Reitz closure seen as anti-Afrikaner

Nkosana Lekotjolo

Nkosana Lekotjolo

The controversial Reitz residence at the University of the Free State (UFS) will be shut down in three weeks' time.

The residence shot into the limelight after white students fed labourers food they had urinated on. Reitz will be replaced with a R1 million Institute for Diversity on the campus.

"The Institute for Diversity is envisaged as a centre of academic excellence for studying transformation and diversity in society," acting principal Teuns Verschoor said yesterday.

"It will be a living laboratory for combating discrimination and enabling and enhancing reconciliation in societies grappling with the issues of racism, sexism and xenophobia."

Claims of racism were levelled at the university in February after a video was found that showed four white students laughing as four black employees knelt in front of them drinking soup laced with urine.

The video was shot by the four students.

The university has since apologised unreservedly for the video and two of the students, who were still residents at Reitz, have terminated their studies at the UFS. The other two had completed their studies last year.

Verschoor said the residence would be closed on June 20.

The UFS has appointed a fully representative committee to assist current Reitz residents in finding alternative accommodation.

SRC deputy president Tom Thabane said there were "deep and fundamental" divisions within the student organisation about the decision by the university to close Reitz.

"Certain white student leaders and some SRC leaders are opposed to the closure," Thabane said. "They say it amounts to the persecution of Afrikaners."

Nehawu branch secretary Mogale Mphahlele said the union welcomed the decision but was skeptical about the progress of integration and transformation at the university.