CAPE TOWN - Pressure is mounting on Stellenbosch University to expel the white student filmed urinating on the belongings of a fellow black student in what the university has described as a hurtful and racist incident.
While the university suspended the white student saying that expulsion and/or criminal charges were not excluded from the possible available options based on the investigation's findings, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) confirmed it was also probing the matter.
The incident sparked protests on Tuesday, with students charging that a suspension was inadequate punishment and failed to reform the perpetrator.
Stellenbosch University says they have suspended the white student who urinated in a black students room on the weekend:”The alleged perpetrator was suspended from the University today. A further swift but detailed investigation will determine the final outcomes” @CapeTimesSA pic.twitter.com/MhmZUweLIa— Siphokazi Vuso (@siphokazi_vuso) May 16, 2022
The incident took place in the early hours of Sunday morning in the Huis Marais residence, according to the first year student.
Speaking about the incident, he said: “I was woken by a strange noise around 4am in the morning and I woke up to check what was happening because my roommate was away for the weekend. I turned on the lights, and I saw someone urinating on my study desk where my laptop and study notes were. I decided to take a video; I asked him at first what he was doing and he said he was waiting for someone, and when I asked him again he said it’s a ‘white boy thing’ and left.
“I am still traumatised and I feel he violated my right of dignity and humanity,“ said the emotional student.
The incident was reported by residence management to the relevant university structures the same day. The victim’s father said they were deeply disturbed by the incident.
“I have instructed my son to go to Stellenbosch police station and open a case of malicious damage to property. I am still waiting for the institution to get in touch with me regarding this matter, but they are yet to do so,” he said yesterday afternoon.
“I want him expelled so that a stern message to all other would-be racists would be deterred from doing this,” said the father.
Approached for comment on Tuesday, the suspended student said he would respond at a later stage.
Stellenbosch University said a further swift but detailed investigation will determine the final outcomes.
“Expulsion and/or criminal charges are not excluded from the possible available options, based on the investigation’s findings. Human dignity is non-negotiable and must be respected, upheld and restored when affected. Such destructive behaviour is totally unacceptable and undermines what SU stands for as well as the many continuous focused efforts made towards building inclusive student communities at Stellenbosch University,” Stellenbosch University said.
Stellenbosch University Rector and Vice-Chancellor Professor Wim de Villiers said: “We are appalled by this type of behaviour. Such conduct will not be tolerated at the university. We acted swiftly and decisively to uphold our commitment to a culture of inclusivity. What happened at Huis Marais is not acceptable. No student has the right to diminish another student's human dignity or rights in this way.”
The SAHRC meanwhile said they had received two complaints regarding the incident.
“The SAHRC is investigating the matter as, on the face of it or prima facie, it appears that a violation of the affected student’s rights have taken place. If the allegations are true, this was an atrocious and despicable incident. The facts need to be determined by the commission first, though. The commission is attempting to get hold of the affected student. We call on him and other potential witnesses to come forward and make contact with the commission,” said SAHRC commissioner André Gaum.
Student activist Shaniaé Maharaj said campus culture does not change because offenders are not afraid of the consequences of their actions.
“Because all we see are statements from senior management without any concomitant action. We want the student to be expelled because suspension is not only an inadequate punishment given the severity of the incident, but it also fails to reform the perpetrator and address the wider social context - of toxic masculinity and white supremacy that allowed the incident to take place in the first place,” said Maharaj.