's attitude towards the group, from not wanting to listen, to it engaging with the group's concerns.

Read more on:    stellenbosch university  |  stellenbosch  |  monuments debate
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