Stellenbosch University vice-chancellor Professor Wim de Villiers. Photo: Brenton Geach

Cape Town - The descendants of a coloured community who were forcibly removed from their Stellenbosch homes in the 1960s will be the beneficiaries of a new bursary fund.

The establishment of the fund for descendants of Die Vlakte residents, an area close to the town centre, was announced by new Stellenbosch University rector and vice-chancellor, Professor Wim de Villiers, at his inauguration last week.

“In the interest of what dean of theology, Professor Nico Koopman, calls healing reconciliation, I now announce with humility that the university is establishing a bursary fund for the children of Die Vlakte, the descendants of those who were uprooted,” De Villiers said in his inauguration speech.

“The bursary is in direct response to students calling for the creation of such a bursary as a further sign of redress the university committed itself to at the turn of century.”

Die Vlakte was declared a white group area on September 25, 1964 in terms of the Group Areas Act of 1950 and this affected about 3 700 coloured residents .

The university did not protest against the evictions at the time and, in general, the university authorities went along with the government policy.

For decades, the removals from Die Vlakte as well as the Battle of Andringa Street, during which white students attacked coloured residents of Die Vlakte in 1940, didn’t form part of the official history of Stellenbosch and were only placed on record with the publication of In ons Bloed in 2006 and Nog Altyd Hier Gewees: Die Storie van Stellenbosse Gemeenskap in 2007. In 2013 the university opened the Memory Room in the Wilcocks Building as a gesture of reconciliation between the institution and the town’s coloured community.

The room is a permanent contemporary exhibition space depicting the suppressed history of people of Die Vlakte as well as the battle of Andringa Street.

The room was the brainchild of former vice-chancellor and rector, Professor Russel Botman, who died last year,

“It’s a place where we can reflect on the past, and hopefully learn to reconcile with one another.

“Reconciliation is born of memory and cannot happen if there is denial and amnesia,” Prof Botman had said.

In 2012, students from the university’s Dagbreek residence apologised for its involvement in the battle of Andringa Street.

De Villiers said that last year the university had made R588 million in bursaries and loans available to the 37 percent of its students in need of financial assistance.

Cape Argus