'Students should pay for their deeds'

CENTRAL Methodist Church Bishop Paul Verryn, pictured, has urged churches to show solidarity with the victims of the racist video at the University of Free State.

Verryn was responding to the decision of UFS vice-chancellor Jonathan Jansen to pardon the four students involved in the making of the video in which black workers were abused.

"As Christians we should refuse to be misled by people who are not liberated mentally," Verryn told his congregation in Johannesburg yesterday.

"What these white students did is unacceptable in our modern society and they should pay for their deeds."

He said that it was hard to believe that 15 years after the end of apartheid white students could force black cleaners to drink urine-laced soup because they didn't want to share Reitz hostel with black students.

"This has inflamed racial tensions and provoked violent protests between students at the university.

"Is Jansen blind not to see this?" Verryn asked.

He said the victims should be given an opportunity to decide whether to forgive the white students or not.

Verryn urged churches around South Africa to support and to pray for the victims and their families during these hard times.

Meanwhile, Sapa reports that the university will reopen discussions on the Reitz residence video after criticism of its decision to pardon the four students involved.

"All stakeholders in and out of the UFS are invited to meet with the university management to table their concerns and to try to find consensus on a way forward," Jansen said.

Anyone who wanted to be take part in these talks should contact the university.

At his inauguration two weeks ago Jansen announced the university had pardoned four former Reitz students who filmed the initiation of five black staff members into hostel activities in 2007.

The employees, four women and a man, were seen on their hands and knees eating food that had apparently been urinated into by a white student. The students were charged with crimen injuria and their trial was expected to start today.

Jansen's decision has been heavily criticised. - Sapa