South Africa : Racist video students not charged

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The criminal investigation of four former students of the University of the Free State’s Reitz hostel is being hampered by their refusal to co-operate with the police.

from our Southern African correspondent

Police Director Jacob Sumane said yesterday he found it “very unfortunate and unwarranted” that the men were refusing to answer police questions.

The four students were the lead “actors” in a racist video that surfaced earlier this year that showed a mock initiation ceremony in which black hostel cleaners were ordered to drink alcohol, play rugby and eat a concoction into which one of the students appeared to urinate.

The students have claimed that water was squeezed from a bottle to make it appear as if the “actor” was urinating.

The incident sparked outrage. Many people called for the Reitz hostel to be closed. Sumane aid : “We don’t have the suspects’ original statements and we also don’t have the original video. One of my investigators tried to speak to their lawyer but we are not getting any assistance.”

The short film, which has sparked a national outcry, features black university employees on their knees eating food which had apparently been urinated upon by a white student.

It depicts a mock initiation of five black staff members into hostel activities and refers openly to the university’s integration policy for campus residences announced in 2007.

Sumane said the lawyer, Nico Naude, said that he would speak only to the director of public prosecutions.

“I will be back in Bloemfontein and will request an urgent meeting with the public prosecutor to ask for assistance … we need to finish this investigation.”

University of the Free State spokesman Anton Fisher said the university laid criminal charges against the students in February.

Meanwhile, there has been a proposal that The Reitz men’s residence should be closed down and changed into a centre for transformation, unity and reconciliation, the Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Education says.

Chairperson of the committee, Professor Shepherd Mayatula, said it was necessary due to the negative racial connotations that had been associated with the hostel which was now associated with the university and Bloemfontein.

“Closing down the hostel would send out a powerful message that the UFS has acted decisively and has disassociated itself from the negative shadow Reitz had cast over it,” Mayatula said in a statement.

The committee visited the UFS and met with management, union and student bodies, to hear their recommendations and concerns on integration in the university.

Mayatula said they urged the university to fast-track its integration policy to avoid incidents such as the shocking video that surfaced last month made by four Reitz residents.

Mayatula said there was a general understanding of transformation at the university but there was not sufficient agreement as to how transformation should be implemented.

He said one suggestion was a review of the language policy because the current system of parallel medium of instruction further divided students by their race.

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