No rain­bow na­tion for Stel­len­bosch

CityPress - - News - GE­ORGE VON BERG and S’THEM­BILE CELE news@city­press.co.za

Stel­len­bosch Univer­sity’s law fac­ulty has an­nounced that all its lec­tures will be held pri­mar­ily in English, but the move has been eclipsed by the de­ci­sion by the univer­sity’s con­vo­ca­tion to elect an all-white ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee yet again.

Nearly 2 000 alumni and their part­ners at­tended Stel­len­bosch Univer­sity’s an­nual con­vo­ca­tion on Tues­day, which elected five con­vo­ca­tion mem­bers, in­clud­ing to the po­si­tions of chair, vice-chair and sec­re­tary.

Five black alumni have for the past few months been run­ning a cam­paign to get at least one of them elected to the com­mit­tee in a des­per­ate push for trans­for­ma­tion un­der the #trans­form­con­vo­ca­tion hash­tag.

The black alumni were up against AfriForum, which, along with two found­ing mem­bers of the Afrikaanse Alum­niVerenig­ing, Her­mann Gil­iomee and Piet le Roux, sounded the call for Afrikaans alumni to at­tend in their droves, lead­ing to a sea of sil­ver and bald heads out­num­ber­ing a young, di­verse group seated on the out­skirts of the hall.

One of the black can­di­dates, Nige­ri­an­born political sci­ences mas­ter’s grad­u­ate Love­lyn Nwadeyi, de­liv­ered the ad­dress of the night, ti­tled Courage, Com­pas­sion and Com­plex­ity.

Nwadeyi spoke frankly about race re­la­tions pre- and postapartheid, and wasted no time in call­ing out Stel­len­bosch Univer­sity as the birth­place of for­mal apartheid, the rem­nants of which, both phys­i­cal and psy­cho­log­i­cal, still tainted the cam­pus that many black peo­ple are part of to­day.

She also made ref­er­ence to places on cam­pus that still cel­e­brate apartheid lead­ers. The hall in which she spoke, also a venue for grad­u­a­tions, was un­til very re­cently still named the DF Malan Cen­tre, un­der whose pres­i­dency apartheid was con­ceived.

One per­son in the au­di­ence started clap­ping his hands at the men­tion of Malan’s name.

A mem­ber of the au­di­ence raised a point of or­der af­ter Nwadeyi’s speech, say­ing it was not the pur­pose of con­vo­ca­tion to “push political agen­das” and “be sen­sa­tional”. The out­go­ing chair of con­vo­ca­tion, Christo Viljoen, how­ever, quickly called the mem­ber to or­der.

The se­cond speaker, poet Breyten Breyten­bach, was more pop­u­lar with the older mem­bers present as he de­fended the univer­sity’s role in pro­tect­ing Afrikaans as a lan­guage of in­struc­tion.

The pre­vi­ous day, the law faulty in an ex­tra­or­di­nary board meet­ing voted to make English the pri­mary teach­ing lan­guage dur­ing lec­tures.

“Ac­cord­ing to a de­ci­sion by the fac­ulty board, all con­cepts will be pre­sented in at least English in lec­tures, with a sum­mary of and em­pha­sis on key con­cepts in Afrikaans,” said Pro­fes­sor So­nia Hu­man, dean of the fac­ulty of law, in a writ­ten state­ment.

This could in­clude the op­tion of an in­tro­duc­tion in Afrikaans and end­ing a lecture with a sum­mary in Afrikaans.

This is de­spite what was viewed as a push­back from coun­cil last year when a dis­cus­sion doc­u­ment propos­ing that English be made the pri­mary medium of com­mu­ni­ca­tion and in­struc­tion across the board sur­faced.

The coun­cil voted that the cur­rent con­tro­ver­sial pol­icy would re­main the same and that the cur­rent Afrikaans of­fer­ing be in­creased.

When City Press called the chair­per­son of the coun­cil, Ge­orge Steyn, for com­ment, he re­fused to speak and then killed the call.

An Afrikaanss­peak­ing jour­nal­ist from City Press then called to ask for com­ment, and Steyn said that the coun­cil rat­i­fied the de­ci­sion last year, but added that he did not know enough about the im­pli­ca­tions of it to com­ment. He also said the coun­cil would next meet on May 9. The lan­guage is­sue was at the cen­tre of Nwadeyi’s ad­dress. She lost the po­si­tion of vice-chair, by a mere 15 votes, to Jac­ques du Preez’s 309 votes. The other black can­di­dates lost by a large mar­gin.

“I knew that it was ei­ther go­ing to be the speech or the votes,” Nwadeyi later said. “I feel that if I had gone with a rain­bow na­tion nar­ra­tive, the votes would have prob­a­bly been in my favour. I am known as a per­son of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and unity build­ing, and that is a part of me, but this was a dif­fer­ent mo­ment. I don’t re­gret the out­come.”

Is con­vo­ca­tion’s all-white ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee an in­di­ca­tion that there is still a

re­luc­tance to­wards trans­form­ing the univer­sity?

SMS us on 35697 us­ing the key­word LAN­GUAGE and tell us what you think. Please in­clude your name and prov­ince. SMSes cost R1.50

PHO­TOS: TIMUR EMEK / GETTY IM­AGES / SUP­PLIED

GOOD TIMES Health MEC Miriam Se­gabutla has been charged with cor­rup­tion for al­legedly re­ceiv­ing ben­e­fits from com­pa­nies she awarded ten­ders to il­le­gally. Among the al­leged kick­backs were trips to Brazil and the Kruger Park

PHO­TOS: NASIEF MANIE

RE­JECTED Love­lyn Nwadeyi (top) de­liv­ers her speech dur­ing the univer­sity’s con­vo­ca­tion. Stu­dents be­long­ing to the #FeesMustFall move­ment (above) protest at the event

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