The De Goede Hoop student residence in Sunnyside which caters for whites and Christians only. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/Pretoria News
Pretoria – The “whites and Christian only” residence occupied by University of Pretoria students is under investigation following complaints that it was discriminating against other races.

The complaint was lodged on Thursday by community activist Yusuf Abramjee with the Commission for Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities.

The De Goede Hoop hostel in Sunnyside was established by private investors, among them AfriForum, last month.

But Janli Sonntag, co-ordinator of the residence, fiercely defended the position of the property owners to accommodate students aligned to Afrikaans culture and Christianity.

“The hostel is open to all races, but those who want to live there must have the love and passion for the Afrikaans,” she said.

Abramjee said he would meet with the commission on Wednesday for further discussion about the matter. In his complaint, he asked the commission to probe the new residence which was exclusively for Afrikaans and Christian students.

“We hereby call on the commission to immediately and urgently investigate this matter. We believe it is against the constitution, and one cannot have a residence for the exclusive use of one race group only.

“Other race groups are clearly being deprived, and the policy is simply a disguise to say whites only,” Abramjee said.

Commission spokesperson Mpiyakhe Mkholo said the complaint was formally lodged by Abramjee and would be investigated. “We are going to attend to it as soon as possible,” he said.

However, Sonntag maintained that 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 they must meet the requirement,” she added.

As an entry requirement, students were supposed to write an essay in which they explained how they perceived the implication of the development at Tuks to phase out Afrikaans as a medium of instruction.

Sonntag said the hostel was born out of calls to get rid of Afrikaans at the university.

“It was conceived during the time of #AfrikaansMustFall and the call for doing away with Afrikaans at the university,” she said.

The university, meanwhile, distanced itself from the student residence, saying it didn’t condone what happened there.

University spokesperson Candice Jooste said: “The De Goede Hoop residence is a private facility and not associated with the University of Pretoria in any way.”

She said reports linking the university to the residence were 100% inaccurate.

“We do not support or condone the practices of private residences with discriminatory acceptance criteria.

“This residence does not comply with the University of Pretoria’s transformation policies and therefore is not granted access to participate in university events.”

Sonntag confirmed the residence was operating independently of UP. She said students decided to move out of university residences, because they didn’t feel safe and felt excluded.

“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. Asked if the residence was open to black students, she said: “The hostel is not based on race. Any race is welcome. The constitution allows us to promote our language.”

Sonntag said there were English-speaking students at the residence because they were proud of Afrikaans.

According to her, Abramjee was wrong to make an assumption that the hostel was based on segregation and promotion of apartheid.

Pretoria News