Johannesburg - Justice Sisi Khampepe has been appointed as Commissioner of the independent commission of inquiry that will begin mid June to look into allegations of racism at Stellenbosch University(SU).
This Inquiry comes weeks after a white student, Theuns du Toit was suspended from the University for urinating on the belongings of a black First-year student Babalo Ndwayana.
Du Toit is also facing a criminal complaint over the alleged racist incident.
The incident further pushed students to speak out about many other racial issues within the institution and urged that the university intervene by addressing racism within the institution.
The Rector and Vice-Chancellor of Stellenbosch University, Prof Wim de Villiers announced the appointment of Khampepe as the Commissioner for the inquiry on Friday.
Khampepe is also expected to play a vital role in the Universities attempt to create an environment that is a safe and inclusive space for all students and staff
Stellenbosch University Media Manager Martin Viljoen said “Justice Khampepe will make recommendation to the Rector to assist SU in improving its culture of diversity, equity and inclusion with reference to racism that will safeguard and promote the dignity and self-worth of all students and staff.”
The Commission will be closed to the public in order to provide a safe platform for those within the institution to participate by contributing evidence and information they feel may be useful in the fight against racial injustices at the institution.
A report of all the findings once the commission has completed its task will be handed to De Villiers by a date that is yet to be decided by both the Commission and the University.
“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 by it.
The Commission will conduct the inquiry by means of closed proceedings to provide confidence in the inquiry and to enable candid participation on a broad basis. The identity, other personal information and evidence of witnesses are to be kept confidential.” said Viljoen
The University has said that the following considerations will be made by the Commission:
• Incidents of racism at the University, with reference to the recent occurrences at Huis Marais and the Faculty of Law’s Law Dance;
• The current state of diversity, equity and inclusion within the University campus culture, with specific reference to racism;
• Given the University’s stance of zero-tolerance towards racism, whether the current structures of the University and its material university policies, rules and processes are sufficient and most effective to address the lived experience of students and staff with regard to racism in all its guises; and
• Related issues and concerns that may arise in the course of the inquiry, including the need for further investigation or consideration of related issues.
This appointment of the retired Judge of the Constitutional Court of South Africa comes days after she was appointed the new Chancellor of the University of Pretoria (UP) with effect from 28 June 2022.
De Villiers said “Khampepe has an outstanding professional reputation, invaluable experience and is a person of impeccable integrity.
“We are thankful that a person of the calibre of Justice Khampepe availed herself to assist SU with this important commission.”
De Villiers added “SU takes a zero-tolerance approach to racism, discrimination, prejudice and violence on campus. As communicated before, we want to strengthen existing and are implementing 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.”