As­saulted, doused in beer and called a k****r

CityPress - - News - SIPHO MA­SONDO­sondo@city­

Be­ing black at Stel­len­bosch Univer­sity could get you as­saulted, called a k****r or a ba­boon, and get you doused in beer for danc­ing with a white woman.

These ex­pe­ri­ences are re­vealed in the film Luis­ter (Lis­ten), which has gone vi­ral thanks to Open Stel­len­bosch.

The video, made by young film mak­ers, records black stu­dents’ ex­pe­ri­ences which, they say, are caused by the univer­sity’s in­sti­tu­tion­alised racism and lan­guage poli­cies.

One of the stu­dents in the video said a white stu­dent hurled a glass of beer in his face be­cause he danced with a white woman.

“We were in a club and I was danc­ing with a white lady, who was friendly. When we were done danc­ing, I went to sit down. There was a group of white guys. One of them took a glass full of beer and threw it in my face. They thought I was hav­ing an af­fair with her … How can a black guy have an af­fair with a white girl? Some­times they ask us, what are you do­ing here … so what are we do­ing in an Afrikaner in­sti­tu­tion?”

The stu­dent, whose iden­tity was masked, said he re­ported the mat­ter to univer­sity man­age­ment and noth­ing was done. Another stu­dent, also un­named, re­called a racist en­counter. “I went to have a beer with mates. I had al­ready or­dered my beer and I went up­stairs to the bath­room. As I was com­ing down­stairs, there was a cou­ple of drunk white stu­dents. And one of them called me k****r. I got into an al­ter­ca­tion with them and the bounc­ers pulled me out first be­cause I am black.”

Mo­ham­mad Shabangu, one of the founders of Open Stel­len­bosch – who grew up in Pre­to­ria and at­tended an Afrikaans pri­mary school – said he had never seen such naked racism as he had wit­nessed in Stel­len­bosch.

“This place is suf­fo­cat­ing. You can’t walk here with­out feel­ing you’re a prob­lem. There are restau­rants which have quo­tas and don’t al­low in more than five black peo­ple at a time. Some restau­rants em­ploy white peo­ple only. Heaven for­bid that white peo­ple will be touched by blacks.”

All six of the apartheid prime min­is­ters vis­ited the univer­sity, ei­ther as stu­dents or as pro­fes­sors.

“The li­brary has the apartheid flag. It is also hang­ing in ev­ery guest­house and back­pack­ers’ lodge. No self-re­spect­ing black per­son can live here and be com­fort­able. You can’t sur­vive here, and the only way to do so is to fight.” Univer­sity man­age­ment have ig­nored stu­dents’ re­ports of racism, he in­sists. “You end up think­ing that you are the prob­lem. But when you speak to black peo­ple, you find that you are all go­ing through the same thing.”

Many stu­dents on Luis­ter com­plained about the univer­sity’s lan­guage pol­icy. Shabangu ar­gues that while English and Afrikaans have equal sta­tus, Afrikaans is most lec­tur­ers’ de­fault lan­guage.

“We are call­ing for the ref­or­ma­tion of the lan­guage pol­icy. It priv­i­leges Afrikaans peo­ple and is com­mit­ted to safe-guard­ing their cul­ture. Most classes are in Afrikaans.”

The in­sti­tu­tion uses trans­la­tion de­vices, but black stu­dents com­plain these are not ef­fec­tive be­cause they have to lis­ten to the lec­turer and the trans­la­tor si­mul­ta­ne­ously. The trans­la­tors are not aca­demics and of­ten strug­gle to trans­late Afrikaans aca­demic jar­gon into English.


MAN UN­DER FIRE Wim de Vil­liers, rec­tor and vice-chan­cel­lor of Stel­len­bosch Univer­sity

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