Education

NWU's vice-chancellor steps down after Nazi salute debacle

Sapa

The vice-chancellor of North West University has stepped down following the recent "sieg heil" initiation controversy at the institution.

Dr Theuns Eloff. (Dr Theuns Eloff)

Dr Theuns Eloff has stepped down as vice-chancellor of the North West University, the institution said on Thursday. This follows reports of an initiation incident involving a Nazi salute at the university recently.

"Against this background, [the university] council accepted the offer of the present vice-chancellor ... to step down ..." council chairperson Peet van der Walt told reporters in Pretoria.

Eloff steps down at a time of turmoil after the incident that caused widespread outcry. He will be replaced by Professor Dan Kgwadi. Eloff said he was not pushed into stepping down but did so of his own accord to allow Kgwadi to tackle the matter from the onset.

"It makes much sense to let the man who will be at the helm for the next six years take this bull by the horns," he said.

He conceded that recent goings-on at the university had contributed to his departure. "Had these events not taken place, there would have been a smooth departure. They have forced us to look at things differently."

Four-person investigating team
​Eloff's last day would be June 1. He would facilitate the handover. It was also announced that a four-member team would be appointed to investigate initiation practices at all the institution's campuses.

"[The university] council resolved to appoint a four-person independent team to investigate the welcoming and introduction of first-year students on all three campuses ... " Van der Walt said.

The team would be tasked with instituting investigations into cultural, induction, orientation, initiation, and other demeaning practices. "They will also have to evaluate the reception and introduction programmes at all the campuses and do a benchmarking exercises to determine best practise nationally and internationally in this regard."

Van der Walt said investigations had been completed and action would be taken. "The disciplinary process will now continue."

He added that management would take action on the findings and recommendations of the report, by adopting a zero tolerance stance on any infringements of human rights or any form of initiation reception. – Sapa

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