SA Parties Outraged by “Luister” Video Expose of Stellenbosch University

The ANC, DA and EFF have reacted with outrage at the alleged “institutionalised racism, discrimination and harassment” at Stellenbosch University (SU) exposed in the video ‘Luister’. The ANC Chief Whip described SU as a place where Black students “struggle against being forced lectures in Afrikaans that they don’t understand” and where such students are “regularly made to feel subhuman.”

“Luister” (which means Listen in Afrikaans) is a compilation of interviews with 32 students and one lecturer from Stellenbosch University, revealing the racial prejudice they continue to experience in the town of Stellenbosch, and the challenges they face by the use of Afrikaans as the language of teaching at SU.

The political parties each issued statements yesterday and expressed support for an investigation into the allegations and for SU management to be called to an urgent meeting in Parliament.


Below are some of the points raised by Luister, as well as some of the reactions to the video by SU Management, DA, ANC, EFF and ordinary South Africans…

‘Luister’ Video

The video was uploaded by Contraband Cape Town on 20 August. Quotes in the documentary included:

[quote_center]”I sometimes ask myself when I’m alone, ‘Why did God make me black?'” – from Luister[/quote_center]

1. “I feel like it’s wrong to be black. I sometimes ask myself when I’m alone, ‘Why did God make me black?'” – 0:41

2. “The colour of my skin in Stellenbosch is like a social burden…just walking into spaces, there is that ‘stop, pause and stare’, where people cannot believe that you would dare enter into this space”. – 9:13

3. “It goes as deep as having to die as a black person in order to survive at Stellenbosch.” – 9:47

4. “They said: ‘What are you doing here? Are you not supposed to be in the zoo?'” – 19:32

5. “There’s a culture of trying to silence black voices.” – 21:49

Stellenbosch University (SU)

SU Rector Wim de Villiers issued a statement on 21 August (which was later updated). Some points include:

1. “…it is indeed sad that some of our students are still exposed to dehumanising experiences of racism and other forms of discrimination – in spite of the progress that we as a University has made.”

2. “My management and I are not indifferent towards these issues as they are exactly the kind of challenges that are currently receiving pertinent attention on various levels and in high-level discussions with groups and individuals on campus.”

[quote_center]”…to insinuate that the University is not serious about transformation, that it turns a blind eye to flagrant racism…is simply not true” – SU[/quote_center]

3. “…to insinuate that the University is not serious about transformation, that it turns a blind eye to flagrant racism or that it in some sense advocates or maintain a culture of apartheid at the University, is simply not true and cannot go unchallenged. In my mind there is no doubt that the University prioritises transformation…and we are very intentional in how we go about it.”

4. “…the violation of human rights, victimisation in any sense, racism, classism, sexism and all other forms of discrimination, will not be tolerated – regardless of who is involved. Proof to this is termination of the service contract of a lecturer who sent a racist SMS to a student earlier this year.”

5. “In the Luister-video, the impression is created that I and by implication my management, do not listen to students or that we do not care about their lived experiences on campus. This borders on being disingenuous.  On various platforms…I have repeatedly invited the campus community to enter into discussions…[and]…have received very positive responses and numerous of these very fruitful conversations have already occurred.”

6. “I have also invited the campus community to make written contributions with regard to transformation and other issues affecting our students.”

7. “Furthermore, we don’t only listen, we act concretely.” (Examples are given – participation in a dignity march, removal of the Verwoerd plaque, establishment of a Transformation Committee, investment of R70 million in the  diversification of the University’s staff corps, creation of task teams that give priority attention to the practical implementation of the University’s language policy and more.)

8. “We are also working hard on various other institutional matters such as broadening access to the University and increasing the number of Black, Coloured and Indian students (currently making up one third of the institution’s undergraduate student population with an objective to reach 50% by 2018/2019 – on postgraduate level it is already 50%) and improving student success. SU makes the biggest contribution to individual student funding, possibly the largest per capita of all South African higher education institutions.”

9. “My management and I are also keenly aware of the fact that the institutional culture on campus is experienced by some of our students as unwelcoming. This is an issue that is receiving top priority at the University with very focused interventions aimed at creating a welcoming and inclusive campus culture. The University has, for example, instituted with great success the Listen, Live and Learn student communities on campus…”

10. “In addition physical and organisational structures such as new residential units, clusters and hubs have been created to facilitate change in the campus culture…”

11. “The progressive commitment and actions of the University, its staff and its students are sometimes negatively influenced by a few individuals who act in an insensitive and highly unacceptable manner towards others…It is therefore regrettable that reprehensible incidents can obscure years’ of positive work towards redress and development.”

[quote_center]”[Incidents in the town of Stellenbosch are] sadly still reflective of broader South African society” – SU[/quote_center]

12. “I also need to add that as far as the video is concerned, there are certain misrepresentations that must be pointed out.” (Examples are given including that disciplinary action is not taken if students protest “within the rules and guidelines”, that Elsenburg “resorts under the Dept of Agriculture” and is not part of SU, and that the University cannot be held accountable for what happens in the pubs and town of Stellenbosch which is “sadly still reflective of broader South African society”, although SU has “engaged with the South African Police Force, the Municipality and even pub owners on this very particular issue.”)

13. “The Management of Stellenbosch University remains committed to open discussions with all stakeholders and to transformation.”

Read the full SU statement here (and the original statement of 21 August here).

The African National Congress (ANC)

The ANC Chief Whip issued a statement under the heading “Urgent Parliamentary intervention regarding Stellenbosch University’s Racist Discrimination”. Points included:

1. “The ANC in Parliament is outraged by a video documentary that went viral on YOUTUBE, in which black students detail how they continue to be subjected to racist practices by white staff members and students of the University of Stellenbosch.”

2. “It is disgraceful that more than 20 years into our democracy, Stellenbosch University remains an enclave of white supremacy and apartheid culture, where young people in the new free South Africa suffer the same indignity experienced by their forebears.”

3. “We view this serious allegations of racism and discrimination in a very serious light…Such practices are not line with the spirit and principles of our democratic Constitution, particularly its Bill of Rights, which prohibits inequality and discrimination.”

4. “We express an unequivocal solidarity with the Black students at the University of Stellenbosch. We will spare neither strength nor effort in ensuring that transformation at all our institutions of higher learning is speeded up…”

5. “It is unacceptable that the students of Stellebosch University today are made to suffer the same abhorrent conditions the students in apartheid South Africa had to deal with in 1976.”

[quote_center]”We will ensure that the relevant parliamentary oversight structure, in this case the Higher Education portfolio committee, urgently looks into the matter…” – ANC[/quote_center]

6. “We will ensure that the relevant parliamentary oversight structure, in this case the Higher Education portfolio committee, urgently looks into the matter to get to the bottom of the allegations of racism at the institution. The committee must investigate these disturbing allegations, meet all relevant stakeholders and report back to the National Assembly. The report of the committee would guide Parliament regarding how to intervene decisively to arrest the situation.”

7. “We believe that the conditions under which these students are forced to live at that University, as well as other similar conditions previously reported at other former white-only institutions, must be investigated by the SA Human Rights Commission…”

Read the full ANC statement here.

The Democratic Alliance (DA)

The DA released a statement entitled “Stellenbosch University needs to build an inclusive campus”. Points included:

1. “The racial tensions at Stellenbosch University, as exposed by the “Luister” documentary should not be swept under the carpet. To this end, we agree that there needs to be an investigation into this matter, so as to establish all of the facts, and to take the necessary action to remedy the situation.”

[quote_center]”Racism has no place in South Africa, and must be condemned.” – DA[/quote_center]

2. “The DA also calls upon all stakeholders – including Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Higher Education and Training and the leadership of the University and the students – to find each other in order to formulate a way forward. A dialogue which takes into consideration the concerns of the students is essential.”

3. “University campuses should be hubs of progress, equality, liberty and knowledge, where people of all races and backgrounds are able to grow with an aim of later building a better South Africa once they enter the work force.”

4. “Racism has no place in South Africa, and must be condemned.”

Read the full DA statement here.

Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF):

In a statement entitled “EFF statement on the University of Stellenbosch racism”, points included:

1. “It is a fact that the strategy of many white racist groups in South Africa since the demise apartheid is to try and close down many spaces and preserve them as racial enclaves exclusive to white people…through raising properties costs…[making] entrance fees to gyms, entertainment centres and other social spaces expensive hoping that black people will not afford…”

[quote_center]”…some Afrikaners are manipulating the policy of multiculturalism to try and maintain white-only spaces…” – EFF[/quote_center]

2. “The most dangerous of the strategies to maintain white-only areas is the continued use of the Afrikaans language, as a language of exclusion. Through it, they try to mark territory and limit access, in particular to education and culture.”

3. “…some Afrikaners are manipulating the policy of multiculturalism to try and maintain white-only spaces, including Stellenbosh as a town. This is because many in the Afrikaner communities fail to accept the new South Africa and continue to relate to Afrikaans as the language of domination and control.”

4. “…origins of the Afrikaans language are not exclusive to the Dutch settler communities. Afrikaans was appropriated by colonialists as a language of narrow nationalist domination, when in fact it socially emanated from amongst the blacks and colonised classes.”

5. “We call on the University management to rework its language policy in light of this social fact about how white racism survives in new South Africa….Unless this is the case, Stellenbosch will remain the breeding ground of white arrogance and supremacy. All the black students who want English must get it..”

6. “The university must also ensure the special policing of anti-black racism and act harshly on all cases of racism.”

7. “All white people must accept that they can never live in exclusively white areas in Africa. ..The primary condition of living in this country is that you are prepared to accept the basic thesis that it belong to all who live in it.”

Read the full EFF statement here.

Ordinary South Africans

Here are some comments from social media and from the comments section of SU’s website:

Marcel K: “I am a black foreigner student and I am happy to be at Stellenbosch University. I am well treated as my fellow white students. Please guys stop undermining the university’s image.”

Ishmael: “”Racism is rooted within the culture of SU. In such instances, the management is not capable of doing anything. We hear a lot of stories from students and it is evident that SU disregard their stories. Racism is taught, it is never born.”

[quote_center]”We are also fighting here at Pukke even though media is not giving us attention…” – Ignatius[/quote_center]

Ignatius: “I think the situation at Stellenbosch is no different to North West University, Pukke campus. These Afrikaans universities are working together to sustain racism and aprtheid. Also we can’t expect people who schooled and lived under the system of segregation to be committed to transformation. Lastly, as long as white people control land and economy racism will not end. Afrikaans here at Pukke is attached to white supremacy and white privilege. ANC failed us including EFF. All of them are silent abount racism because they are afraid to hurt white people. So black students rather suffer and use translation devices to learn at both Pukke and Martie. We are also fighting here at Pukke even though media is not giving us attention…”

[quote_center]”Why would you insult thousands of people and call them racists because of the action of a handful of inappropraite individuals.” – Hanno[/quote_center]

Hanno Loubser – “Great statement by the university. It is unfair how the grievances of these students were abused in efforts to discredit the university. It is a ‘”cheap shot” and no more than propaganda. Why would you insult thousands of people and call them racists because of the action of a handful of inappropraite individuals. I do have sympathy for these students and what they experienced is UNACCEPTABLE. But how it was/is used to stirr up emotions is wrong. This video displays a distorted image of the best university in South Africa. Come to the Institute for Plant Biotechnology and we will show you how mulicultural and transfromed Stellenbosch University really is.”

VIDEO: LUISTER