Jansen blames racism on NGK
Makes call for ‘honest, open conversations’
FREE State University vice-chancellor Jonathan Jansen has taken on the might of the NGK church, saying it has helped entrench racism in South Africa.
Speaking at a Cape Town Press Club lunch at the Waterfront yesterday, Jansen said the roots of racism lay in a number of “agencies of socialisation” like homes and schools. He added: “The most dangerous for me is the NG Kerk.”
“There is no way you can undo the damage without looking at home churches, schools, and the university’s arrangements,” he said, referring to institutions like onecolour student hostels and separate classes for Afrikaans and English speakers.
This separation could aggravate bitterness and racism.
Speaking to Weekend Argus afterwards, Jansen said he was not sure that the church, which had been “part and parcel of the National Party’s apartheid project”, shared the broader values of non-racialism.
Jansen was the centre of controversy last month when he reinstated two of the four Reitz hostel students who had humiliated a number of hostel workers.
He was vilified by the cabinet and Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande. But he found an unlikely ally in ANC Youth League president Julius Malema, who after a meeting said Jansen was “one of us”.
Yesterday he told Press Club members he had expelled a student for urinating on a fellow student’s bed linen. He said he had known something like that would happen after he implemented a rule that under no circumstances could a first-year student be initiated.
“I knew it was coming – I knew they were going to test the rule.”
Jansen said he expelled the stu- dent in consultation with the university’s legal team on the same day the incident happened.
Jansen, the first black vicechancellor of the University of the Free State, acknowledged yesterday that he could not say he was not a racist.
“I try every single day of my life to be generous, to be honest, to be equitable, to live my life for all my fellow brothers and sisters, black and white, but I can’t guarantee you that I don’t sometimes think thoughts that I’m ashamed of. I can’t guarantee you that I don’t sometimes have hatred towards white people for what happened in my family history.”
Jansen’s speech, which he titled “The Pain on the other Side”, tried to put into perspective the country’s racial divisions and how they could be overcome only if people had open, honest conversations with one another.
Jansen said even though the so-called Reitz Four had not shown any remorse, they were currently involved in a process which would lead to them apologising.
“It would have been ideal if there had been remorse and an apology but I do believe it will happen in the next two weeks.”
Jansen says it was better for the students to come back to the university where they could deal with the issues than for them to become a danger to everyone else. He said the four had suffered, been spat on and ridiculed.
Jansen claimed that the five workers, Naomi Phororo, Emmah Koko, Nkgapeng Adams, Sebuasengwe Mittah Ntlatseng and Mothibedi Molete – the university staff members shown, in a video, on their knees eating stew they appeared to have urinated in, had been exploited for political gain.
Questions that needed to
be asked were why the boys and their parents had not understood the gravity of the event. They had asked him with tears what they had done wrong.
Jansen said many of the UFS students came from isolated rural communities where they were not given opportunities to mix with other races. That was why he said there was a “crooked sense of love”.
It was a situation where the master-servant relationship was “firmly established. They (the students) could not understand the furore. They maintained they loved the staff as if they were their mothers and brought them vegetables every weekend”.
On the issue of the workers who claimed they had had little or no support from him, he said he should have recorded some meetings, as what had been said in the meetings had not been reflected publicly.
The question remained why the workers had felt obliged to do as they were told by the students.
On his views on Malema, Jansen said he was “extremely smart”, with the ability to synthesise a fairly complex discussion. “I wish I had some professors like that,” he said.
Jansen said he had also made peace with Thebe Meeko, leader of the ANC Youth League in the Free State, who previously said Jansen was a racist who should be shot.
“I called him into my office and made peace with him.”
Jansen reached out, hugged him and told him: “I need you to know I love you very much and I think you will still become a good leader.
“It was an emotional moment. The full apology came quickly.”