UFS students speak about video

2008-03-03 08:04

Johannesburg - They are not racists and even play soccer with the black workers on their parents' farms, say the University of Free State students who took part in the making of a racist video that has shaken South Africa.

In their only newspaper interview, RC Malherbe of Hertzogville and Schalk van der Merwe of Christiana, both 22, told Beeld the video was supposed to be "something comical" and that it was being blown out of proportion.

The 10-minute video shows how black residence workers are "initiated" in the Reitz residence on the UFS campus.

It shows how one of the students apparently urinates in a concoction which is later given to the workers to swallow.

On the video, students refer to the female workers as "sefebe" - the Sotho word for "whore".

But Malherbe, who introduced himself to Beeld as "the urinist" after being identified as "the urinator" in an English newspaper, says it was actually "weak Oros" which was squirted from a Powerade bottle.

And the concoction, which looks on the video as if it has dog food in it, was, according to Malherbe, a mixture of "coffee, protein shake, milk, water and plain brown bread".

"It was meant to create a funny scene in the video, like Leon Schuster who took a patty and stuck it under his arm, turned around and then gave it to people.

"They then think they have a patty that was salted in his armpits. That is exactly what happened in our video.

'They teased each other'

"If you look closely you can see the shape of the bottle under my shirt. It had weak Oros in it to give it a yellowish colour.

"You can see how I take the bottle out high up and you can clearly hear the bottle pop as you press it (to squirt out the liquid)."

Malherbe, who did most of the talking during the interview in their lawyer's office in Bloemfontein, said the "squeezas" who took part in the video came to watch it on his computer the next day.

"They really enjoyed it. They also went to fetch other residence workers to come and watch it. It was hilarious for them and for the others. They teased each other about it."

Malherbe said they definitely were not racists.

"If I were racist, I wouldn't get along with them," he said of the residence workers.

"When we're at home at weekends, we play in the soccer team against other farms.

"How can I, one white person among 22 black people, play soccer (with them) and be a racist?" he asked.

According to Malherbe, he, Van der Merwe and two other senior students, Johnny Roberts and Danie Grobler, made the video for the residence's annual culture evening. And, it won.

"For the culture evening, each of the 14 apartments have to put on a performance.

"First- and second-year students do a performance on the stage. Every guy takes a girl to the evening and afterwards there is a social and a dance in the hall."

The freshest topic

He and Van der Merwe decided to use the theme of integration as it was "fresh in everyone's minds".

"The previous week everyone had been talking about integration and that it was going to happen next year. It was the freshest topic," said Malherbe.

They used a cheap, amateur camera to film the video: "We started around 12:00 and finished around 18:00."

They used the workers to make "something funny" and because everyone in the residence knew them.

"It had to be something that guys would find funny. That's why we used them. We have been living with them (the five workers) for four years and everyone enjoys them and they are really funny."

The workers took part because there was a "good understanding" between them and the students.

"They have been working there since we were first-years," said Malherbe.

"They were really good. There was an understanding between us because on the one hand they look after us and we look after them.

Brought mealies for worker to sell

"We come from farms, so it's easy for us to bring meat and mealies, especially when we go on holiday.

"Everything that's left over, we give to them. It's a good relationship. Rather friendly."

Malherbe said he often took mealies to one of the workers, Emma Koko, 40, so that she could sell them.

He had asked her to pay him R1 a mealie and then she could keep the rest.

"So, if there were 500 mealies and she sold each for R2, then she pocketed R500 for mahala (free)."

Malherbe said the workers had come to him later and told him that "they wanted the video because they were going to be fired ... because they had been drinking during working hours".

A part of the video shows workers taking part in a beer-drinking competition.

Not what they intended

"We're sorry the video has turned out like it has. It wasn't what we had intended at all... We're sorry that we made it.

"The way in which it is being shown worldwide is not the way we had intended it to be."

"Overseas feels like a completely different place and now we're on BBC news for something we hadn't meant in the slightest."

In the meantime, they are banned from the campus and are trying "to keep a low profile" while their legal team prepares for their disciplinary hearing, and possible criminal and civil cases against them.