FF+ slams closure of Reitz men's residence

The University of the Free State’s (UFS) handling of the Reitz saga has not contributed to reconciliation, the Freedom Front Plus (FF+) said on Tuesday.

FF Plus leader in the Free State Abrie Oosthuizen said the decision by the university to close the Reitz men’s residence was an act of subservience to the African National Congress (ANC).

“The more than 100 students who are affected did nothing wrong, but must suffer so that the university could save its name with the ANC.”

He said the university’s image had suffered and many students had already left the UFS.

“The decision to close Reitz will hasten this tendency.”

The UFS announced it would close the Reitz men’s residence on its main campus in Bloemfontein by June 20.

Acting UFS rector professor Theuns Verschoor made the announcement, adding that the executive management had taken a unanimous decision to close Reitz.

Verschoor said the actions of a relatively small group of students had inflicted severe damage on the university’s reputation and standing in the local and international academic community.

He said the university management therefore decided that the closure of the hostel was an unavoidable strategic imperative and an important gesture of reconciliation.

The UFS planned to establish an Institute for Diversity on the hostel premises in an effort to make a lasting contribution to transformation.

Oosthuizen said the UFS management had been instrumental in the unrest at the Bloemfontein campus thus far, and indications were that it would continue.

Free State Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Roy Jankielsohn said the one-sided decision to close the residence was not necessarily in the best interest of students.

“It was this type of one-sided decision by the top management at the university that brought about huge dissatisfaction on campus.”

Jankielsohn said it was obvious that management could not get the racial issue right and was using the Reitz saga to justify its decisions.

HRC welcomes decision

Meanwhile, the Human Rights Commission (HRC) in the Free State on Tuesday welcomed the decision to close the residence.

“The announcement is welcomed,” said Mothusi Lepheana, HRC provincial manager.

He said the university and the HRC had agreed that a clear programme of transformation at the university must be implemented.

He said however the closure of the residence and the building of a new institute did not change anything.

“What we want is a programme of changing attitude. A specific programme must come up.”

Lepheana said the programme must ensure there was no racism on campus.

He also confirmed that the Director of Public Prosecutions still had to decide if any criminal charges would be pressed against the former residents who became embroiled in a racist controversy earlier this year.

The UFS was the centre of a racial storm in February following the emergence of a video, made by former Reitz residents, which sparked a national and international outcry.

The video featured black university employees on their knees eating food which had apparently been urinated into by a white student.

This was part of a mock initiation of five black staff members into hostel activities. - Sapa

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