Rapula Moatshe, IOL
Higher Education and Training Minister Dr Blade Nzimande must dissolve the University of Pretoria council for failing to deal with racism at the so-called “whites and Christian only” hostel housing its students.
This is according to the South African National Civic Organisation (Sanco), which also called on the South African Human Rights Commission to investigate the motive behind the existence of De Goede Hoop hostel in Sunnyside.
Janli Sonntag, co-ordinator of the residence, said the hostel was established by private investors, who included AfriForum, in February.
It accommodates only Christians and those with a love and passion for Afrikaans.
Sanco spokesperson Jabu Mahlangu blamed UP for the establishment of the hostel, despite efforts by the university to distance itself from it.
But university spokesperson Candice Jooste said: “De Goede Hoop residence is a private residence and is not associated with the University of Pretoria in any way.”
Mahlangu said the establishment of an Afrikaans-only residence was part of the right-wing agenda that thrived on heightened racial tensions to appeal to those who wished to destabilise higher education.
“Those who wish to establish a private Afrikaans university must do so elsewhere without infringing on the rights of others,” he said.
He also called on university management to immediately close the residence or deal with the consequences of undermining the values enshrined in the constitution.
The calls by Sanco came after the Commission for Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities confirmed it would investigate complaints that the hostel was discriminating against other races.
The complaint was lodged on Thursday by Pretoria-based community activist Yusuf Abramjee, who asked the commission to probe the existence of the new residence, opened “exclusively for Afrikaans and Christian students”.
Sonntag, on the other hand, denied that other races were being discriminated against.
“The hostel is open to all races, but those who want to live there must have a love and passion for Afrikaans,” she said.
She said it was their constitutional right to promote their mother tongue.
“We are not a hostel that is excluding anyone.
“All the students there support Afrikaans. Everybody is welcome only if they meet the requirement,” she said.
As part of the requirements, students have to write an essay in which they explain how they perceive the phasing out of Afrikaans at UP.
Sonntag said the hostel was borne out of calls to get rid of Afrikaans at the university.
Students decided to move out of university residences because they didn’t feel safe and felt excluded, she said.
“To give you a practical example, an Afrikaans person had to ask a question in English when at a residence meeting.
“They were not allowed to speak in Afrikaans.
“We were victimised for being Afrikaans and we wanted to feel at home,” she said.