DA compels Het Jan Marais Fonds to withdraw SU funding

The DA is calling on the Het Jan Marais Nationale Fonds to withdraw from funding Stellenbosch University (SU) unless it rejects the report of an Independent Commission Inquiry into Allegations of Racism at the institution.

The report, which was released on Tuesday, was commissioned by the university and led by Sisi Khampepe, a retired Constitutional Court judge.

In June, Khampepe was appointed as commissioner to lead the inquiry and table the recommendations to improve the culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion at the university.

According to DA’s Leon Schreiber, the report paints a bad picture of the Afrikaners, thereby making them a scapegoat for all the university’s troubles.

After noting the party’s concerns in a statement on Tuesday, Schreiber said the DA has now resolved to write to the Het Jan Marais Fonds to compel it to withdraw its funding should the university leadership decide to accept and implement Khampepe’s recommendations.

Established in 1915, the Het Jan Marais Fonds was set up for the development of Afrikaans and the Stellenbosch area.

Schreiber said: “The report equates the Afrikaans language with racism and scapegoats the 7-million black, white and coloured speakers of this official indigenous language for the urination incident that took place at the university earlier this year.

“Based on this insulting and dishonest finding, the report goes on to recommend the complete erasure of Afrikaans from both formal and informal settings at Stellenbosch.

“The Het Jan Marais Fonds is by far the biggest donor to the university. The fund originates from the last will and testament of Jan Marais, who donated £100 000 [R2-million] to the university in 1915 on the explicit condition that the money would only remain available for as long as Afrikaans enjoyed equal status to English as an academic language at the university.”

According to Schreiber, the implementation of the recommendations constitutes to violation of the Fonds condition.

He said it would be “ultra vires and inconsistent with the terms of the fund’s contract with SU for the current trustees of the Het Jan Marais Fonds to continue funding a university that plans to erase Afrikaans”.

“The DA calls on the Het Jan Marais Fonds to put [Stellenbosch University] rector and vice-chancellor Wim de Villiers on terms, making it clear that the fund will withdraw all of its financial support unless the university explicitly rejects Khampepe’s outlandish recommendation to extinguish the right to mother-tongue education of South Africa’s diverse Afrikaans-speaking community.”

On Tuesday, De Villiers confirmed receipt of the report and assured the public that the university would engage once the report has been processed.

However, his reaction indicates that Khampepe’s report is a hard pill to swallow, saying it is a “sobering moment”, as the university has come to a realisation that in fact black students and staff members have been feeling unwelcomed at the institution despite measures enforced thus far.

“We must face the reality that there is a gap between our intentions with regard to various transformation initiatives and the implementation thereof. We have to work hard to align our institutional commitments with what is happening in practice and on the ground level,” said De Villiers.

“Although there is much in the report for the university to take heart from, specific fault lines have also been identified. There is a lot of work to do across Stellenbosch University, in the interest of all our students and staff, in the sincere spirit of being welcoming and inclusive.

“Justice Khampepe made various recommendations that we are now studying deeper. We will evaluate the findings and implement action plans to address the areas for improvement as identified in the commission’s recommendations.”

The report

The report suggests that the university is fraught with a toxic culture at its residences caused by ancient racial scars and beliefs that have been neglected for far too long, which now bleed on the younger generation.

Khampepe made recommendations regarding the toxic culture and the university’s language policies, notwithstanding the need for greater change in leadership. She suggested that the university revises its language policy to eliminate chances of language exclusion through the preference for Afrikaans.

“Earlier in this report, I mentioned that the evidence exposes two polarised perceptions of the university,” reads the report in part.

“One perceives the university as the final bastion of Afrikaans pride and heritage, which must be protected at all costs to safeguard the legacies and rights of the white, Afrikaans community. The other understands the university as exactly the same place that it was during the apartheid era, and perceives it as a hostile and unchanged environment for black people.

“My conclusion, at the end of an arduous and comprehensive inquiry, is that these perceptions are equally untrue. They are both influenced by the preconceived ideas of different groups of people with radically different histories, and they indicate that much learning and introspection are needed.

“This inquiry unveiled many past scars and traumas and indicated that there is still much healing to be done in our country.

“The university can only hope to realise its potential of becoming the national asset that it can and should be if all members of the university feel that they belong and that it is a place for them. The solution is not to fight and defend the past, it is to unite and build a future together.

“After all, the fact that an identical sentiment of fear was expressed by both white, Afrikaans and black students at the university is an indication that members of the university community are missing opportunities to communicate, connect and understand one another in terms of similarities rather than difference.”

Khampepe said the university’s state of affairs must be tackled through her findings and recommendations to ensure that its transformation apparatus is optimised.

“If this does not happen, it is unlikely that the university will be able to shed its historic scars, heal and grow into the national asset to which it aspires,” she wrote.

“Although it is the work of the entire university community and our greater society to rebuild a country in which all people are provided opportunities to flourish, this cannot be achieved unless every individual is willing to look inwards and change.

“That is precisely why this commission has recommended the implementation of a compulsory shared humanities module in order to facilitate this critical process of introspection and growth.

“My closing advice to the university, and indeed anyone willing to listen, borrowed from the words of another luminary of transformation, have been chosen with equal deliberation: ‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that [Martin Luther King Jr]’.”

Allegations of racism

Racial incidents rocked the university in May when a first-year law student Theuns du Toit entered 20-year-old Babalo Ndwayana’s Huis Marais room in the early hours of a Sunday morning and urinated on his study desk.

Asked by Ndwayana why he was doing that, Du Toit is said to have responded: “This is what we do to black boys.”

Ndwayana filmed the incident and the footage went viral on social media. Calls followed for Du Toit to be expelled from the institution.

Du Toit was suspended from the university and expelled from his residence. Ndwayana initially forgave him, but with pressure from his father and South Africans, he laid criminal charges against Du Toit.

However, the charges were later withdrawn after the two students attended a mediation session.

In June, the university said a disciplinary hearing had been concluded, and noted that the institution strongly condemns any form of racism, discrimination or other prejudice.

“Human dignity is non-negotiable at Stellenbosch University and must be respected and upheld. When such dignity is affected, it must be restored following due process, the rule of law, and the full extent to which the constitution protects the rights of all in our country. There is no place for racism or victimisation of any kind at SU,” read the university statement at the time.

The university added that its independent central disciplinary committee (CDC) found Du Toit guilty of contravening various clauses of the disciplinary code for students, one of these being that “a student shall not act in a manner that is racist, unfairly discriminatory, violent, grossly insulting, abusive or intimidating against any other person”.

Du Toit was also found guilty of contravening the amended residence rules.

“These findings led the CDC to conclude that there is no alternative but to expel Mr Du Toit with immediate effect from the university,” said the university management.

Misfortunes happened in rapid succession for Theuns. The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) confirmed in October that it plans to prosecute him for malicious damage to property and crimen injuria.

“Yes, I can confirm that the NPA has decided that he must be prosecuted on malicious damage to property and crimen injuria, but gave instructions that the investigation must be finalised before the matter is placed on the [court] roll,” NPA provincial spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila said at the time.

Racism claims are not rare at SU and it is making impressive theoretical strides toward transformation.

In May, Sunday World reported that the university had dealt with 42 cases of racism/discrimination between 2016 and 2021 after its spokesperson, Martin Viljoen, laid bare measures put in place to prevent racial exclusion and to ensure transformation.

Viljoen said the university is guided by its Vision 2040 and values, which include excellence, compassion, equity, respect, and accountability.

Viljoen further told Sunday World that the policy on unfair discrimination and harassment and the student disciplinary code, as well as corresponding codes for staff guide acceptable behaviour.

He said: “The equality unit looks at various categories of transgressions. In terms of alleged discrimination, there were three cases in 2016; 16 in 2017; 13 in 2017; three in 2019; seven in 2020, and 0 in 2021 – with varying outcomes.

“There have been no dismissals of staff for racism or race-related conduct in the last five years [2017-2021]. With regard to students, only one student was expelled in 2017.”

He added, however, that the institution takes “a zero-tolerance approach to racism, discrimination, prejudice, and violence on campus”.

“As communicated before, we want to strengthen existing and implement new comprehensive measures to combat such violations and continue to improve those measures on an ongoing basis.

“The Stellenbosch University leadership is sensitive to the wellbeing of the entire student and staff community, and the impact of such incidents on our university community.”

Also read: Khampepe report ‘a sobering moment’ for Stellenbosch University

Khampepe appointed commissioner of inquiry into racism allegations at SU

Racism claims not rare at Stellenbosch

NPA to prosecute expelled Stellies student Theuns du Toit

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