South Africa needs frank and honest dialogue between people of different races on the experiences of black people in the country, President Cyril Ramaphosa said in response to an alleged racist incident at Stellenbosch University earlier this month.
In a statement published on Monday, Ramaphosa acknowledged the widespread anger that has engulfed the school following the incident in which a white student urinated on a black student’s belongings.
According to the SA Students Congress (Sasco), the white student broke into his victim’s room and relieved himself on his belongings.
The victim filmed the incident and shared it on social media, where it gained traction and sparked days of student protests.
“Greater emphasis should be placed on inculcating tolerance and respect for diversity in the classroom from a young age. Parents should be part of this effort because the reality is that racist, chauvinistic and sexist attitudes among the younger generation are often a reflection of what they observe and learn from their parents and older relatives at home,” the statement by President Ramaphosa read in part.
“Ending racism is not just about changing attitudes; it is also about changing the material conditions that still today separate black and white South Africans,” the statement went on.
“We have come too far and the sacrifices made have been too great for such appalling acts of racism to turn us against each other. Rather, we must use this incident to confront the issue of race and racial inequality in our society.”
Responding to the incident, Stellenbosch University’s senior director of student affairs, Dr Choice Makhetha, said the institution strongly condemns “any destructive behaviour, such as [what occurred] during the incident in the Huis Marais residence on the Stellenbosch campus”.
“The residence management was made aware of the incident during the day [on Sunday] and it was immediately reported to the relevant university structures for urgent investigation,” News24.com quotes Makhetha.
Many social media users also took to various platforms to condemn the incident and call for action against the perpetrator.
The Stellenbosch racism: I cannot for the life of me understand why it is even a debate. You simply don’t urinate on anybody’s belongings. Some things in life are just not done. End of story. Consequences for such behaviour should be a natural lesson and example in society.
— JvL (@JvanLogg) May 21, 2022
28 years of freedom, yet we still chanting the struggle songs against racism ?#StellenboschUniversity@StelliesSRC#Notoracism pic.twitter.com/NLseiv2qnV
— KingSA?? (@KingSA01194686) May 23, 2022
The university has reportedly postponed examinations that were to begin this week.
South African schools have been in the news many times before for racist incidents.
In February, Police were forced to fire rubber bullets to disperse a large crowd of parents who gathered outside a middle school in Randfontein to protest possible acts of racism at the school.
Another incident, still in February, saw the Western Cape Education Department launch a probe following allegations of racism at a Cape Town high school.
The investigation was launched after reports that a black pupil at Milnerton High School was allegedly made to get on his knees and bow to a white pupil.
In November 2020, following an incident in which members of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) opposition party engaged in a brawl with a group of white parents over a whites-only graduation party in Cape Town, President Ramaphosa warned that racism could be used to “cause racial polarization” in the country.
The South African Human Rights Commission has said “no-one should be allowed to bring back racial segregation to this country”.