The so-called Reitz Four video incident at the University of the Free State which led to a national outcry against racism and disrespect for black women has been forgiven after a reconciliation ceremony on Friday.
About 300 guests watched as the four former Reitz students publicly expressed a “deeply regret” of their conduct and the harm it caused for the workers of the UFS, the university and South Africans.
In a statement read on behalf of all the students, Danie Grobler said during the criminal proceedings they publicly stated their regret and apologised to the five UFS staff.
“Since April 2008, we have lived through a most horrible period in our lives. We have been rejected by many within our own community and reviled by people who do not even know us.”
Addressing the workers, Grobler said they had failed the workers and now knew that their conduct had hurt them.
“With true remorse and humility, we ask you to forgive us,” said Grobler.
Rebecca Adams — one of the workers — accepted the apology on behalf of the women.
“A deed of love has been demonstrated by those young people who firstly pleaded for forgiveness,” she said.
The public reconciliation ceremony followed an out of court agreement between the workers, “the boys” as the former students were referred to on Friday and the university.
SA Human Rights Commission chairperson Lawrence Mushwana said other parts of the out of court settlement were pecuniary tributes, an agreement on job security for the workers at the UFS and the establishment of a human rights institute at the university.
UFS representative Professor Theuns Verschoor apologised to the workers for initially criticising them for taking part in student pranks during working hours, to the students for turning its back on them and to the rest of South Africa for not acting in a pro-active manner regarding the Reitz saga.
Asked whether there was real reconciliation amid Friday’s fanfare, deputy-chairperson of the SAHRC Pregs Govender said reconciliation had been reached through a long process since the video incident and not through a single event. – Sapa