Tag Archives: students

Skewed coverage is an injustice to SA’s victims of intolerance

In the Cape’s Weekend Argus, columnist William Saunderson-Meyer pertinently points out the contrast between the overwhelming – and appropriately outraged – media response to the UFS racist video debacle with the story of student in Limpopo who was killed for refusing to sing a “struggle” song on the way back from a protest at the Union Buildings – a murder that went virtually unreported both locally and abroad.

To their credit, the Sowetan broke the story on 27 February:

Immediate suspension awaits three students accused of beating another student to death.

The University of Limpopo’s Turfloop campus said yesterday that George Tsoai, 24, Raymond Mabelebele, 23 and Tibane Serumula, 22, would be suspended from the institution – if and when they were released from jail.

The students were denied bail yesterday by the Mankweng magistrate’s court in connection with the killing.

The three allegedly beat Nkosinathi Mhlongo during a minibus trip from Pretoria on Friday.

Mhlongo apparently refused to sing a protest song on a minibus ferrying the students to Turfloop.

According to the university the accused, affiliated to Sasco, asked for a lift to Polokwane in a mini- bus that ferried only members of the Students Christian Organisation (SCO).

“An argument ensued when they forcefully tried to stop the SCO members from singing Christian songs. Mhlongo allegedly refused to sing their protest songs and was allegedly beaten all the way from Mokgophong to Mankweng Hospital.”

Police spokesman Malan Nchabeleng said his body was thrown out of the rear window of the minibus near the hospital.

On the 3 March, the imminent appearance of the alleged murderers in court was then reported in a minuscule article on SABCnews.com. In the report neither the victim’s nor the perpetrators political affiliations were mentioned. The motivation – political intolerance – wasn’t either.

On the 10 March, the suspension of the alleged murderers (incidentally described as “student leaders”) from the university was reported only by News24.com but this report seems to be at variance with the version of events described by the Sowetan and a regional paper called the Northern Review which both mention the insistence of the SASCO youths that the Christian students in the taxi sing “struggle” songs and not Christian ones. Christian organisations have subsequently called for SASCO to be suspended at the University of Limpopo.

Ultimately, though, media coverage of this tragedy has been pitiful. That the story has not received widespread coverage almost implies that such a crime is perceived by media gatekeepers as insignificant – simply not worth column inches or airtime. Where is the anger, the outrage, the debate that was catalysed by the UFS video? There is just deafening, hypocritical silence.

It is incumbent upon all South Africans to speak out against this senseless, sick violence. But we can only speak out against it if we are aware of it. And the responsibility for that, in many ways, lies with the media in reporting it.

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Race torture at UFS

For those of you who thought that the racist UFS [University of the Free State] student video was a storm in a teacup, think again. The Mail & Guardian has uncovered accounts of race-based victimisation, torture and intimidation at UFS residences. Much of this occurred during drunken initiation rites but it is clear from the article that day-to-day life for black students in formerly white hostels hasn’t been much better:

One student complains of being “yelled at, jerked around by clothing, limbs, neck or head, being locked in smelly dark rooms, humiliated, degraded, tortured, profane language used”, while black first-years were continuously required to serve their white seniors.

Another black student recounts how he was locked in a cupboard with a sack of rotten potatoes after being forced to read a Freedom Front Plus poster.

It would appear that letters by persecuted black students to UFS authorities have fallen on deaf ears. But not only this: the staff have turned a blind eye to the ritual initiation which was banned and yet still tolerated.

JC Van der Merwe [head of philosophy at UFS] said he had “felt terrible” after sitting in on initiation ceremonies at which black students were verbally and racially abused.

“I felt I was condoning this racist abuse and went to speak to the rector. The orientation of first years is no longer allowed, but it happens and we’ve been keeping quiet because we don’t want to tamper with traditions and cultural issues.”

So there you have it: the UFS authorities effectively condoning heinous, degrading racism. This is shocking and completely unacceptable. The university needs to investigated by a credible and unbiased commission without delay. Racism has been allowed to continue to flourish because the university never had the guts to stamp it out. By tolerating racism, a precedent was set.

Some thought that the revelation of the student video was blown out of all proportion in the press. My view is that it’s merely opened a can of worms. Despicable, racist worms.

To read the M&G exposé click here.

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Unreconstituted racism at its very worst

The anti-integration video made by several University of the Free State students is unreconstituted racism at its very worst.

It is abhorrent that these cretins believed that they were entitled to voice their opinions in such a dehumanising, degrading way. The video shows the utter contempt these young white students have for black people. It illustrates the blind, seething bigotry that has no place in the new South Africa.

The bill of rights states unequivocally that everyone has inherent dignity and the right to have their dignity respected and protected. In treating those cleaners as lower than animals, the filmmakers have violated not only the constitution, but the cleaners’ intrinsic humanity.

Integration of hostels at the UFS should have been done years ago. To separate students on the basis of race is as ridiculous as it is divisive. Race is an artificial construct – a barrier that was erected to divide us. Of course everyone is different. South Africa has a wealth of ethnic, cultural, religious and language diversity. But that should be harnessed as a strength, not as means of separating us.

The fact that there is opposition to integration now – fourteen years into the new dispensation – coupled with the method through which protest has been expressed sadly shows that the reconciliation project has failed to quash the racial intolerance and victimisation that characterised apartheid.

South Africa is – or should be – a home to all. This is lost on the protesting students. Under the constitution, we are all equal – no matter what our colour, race or creed might be. Those who disagree with this inalienable truth should find another country to inhabit. And fast.

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