Why ‘blacks only’?
University’s policy shows lack of integrity and reverse racism
JUST THREE MONTHS AFTER closing its Reitz residence following incidents of racial conflict among students, the University of the Free State (UFS) has come under attack for announcing it will open the residence to black students. The Solidarity unionaligned youth movement AfriForum Youth has accused the university of “inconsequent behaviour” and reverse racism.
“In light of the strong stance taken by the UFS against the Reitz video, the decision to implement a ‘blacks only’ policy amounts to gross inconsequence and a lack of integrity. They (the university) said in March they condemn all forms of racism. Now they open the residence only to black students,” says AfriForum Youth national chairman Ernst Roets. “If they want to condemn racism they should open the residence to all students.” Roets says that would send a clear message that all forms of racism aren’t welcome.
Roets says the residence will now be open to bursary recipients of the SA Institute of Chartered Accountants’ (Saica) Thuthuka bursary fund for accountancy students. Thuthuka is an accountancy industry initiative that seeks to increase the number of black chartered accountants in proportion to SA population demographics.
However, it’s not only UFS that AfriForum has a problem with. “We have a problem with Thuthuka’s implementation, as it refuses access to white students. That’s reverse racism,” says Roets. He says only last month a white student at the University of Pretoria was refused access to extra accountancy classes “because she’s white”. Roets claims the forum is aware of Thuthuka’s initiatives and has no problem with addressing the injustices of the past. Says Roets: “We have a problem with the way affirmative action is implemented.”
What AfriForum would like to see happen with affirmative action is a system guided by an individual’s economic circumstances rather than race. “The fact that I’m white doesn’t necessarily make me rich,” says Roets. Equally, being black doesn’t necessarily mean disadvantaged.
However, the UFS denies the charge it’s only accommodating black students at the Reitz residence. Acting Rector Teuns Verschoor says the residence will be opened in January as a temporary measure to accommodate visiting lecturers from overseas, sports bursary recipients and the 50 Thuthuka bursary fund recipients.
The UFS has received R12m from Thuthuka to teach black students to become chartered accountants over the next four years and a permanent residence will be built for them on campus, says Verschoor. Sports bursaries cater for all racial groupings so it’s not correct to say Reitz will now be open to only black students.
“There’s nothing untoward about the Thuthuka programme,” says Saica transformation executive and head of Thuthuka, Chantyl Mulder. “How can this be discrimination (against white students)? I’m white and driving the programme and my own daughter is studying towards an accountancy degree but not benefiting from Thuthuka.”
Mulder says Thuthuka came into being as a result of a lack of black CAs in SA. Of the more than 27 000 Saica members, fewer than 1 000 are black. “It would be hugely remiss if the industry did nothing about the situation,” says Mulder.
She adds the 89 Thuthuka bursary recipients at the University of Pretoria attend “the same classes as everyone else. Thuthuka pays for the extra classes and life skills given to its beneficiaries because of their backgrounds and upbringing”. Mulder says the problems encountered by black CA candidates must be resolved, as many don’t get to graduate.
On whether it’s correct there are white students who may be in need of extra tuition, Mulder says it would be AfriForum’s responsibility to approach Saica. “We’d be more than ready to help where we can. AfriForum must be prepared to raise funds so we can pay for the extra classes, just like we do for Thuthuka.”
Thuthuka would be prepared to negotiate with the universities on behalf of AfriForum to obtain help for any “viable numbers of students”.