Row over lan­guage pol­icy at res­i­dence

Saturday Star - - NEWS - RAPULA MOATSHE

THE “whites and Chris­tian only” res­i­dence oc­cu­pied by Univer­sity of Pre­to­ria stu­dents is un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion fol­low­ing com­plaints that it was dis­crim­i­nat­ing against other races.

The com­plaint was lodged on Thurs­day by community ac­tivist Yusuf Abram­jee with the Com­mis­sion for the Pro­mo­tion and Pro­tec­tion of the Rights of Cul­tural, Reli­gious and Lin­guis­tic Com­mu­ni­ties.

The De Goode Hoop Koshuis was es­tab­lished by pri­vate in­vestors, among them AfriFo­rum, last month.

But Janli Son­ntag, co-or­di­na­tor of the res­i­dence, fiercely de­fended the po­si­tion of the prop­erty own­ers to ac­com­mo­date stu­dents aligned to Afrikaans cul­ture and Chris­tian­ity.

“The hos­tel is open to all races, but those who want to live there must have a love and pas­sion for Afrikaans,” she said.

Abram­jee said he would meet the com­mis­sion on Wed­nes­day for fur­ther dis­cus­sion about the mat­ter.

In his com­plaint, he asked the com­mis­sion to probe the new res­i­dence which was ex­clu­sively for Afrikaans and Chris­tian stu­dents.

“We hereby call on the com­mis­sion to im­me­di­ately and ur­gently in­ves­ti­gate this mat­ter. We be­lieve it’s against the con­sti­tu­tion, and one can­not have a res­i­dence for the ex­clu­sive use of one race group only.

“Other race groups are clearly be­ing de­prived, and the pol­icy is sim­ply a dis­guise to say whites only,” Abram­jee said.

Com­mis­sion s p o ke s - per­son Mpiyakhe Mkholo said the com­plaint was for­mally lodged by Abram­jee and would be in­ves­ti­gated.

“We are go­ing to at­tend to it as soon as pos­si­ble,” he said.

On the other hand, Son­ntag said it was their con­sti­tu­tional right to pro­mote their mother tongue.

“We are not a hos­tel that is ex­clud­ing any­one. All the stu­dents there sup­port Afrikaans. Ev­ery­body is wel­come only if they meet the re­quire­ment,” she re­it­er­ated.

As an en­try re­quire­ment, stu­dents were sup­posed to write an es­say in which they ex­plained how they per­ceived the im­pli­ca­tion of the devel­op­ment at Tuks to phase out Afrikaans as a medium of in­struc­tion.

Son­ntag said the hos­tel was born out of calls to get rid of Afrikaans at the univer­sity.

“It was con­ceived dur­ing the time of #Afrikaan­sMustFall and the call for do­ing away with Afrikaans at the univer­sity,” she said.

The univer­sity mean- while dis­tanced it­self from the stu­dent res­i­dence, say­ing it didn’t con­done what hap­pened there.

Univer­sity spokesper­son Candice Jooste said: “The De Goede Hoop res­i­dence is a pri­vate fa­cil­ity and not as­so­ci­ated with the Univer­sity of Pre­to­ria in any way.”

She said re­ports that linked the univer­sity to the res­i­dence were 100% in­ac­cu­rate.

“We do not sup­port or con­done the prac­tices of pri­vate res­i­dences with dis­crim­i­na­tory ac­cep­tance cri­te­ria.

“This res­i­dence does not com­ply with the Univer­sity of Pre­to­ria’s trans­for­ma­tion poli­cies and there­fore is not granted ac­cess to par­tic­i­pate in univer­sity events.”

Son­ntag also con­fir med the res­i­dence was op­er­at­ing in­de­pen­dently of UP. She said stu­dents de­cided to move out of the univer­sity res­i­dence be­cause they didn’t feel safe, and felt ex­cluded.

“To give you a prac­ti­cal ex­am­ple, an Afrikaans per­son had to ask a ques­tion in English when at a res­i­dence meet­ing. They were not al­lowed to speak in Afrikaans. We were vic­timised for be­ing Afrikaans and we wanted to feel at home,” she said.

Asked if the res­i­dence was open to black stu­dents, she said: “The hos­tel is not based on race. Any race is wel­come. The con­sti­tu­tion al­lows us to pro­mote our lan­guage.”

Son­ntag said there were English-speak­ing stu­dents at the res­i­dence be­cause they were proud of Afrikaans.

Ac­cord­ing to her, Abram­jee was wrong to make the as­sump­tions he had.

Ac­tivist Yusuf Abram­jee, who tweeted about al­leged segregation at the Univer­sity of Pre­to­ria, has also lodged a for­mal com­plaint.

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