Reitz workers 'laughed at video', claims report
University of the Free State workers in the “Reitz video” did not take offence when the video was made and laughed when they saw it, the Volksblad newspaper reported on Wednesday.
This is contained in a statement that forms part of additional representations the four former students of the Reitz men’s residence made to the director of public prosecutions, in a bid to get the charge of crimen injuria against them withdrawn.
It never appeared, while the video was made, that the workers took offence at what was happening. They took part willingly and could have stopped at any time if they had wanted to, according to the students’ statement.
The four former students are accused of humiliating five black staff members in the initiation-type ceremony in 2007, which they filmed.
The representations indicate the workers were told the video had won a prize at the hostel’s cultural evening.
The video was shown to the workers more than once, during which they never reacted negatively.
Witnesses would testify they laughed about it.
Only when they were “falsely convinced” that the brew, which they had to drink while on their hands and knees, had been urinated into, did they raise objections. The students deny urinating into the broth.
According to the report, the objections came six months after the video surfaced on the university’s internal student computer network. It was then distributed by two students at the Khayalami men’s hostel.
One of the students involved in making the video, RC Malherbe, had tried several times to contact the workers to discuss the matter, but was stopped by trade union Nehawu.
In their representations the four say that at no point had they intended to degrade the workers.
Newly appointed UFS vice-chancellor Jonathan Jansen announced at his inauguration that the institution had pardoned the four, and that they could finish their studies if they wished to do so. The move drew widespread criticism, causing Jansen to invite interested parties to discuss the matter with university management.
The crimen injuria case against the four students was postponed in the Bloemfontein Regional Court last month to February 24 2010.
The students’ lawyer Christo Dippenaar was quoted by the Volksblad as saying the students could not apologise for what they had done before they had received indemnity from prosecution. An apology now would amount to an admission of guilt, which would lead to a guilty verdict.
Dippenaar suggested the matter be solved through alternate means. He said a sword of criminal prosecution was hanging over the heads of the students. The four’s version of events had to be heard before anybody could demand an apology.
He said statements in the media and political comment had placed pressure on the director of public prosecutions and the magistrate to find the students guilty, which had affected their chance of receiving a fair trial.—Sapa