Jansen blames racism on NGK

Makes call for ‘hon­est, open con­ver­sa­tions’

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - LYNNETTE JOHNS

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.”

Jonathan Jansen

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