UFS video widely condemned

2008-02-27 14:24

Bloemfontein - A racist video - featuring University of the Free State employees on their knees eating food which had been urinated upon - was widely condemned by various institutions and political parties on Wednesday.

The video, made by members of the Reitz men's residence on the Bloemfontein campus, came to the attention of the public on Tuesday.

It depicts a mock initiation of five black staff members - four females and a man - into hostel activities and refers openly to the university's diversity policy for campus residences, which was announced last year.

Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille said she had written to the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) calling for a full investigation into the matter.

Racial tension

"This incident is symptomatic of racial tensions that have been simmering at the campus for some time over the issue of hostel integration," Zille said.

She said the SAHRC should investigate the incident, secure redress for the victims whose rights had been violated, investigate the underlying causes of racial tension at the university and other institutions facing similar challenges.

Zille said human rights training should be put in place to assist institutions facing such challenges.

The SA Democratic Teachers Union called for an official enquiry into racism at the UFS. "The SA Democratic Teachers Union was appalled at the revelations of racism and abuse taking place at the University of the Free State," the union said.

Sadtu also called for the Minister of Education, Naledi Pandor, to conduct an official enquiry into this specific incident and "more importantly" the conditions prevailing at the university which allowed this kind of activity to take place.

The United Democratic Movement (UDM) condemned the "barbaric act" at the UFS.

Party president Bantu Holomisa said such an attack upon the dignity of fellow South Africans had no place in the country's democracy. "We commend the rector for the swift action taken against those involved," said Holomisa. "These people should not be allowed to study at that university or any other institution of learning in this country."

Violation of human dignity

Holomisa said further legal and criminal steps should be taken to punish the culprits.

AfriForum, the civil rights initiative linked to Solidarity, strongly condemned the incident. "The group of students' actions was inexcusable," said Kallie Kriel, CEO of AfriForum.

Kriel said he was sure that the small group's behaviour would be condemned by the majority of the students of the UFS.

He hoped the incident would not be used to place all students at the university in bad light.

Freedom Front Plus (FF Plus) youth leader Cornelius Jansen van Rensburg distanced the organisation from the "atrocities screened on a video reportedly produced at the University of the Free State".

Van Rensburg said in a statement the FF Plus youth would never condone nor justify the violation of the human dignity of any person.

The ANC Youth League called for tough action to be taken against the students involved.

"This barbaric act does not only denigrate and dehumanise those workers, but is a tip of the iceberg of what worker's experience daily at the hands of racists who can't differentiate between a dog, baboon and a human being," an ANCYL statement read.

The organisation said the UFS had become "a heaven of barbaric acts of racism" and urged the management to demonstrate its commitment in building a non-racial society.