Blade Nzimande tells Stellenbosch University not to be a ‘sanctuary to racists’

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The university said once all processes had been followed it did not rule out expulsion and/or criminal charges. Photo: Jaco Marais
The university said once all processes had been followed it did not rule out expulsion and/or criminal charges. Photo: Jaco Marais

NEWS


Higher Education Science and Innovation Minister, Blade Nzimande, has cautioned Stellenbosch University not to allow itself to be a “sanctuary to racists”.

This after a white student was captured on video urinating on the belongings of a black student at the institution.

On Tuesday, Nzimande said the incident was a “blatant racist act”. The statement said he was waiting for a full report from the university after the disciplinary hearing on Friday.

“The minister welcomes the swift action taken by the university to suspend the perpetrator of this shameful and dehumanising act against another student. He urges the university to take the strongest action to ensure that the university does not provide sanctuary to any racists.” The statement read:

There is no place for such behaviour or persons at our universities.

A video of Theuns Du Toit urinating on Babalo Ndwanyana’s belongings – including his laptop – at the Huis Marias student residence emerged on Monday. In the video, which Ndwanyana recorded, he can be heard asking Du Toit why he is urinating in his room.

Du Toit, who is also a first-year student, has since been suspended by the university. On Monday students held a protest calling for his expulsion.

In a statement, the university said once all processes had been followed it did not rule out expulsion and/or criminal charges.

Nzimande called for the university to provide a safe space for all its students and staff.

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“The minister further asserts that the incident, like similar past incidents, point to a fundamental question about the continued persistence of oppressive social structures in parts of South African society that fosters a disposition in which a young person endows himself the right to behave in the most egregious and abominable racist manner against a fellow human being. If it is the case that no person is born racist, as former president Nelson Mandela correctly argued, where does such behaviour stem from?” reads the statement.

The Council on Higher Education (CHE) also released a strong-worded statement on Monday – signed by its CEO Whitfield Green – following the incident. The council said the act was “barbaric” and “grossly demeaning”.

“The intention was clearly to completely demean and dehumanise a black student and to question his legitimate right to study at this public university. By its very nature it is a clear demonstration of the racism that is still very prevalent in our society.

“The CHE condemns this incident in the strongest terms. Both the individual incident and the individual perpetrator are condemned, but also the culture that, even in a democratic South Africa, still enables the beliefs and values that underpin these behaviours and allow them to continue and even to thrive. Sadly, racist events such as these are not isolated cases,” reads the statement.

The CHE also called for the “strongest action” to be taken against Du Toit and to provide support to Ndwanyana.

“This is also a time for strong introspection at the university. To what extent is the transformation project fully underway and making progress at the university, or is this a sign of an institution and an institutional culture that remains largely untransformed?” The CHE statement reads:

Like all universities in our country, Stellenbosch University is a national asset, and for that reason, among others, it should ensure that its reputation and legitimacy is not sullied by acts of racism by some within its community.

No word from Stellenbosch to family

Meanwhile, Ndwanyana’s father, Mkuseli Kaduka told City Press that since the incident the university had not formally reached out to him even after writing to the vice-chancellor Professor Wim de Villiers.

He said the only communication he received from the university was an SMS from the residence manager telling him that they were taking care of Ndwanyana and that he was safe.

Kaduka said even though Ndwanyana (20) was an adult, he was still his legal guardian and the university could not deal with just him alone on such a sensitive matter.

“My signature is on those documents that allowed him to go there, so adult or no adult, they should make means to try and reach out to me. I have been accessible through the media and if they were willing to contact me, they would have done so by now,” said Kaduka.

“I am not impressed at all by how they are handling the situation, it is like they are trying to isolate my son from me and managing the situation themselves without involving me.”

Kaduka said his son, a first year agriculture science student, had told him that the university had arranged that he flies back home to East London and would only return to Stellenbosch closer to his exams.

University head speaks

Martin Viljoen, the university’s spokesperson, told City Press that the institution’s first priority was to make sure that Ndwayana was cared for. “The university is now in the process of reaching out to the parents,” he said.

In an address to staff and students, the vice-chancellor said the incident was “shocking and appalling”.

De Villiers said:

This type of behaviour cannot and will not be tolerated. I am truly sorry about the pain that was caused by this incident.

He said Du Toit had been suspended and sent home. An investigation by the university’s equality unit was underway to determine the outcome. “Despite the university’s strongest condemnation of the incident, coupled with the significant and understandable public outcry, as required by law, proper procedures must be followed to secure a solidly defensible outcome to the situation at hand.

“The final outcome must pave the way to avoid any repeat of similar breaches of the right to personal human dignity on our campuses,” said De Villiers.

On Monday, media reports said that Ndwanyana would not lay a criminal case against Du Toit. However, on Tuesday he opened a case of housebreaking, malicious damage to property and crimen injuria at the Stellenbosch Police Station.

Kaduka told City Press that he had told his son that if Du Toit’s parents reached out to them then they would not press charges.

“But the parents have not reached out. Their silence means that they condone the behaviour, and hence we need to show how serious this situation is [by pressing charges],” he said.

The father said he had seen that some people had suggested that his son should have reacted to Du Toit while he was urinating on his belongings. He, however, said he did not teach his son to be violent.

 Kaduka said:

Two wrongs don’t make a right; those are not the principles we taught our children.

“I never thought my child would experience such racism. It is his first year, a few months he has been there, and his first time away from home where he was sheltered and now, he has experienced this.”

Kaduka also added that Du Toit knew what he was doing, and he was not in a “drunken stupor”. He said Du Toit was friends with Ndwanyana’s roommate and when he entered the room at4am on Sunday he went straight to his son’s desk.


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Bongekile Macupe  

Senior Education Journalist

+27 11 713 9001
Bongekile.macupe@citypress.co.za
www.citypress.co.za
69 Kingsway Rd, Auckland Park


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