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