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26 Oct 2009 07:28
The University of the Free State will reopen discussions on the Reitz residence video following criticism of its decision to pardon the four students involved, it said on Sunday.
“All stakeholders inside and outside the UFS are invited to meet with the university management to table their concerns and to try to find consensus on a way forward,” vice-chancellor Jonathan Jansen said in a statement.
At his inauguration last Friday, Jansen announced that the university had dropped disciplinary charges against RC Malherbe, Johnny Roberts, Schalk van der Merwe and Danie Grobler. The four are accused of humiliating five black staff members in an initiation-type ceremony which they filmed.
The four women cleaners and a man are seen on their hands and knees eating food which had apparently been urinated into by a white student.
The students were charged with crimen injuria and their trial was expected to start on Monday.
Meanwhile, the state might have to ask for a postponement in the trial.
“It might be that the state would ask for the postponement to carefully consider the issue in light of representation received from the defence on Wednesday,” spokesperson for the National Prosecuting Authority’s office in Bloemfontein, Medupe Simasiku, said on Sunday.
The two-day trial would be heard in the city’s regional court.
The ANC in the Free State indicated that its alliance partners would picket at the Bloemfontein court during the trial. A protest march to the University of the Free State was also planned for next Friday.
The video, which was made in 2007 and surfaced in February 2008, caused a national and international outcry.
The UFS closed Reitz and changed the building into an “institute for diversity”.
Two of the students still on campus at the time—Malherbe and Van der Merwe—apologised for their involvement before leaving.
They ssaid they acted without malicious intent and expressed remorse for the embarrassment they might have caused to any individual or group, including their parents.
Jansen said the university would look into the role it played in the matter and endeavour to bring about racial reconciliation.
“The institution’s own accountability for what happened, and creating the conditions under which racism and racist attacks were even possible on the campus ... the institution’s desire to create the conditions for racial reconciliation on a deeply divided campus, and in doing so to accelerate the chances of transformation at the UFS.”
The move drew criticism, notably from Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande, Cosatu and the ANC Youth League, as well as praise in the past week. Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and the SA Institute of Race Relations backed Jansen’s decision. - Sapa
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