Why ‘blacks only’?

Uni­ver­sity’s pol­icy shows lack of in­tegrity and re­verse racism

Finweek English Edition - - Openers - SIKONATHI MANTSHANTSHA

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”.

Chantyl Mul­der

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