Selective outrage: on racism and rape at UKZN

As SRC officials and African staff at the University of KwaZulu-Natal we consider it necessary to indicate our position on the alleged rape of an American student at UKZN — and specifically to reply to “On race and rape at UKZN” (November 6) by Lubna Nadvi.

We condemn the rape of any student or staff member, regardless of their race or class. The SRC, management and staff of UKZN have repeatedly made this point very clear. Nadvi admits that she and her colleagues have not acted the same way in the past when African female students were raped, but denies that they racially abused three black officials at UKZN until they were addressed by three white officials, whom they accepted.

Let us now put the facts clearly to justify why we conclude that they are motivated by racism.

As the numbers of African students admitted into former University of Natal residences increased, management changed their funding and staffing policies. They decided that the residences must be self-sufficient and discontinued subsidies.

Most African students in these residences survive on a government loan system. This has led to reduced building maintenance, safety and security costs, and a decline in the social and academic life in the residences. White academics quit working in the residences and no white students applied to live there. In fact, many academic staff actively discourage white South Africans from applying to stay in these residences. Nadvi and her colleagues have not spoken out against this blatant racism hiding behind economics.

A number of African students have died or been mugged in the residences. The SRC has specifically asked Nadvi’s colleagues to intervene and assist African students who have been raped in the residences. They responded by requesting police dockets and medical reports, finally saying that such African female students are reckless. By implication, they deserve to be raped.

Now let’s come to the issue that has exercised Nadvi and her colleagues. An American woman who chose to live in these residences was raped on November 13. On November 19 a meeting called by Bheki-themba Ngcobo, the deputy dean of students, was held to address this matter. Three officials — Sifiso Dludla (deputy director of student housing at Howard College), Alpheus Dlamini (director of risk management services) and Malcolm Stilles (security manager) addressed the meeting. Within five or 10 minutes their address was disrupted by Nadvi’s colleagues, claiming that these staff — two Africans and one coloured — were incompetent.

They demanded to be addressed by the vice-chancellor, and threatened to hold the three staff members and Ngcobo hostage until the vice-chancellor arrived. Ngcobo was manhandled and insulted. The SRC had to intervene by protecting and escorting Ngcobo out of the building.

Two days later a similar meeting was convened. The team to address this meeting included Peter Korte, an investigator, Trevor Wills, the executive dean of students, and Hilton Staniland, deputy vice-chancellor for administration and corporate governance. It was important to observe the contrast in the behaviour of Nadvi and her colleagues. They listened, asked questions, and did not boo, shout or threaten to manhandle anyone. The meeting was concluded peacefully.

Our charge of discrimination and racism emanates from these real experiences. Nadvi must answer the following questions truthfully: why did they handle the African officials the way they did, why have they not been angry at the rape of African females the way they are now, why would they only accept to be addressed by white officials and why have they never protested at the lack of funding for residences occupied by African students?

Only the whole truth will set UKZN free — and actions will speak louder than words.

Professor Nceba Gqaleni (deputy dean, Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine), Alpheus Dlamini, Sifiso Dludla, Sanele Shabalala (Central SRC President) and Bhekithemba Ngcobo

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