Born free but still in 1976 shackles
“How do I proudly say I am a born-free South African when on this day I still live in a society that is fighting for educational transformation, which is almost the same thing our parents fought for in 1976? I cannot proudly say I am born-free any more.”
So said Free State University student Mpume Gabela after violence between black and white students left thick clouds of tension over campus this week.
In their continuing battle for the abolishment of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction at the university, students took their protest to a rugby match in a bid to attract management’s attention, they said. But they didn’t expect white rugby spectators to turn on them.
“They pounced on us and I stood there thinking they won’t touch me because I am a woman, but I was wrong,” said SRC deputy president Mpho Khati.
“I was slapped and kicked even after I fell to the ground but the real slap on our faces was when the match continued thereafter as if nothing had just happened.”
The campus resembled a ghost town this week after daily student demonstrations. More than 20 students were arrested on Thursday.
“Our problem is that UFS in 2016 is still the same as the one in 1997, even after demographics changed with black students now being the vast majority on campus but the culture is still completely white. We want these demographics to reflect on the culture here and not have everything being Afrikaans and buildings bearing colonial names,” said SRC president Lindokuhle Ntuli.
“We want to be seen as students all of us and not black or white. Why in this time and age do we still have a policy which dictates that white students can only share a room with a black student if they both give consent to it? This must change, but there is no commitment showing from management.”
Reports of revenge started to spread and many whites fled campus this week.
“Students will hold a mass meeting on Monday to decide a way forward because we want to go back to learning, but not under the current circumstances where division is still reigning,” Ntuli said.
UFS SRC president Lindokuhle Ntuli believes the university must reflect the demographics on campus, where the majority of students are black but Afrikaans still dominates