outcry over racist video

Simon Nare and Nkosana Lekotjolo

Simon Nare and Nkosana Lekotjolo

The three women and a man at the centre of the video footage controversy at the University of Free State were placed on special leave as the issue gained momentum yesterday.

The four are receiving counselling. Yesterday the institution's management instructed its attorneys to formulate criminal charges against four students who were involved in the making of the video.

An incensed Free State premier Beatrice Marshoff said what was exposed in the footage was just the tip of the iceberg.

Two white students who are implicated have been suspended by the university while the other two are said to have completed their studies last year and are no longer at the institution.

"At the heart of these racist tendencies, is a much deeper culture of entrenched Afrikaner hegemony which finds expression through bureaucratic process such as admission policy.

"For too long acts of racism have gone unreported and unchallenged and this will no longer be tolerated by this government," said the premier.

The racist video in which four students are seen laughing as four black employees are sipping soup laced with urine, was widely condemned by political organisations.

The video was apparently made last year and only came to light on Tuesday as part of an effort to drum up support against hostel integration by white students.

The National, Education, Health and Workers' Union (Nehawu) claimed credit for exposing the video to the public.

Regional Nehawu secretary Mogale Mphahlele said the students had shot the video to prove that blacks behaved in an inhuman manner and therefore should not be be integrated into the white hostel.

He said this was after the council had approved an integration policy last year.

The students had edited out the urine and drinking part to tone it down, he said.

"We received a tip off and got our hands on the original part which we have distributed to the media," he said.

An edited version was shown in the student hall on Tuesday afternoon, he said.

The video unleashed a flood of reactions ranging from human rights organisations to the political fraternity.

The Freedom Front Plus described the video as shocking, unforgivable and said it should not go unpunished.

Students and employees yesterday marched to the campus to hand over a memorandum demanding action be taken as well as denouncing the video.

While the march proceeded peacefully, there have been sporadic incidents of intimidation and damage to property which resulted in five students being arrested.

The students were later released after questioning and statements obtained from them.

Following the protest march, the management suspended all classes to today.

Police spokesman Superintendent Annelie Wrensch said the police were still to view the footage to determine if any criminal acts were committed.

After that police will decide whether to press charges or not.

Free State South African Student Congress chairman and a student, Mojalefa Simingo said racism and racist attacks on the black students were rife.

"I was once attacked by white students in 2005 when I was still the head of Reitz hostel. In the very same year, some black female students were attacked by the white students outside the same residence.

"Up until today nothing has been done by the university to address these assaults," said Simingo.

Apparently another black student was also allegedly assaulted by white students last weekend in Brandwag.