Khampepe appointed commissioner of inquiry into racism allegations at SU

Justice Sisi Khampepe has been appointed as commissioner to lead an independent inquiry into the claims of racism that rocked Stellenbosch University (SU) recently.

Khompepe is expected to table recommendations to improve the culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion at the university.

SU Rector and Vice-Chancellor Professor Willem de Villers  said the inquiry would commence mid June. He said it would be conducted by means of closed proceedings to allow confidence in the inquiry and to enable sincere participation on a broad basis.

“The commission may in its own discretion receive any evidence that is relevant to its mandate from any person and in a manner determined by the commissioner. This may include but is not limited to the witnesses whose evidence will be presented, the invitation of written submissions from the campus community, and any other actions deemed necessary,” said de Villiers.

Racial incidents at the university reared its ugly head in May when a first-year law student Theuns du Toit entered 20-year-old Babalo Ndwayana’s Huis Marais room during 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 the residence. Ndwayana had initially forgiven him but with pressure from his father and Mzansi he laid criminal charges against du Toit.

The university has dealt with 42 cases of racism/discrimination between 2016 and 2021.

SU spokesperson Martin Viljoen, in response to questions from Sunday World, 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 said.

According to Viljoen, the university is guided by its Vision 2040 and values, which include excellence, compassion, equity, respect, and accountability. Viljoen told Sunday World that the policy on unfair discrimination and harassment and the student disciplinary code, as well as the corresponding codes for staff, guides acceptable behaviour.

“We are thankful that a person of the calibre of Justice Khampepe availed herself to assist SU with this important commission.

“SU 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 SU leadership is sensitive to the well-being of the entire student and staff community and the impact of such incidents on our SU community,” said de Villers.

Also read: Racism claims not rare at Stellenbosch

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