SAIRR regrets race setbacks

2008-02-27 21:08

Johannesburg - A racist video shot by Free State University students triggered an avalanche of condemnation on Wednesday.

The SA Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR) expressed shock at the video and said it would "do great damage" to race relations in the country.

The institute said the Skierlik shootings in the North West and the Forum for Black Journalists ejecting their white colleagues from a recent meeting - coupled with the UFS case - set South Africa back in terms of race relations.

Meanwhile, the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has raised sharp questions about the UFS itself.

It said it had received complaints indicating that the university actually condoned and allowed the violation of human rights.

"The commission is investigating whether the university played a role in perpetuating these violations," the SAHRC said in a statement.

The video, featuring black University of the Free State (UFS) employees on their knees eating food which had been urinated on by white students, sparked outrage across the political spectrum.

Filmed last year by students from the Reitz men's residence, it depicts a mock initiation of five black staff members into hostel activities and refers openly to the university's diversity policy for campus residences.

Criminal charges

Criminal charges would be brought against the students responsible for the video, the university confirmed on Wednesday.

The SAHRC submitted a letter to the university's rector raising questions about whether the institution had done enough to promote racial tolerance.

"Given its history, has the university audited its policies, rules and procedures to ensure that they conform to the human rights ethos as entrenched in the Constitution of the country?"

Education Minister Naledi Pandor has dispatched her director general Duncan Hindle to the institution to investigate the matter further.

She expressed her regret at the human rights violations of the workers and called on the university to take "stringent measures" to ensure that those behind it were disciplined.

Classes suspended

The university suspended all classes after a tense morning of protests during which five students were arrested and later released. The students workers union Nehawu handed over memorandums to the UFS management.

The memorandum said the video was a direct attack on racial integration, being implemented at the university and demanded the immediate closure of the men's hostel for the next two weeks.

Police described the situation at the university as calm on Wednesday evening.

Speaking after the protest march, Free State Premier Beatrice Marshoff said racial acts at the institution, which had so far gone unreported and unchallenged, would no longer be tolerated.

"Our approach (in discussions with the Human Rights Commission) will be that a full scale investigation of racism (on campus) must be initiated as a matter of urgency," she said.

Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille said the SAHRC should 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.

Teacher's union, Sadtu, similarly called for an official enquiry into racism at the institution while Freedom Front Plus (FF Plus) youth leader Cornelius Jansen van Rensburg distanced the organisation from the "atrocities" on the video.

ANCYL wants tough action

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

AfriForum, the civil rights initiative linked to Solidarity, strongly condemned the incident and the Young Communist League described the video as "inhumane and despicable".

The Inkatha Freedom Party youth added its condemnation of the video, saying clear racism was "rife" at the university.

It said the video coupled with the banning of white journalists from a meeting organised by the Forum of Black Journalists last week had "no place" in a democratic South Africa.

  • Roland - 2008-02-27 21:24

    These actions are a setback to racial tolerance in SA, just like the Black Journalist Forum, and the ANC acceptance of blacks killing white farmers - this "rainbow nation" is in for a rocky ride into the future

  • filip rafalski - 2008-02-27 22:00

    Why do we bother with such a small thing-A VIDEO!We can all see that that video was steged!!!!!! We have worst things happening to this Beatifull country,why don't we wary about them!

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