Jansen: Reitz support outweighs criticism

Support for the University of the Free State’s (UFS) decision to drop charges against four former students involved in a racist video outweighed the negative reaction, rector Jonathan Jansen said on Thursday.

Speaking to a group of Bloemfontein businesspeople, Jansen said he wanted to create a campus where people would take responsibility for their actions, but the door should always be open for “compassion”.

Jansen said he had received a letter from the four students involved in the making of the 2007 video in which they expressed remorse over the incident.

“I appealed to them to approach the workers directly as well,” he said, adding he thinks it would be a responsible step to take.

The four former students of the now-closed Reitz Men’s residence—RC Malherbe, Johnny Roberts, Schalk van der Merwe and Danie Grobler—are accused of filming a mock initiation of five black staff members into hostel activities.

Black university employees were seen on their hands and knees eating food that had apparently been urinated into by a white student.

Jansen said that once “everybody had cleared their throats” on the issue, he was convinced the UFS would develop from a good university to a “great” university.

Reacting to a question on his response to a recent statement by the Minister of Higher Education Blade Nzimande criticising the decision to drop charges, Jansen said he was not prepared to get into a public “spat” with the minister via the media.

“I have huge respect for the minister, he has his opinion, I am not interested in a public spat in the media, but we will talk privately.”

Jansen said as new rector at UFS he was not only appointed “to integrate” but to take the university forward academically to become a great university.

He assured the business group that the UFS would reach these this goal and that the dust would soon settle on the Reitz student issue.

Meanwhile, the four former Reitz students have requested the Free State director of public prosecutions to drop a charge of crimen injuria against them, Beeld reported on Thursday.

Their lawyer, Christo Dippenaar, confirmed to the Afrikaans daily that he had handed in a written request to advocate Andre du Toit SC.

The four accused are expected to appear in the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court on October 26 on charges of crimen injuria.

The South African Human Rights Commission has also indicated that the matter would be brought before the Equality Court.—Sapa

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