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Johannesburg - The North West University council on Thursday said it would not tolerate any human rights infringement at the university.
“While serious efforts were made in the past to prevent initiation practices, the independent investigation revealed the reality and magnitude of the challenges facing the entire university community in this regard,” it said in a statement.
“The challenge is now for the entire university community to demonstratively embrace a new frame of mind on this matter, supporting an inclusive, healthy, and welcoming culture on all three campuses, which should ensure an active and vibrant student life.”
These were findings in a report by the council to the minister of higher education and training on reports in February that some students used the stiff-armed Nazi salute during an initiation ceremony.
In May, vice chancellor Dr Theuns Eloff stepped down, following an initiation incident involving a Nazi salute. He was replaced by Professor Dan Kgwadi.
The council on Thursday said further intervention was required by management because despite policies and procedures being in place “offensive practices” occurred, which violated human rights.
The council said it instructed the vice chancellor and management to implement pro-active and preventative strategies and measures to prevent a recurrence.
The council said that although its finding and recommendations did not have the status of judicial findings, it was confident that the report could serve the purpose of a resource document.
A standing council committee was appointed to oversee and review the interventions and recommendations contained in the report.
These include ensuring the effectiveness of the ban on all initiation rituals and demeaning practices with no tolerance for any infringement of human rights and developing a reception and induction programme to ensure a welcoming culture at the university.
Protecting human dignity and respect through appropriate monitoring mechanisms and educational programmes, ensuring optimal integration of student activities and embracing multi-cultural diversity and introducing a compulsory course in human rights during the reception and induction period for students.
The council said it received a report by the independent investigation task team during its meeting on June 19 and 20.
“In one of its key findings, the independent investigation task team concluded that the conduct which had been investigated at the NWU had not been driven by Fascism and Nazism, but by practices embedded in the so-called traditions,” the council said in a statement.
“Although council noted and welcomed this observation by the task team on alleged Fascism and Nazism at the NWU, it is aware of the challenge to create an environment that will ensure that where such practices and 'traditions' may arise, these are continually and effectively eradicated.”
The team who compiled the report investigated possible “cultural, induction, orientation, initiation, and demeaning practices, including acts of Fascism and Nazism, that seemed to exist at the Potchefstroom campus under the tacit approval by the university management”.
The team was set up in March this year and asked to investigate whether there was a “culture of intimidation, harassment, fear, and purging” against staff and students who tried to stop such practices.
The task team included SA Human Rights Commission member Leon Wessels, NWU human rights committee chairwoman Rehana Rawat, political analyst Somadoda Fikeni, and nuclear power expert Bismark Tyobeka.