Hope for the humiliated

AFTER suffering such unbearable humiliation at the hands of racist students, the four cleaners at the University of Free State may eventually see some redress.

Last week the SA Human Rights Commission lodged a R4million claim in the Equality Court on their behalf.

RC Malherbe, Johnny Roberts, Schalk van der Merwe and Danie Grobler are accused of video-taping the cleaners eating meat that had apparently been urinated on.

The SAHRC now demands that they pay R1million damages to each of the women. They are also called on to apologise to the women and to all black people. The apology has to be approved by SAHRC.

The SAHRC has also called for the university to put in place mechanisms ensuring that such an incident does not recur.

Seeing the limp-wristed manner in which Free State University rector Jonathan Jansen had handled the matter, the SAHRC must be commended for its bold move.

Jansen took no action against the students, arguing they should be forgiven for their racist actions in the name of reconciliation. Such moves in the interest of the poor and disadvantaged are what is expected of the SAHRC. The ball is now in the justice system's court.

The Equality Court must make a ruling that shows its commitment to equality before the law, and protecting the dignity of those who continue to suffer the ravages of racism and discrimination - especially by virtue of them belonging to a lower socio-economic strata.