'It's not a black v white war'

2008-03-04 08:46

Bloemfontein - There isn't a war between black and white on the University of the Free State (UFS) campus. That's the opinion of Tom Thabane, the Kovsie Student Representative Council's (SRC) Vice President of External Affairs over the recent Reitz video uproar and consequent racial tension on the campus.

He and his colleague, Matsepe Tsoai (SRC member for Transformation), spoke to Volksblad on Monday. Tsoai and Thabane were both elected to the SRC as members of the South African Students' Congress (Sasco).

"It's not a black-against-white thing. For us it's about students having to stand up against something that is wrong."

Thabane is one of five students who were arrested in front of the Reitz residence last Wednesday after the protest march against the video.

Stand up for what is right

"I was actually there to calm the others down," he said but preferred not to elaborate.

"The fact that students broke up into groups after the march and spread out over the campus - I won't condone that. It got out of hand."

He said the message must still be that students who stood up for what was right should be supported.

Tsoai said that although the video could be seen as a larger mentality problem, it can't be generalised to reflect the sentiments of all white, Afrikaans students and people.

"That would be wrong. It is only those four students who did it. But the bigger problem is the cult mentality that lives in many of the male residences. That must be eradicated."

This is the motivation for the point on their memorandum which asks that Reitz be closed down.

"Our country's youth should be worried about this. We come from backgrounds where one is taught to respect one's elders. The video is completely unjustifiable," said Tsoai. He talked with enthusiasm about change and the role that students must play in it.

"The world and its societies are continuously changing. It is our job as student leaders to make sure that things change according to what we believe in."

Thabane shares his colleague's philosophical mindset about the road that lies ahead for Kovsies. "We are all aware of race in this country. But as I see my race as part of my identity, I may never use it to discriminate against somebody else."

He doesn't think, however, that it is that simple to get other students on the campus in the same camp.

"Until students feel that that which is wrong has been put right, they won't be happy. This is about the grievances which we put before the UFS management in the memorandum."

The memorandum asks, among other things, that Reitz be closed down and that a criminal charge is laid against the four students who appear in the video.

"Until this has been answered, I don't think there will be stability on campus."