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Stellenbosch University’s chequered history needs racial harmony, says Rupert former chancellor

Johann Rupert, former chancellor of Stellenbosch University. Picture: Jeffrey Abrahams

Johann Rupert, former chancellor of Stellenbosch University. Picture: Jeffrey Abrahams

Published May 22, 2022


Cape Town - The urination scandal that rocked the university was a tragedy that shouldn’t have happened, said former chancellor, Johann Rupert.

“We need racial harmony, we don’t need war,” he told Weekend Argus yesterday in the wake of the incident that sparked a heated racial debate.

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The scandal occurred last Sunday when a video of a student, Theuns du Toit, peeing on fellow student Babalo Ndwayana’s desk and laptop, in his room in the early hours of the morning, went viral.

“We have too many people that thrive of promoting racial hatred,” said Rupert, whose tenure as chancellor from 2009 to 2019, was marred by a controversial “blackface” incident involving two students on Heritage Day.

“Incidents like this are a blatant tragedy,” Rupert said.

Rupert, however, said he did not watch the video.

“I have board meetings all the time,” he said.

Incumbent vice-chancellor of the university, Willem de Villiers said the institution’s main priority was to create an inclusive environment for all its students.

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“We want to maintain a safe student community where social coercion is promoted to provide quality tertiary education for all.

“Despite our strongest condemnation of the incident coupled with a significant and understandable outcry, as required by law proper procedures must be followed to secure a solidly defensible outcome to the situation at hand,” De Villiers said.

The university has been embroiled in a number of racist in the past.

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In 2014, two white students Mark Burman and Ross Bartlett were accused of racism after painting their faces dark to portray tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams at a costume party.

The pair later apologised.

Two years later two white female students Christine ‘Poekie’ Briedenhann and Jo-Anne Cloete were suspended after they were accused of racism when they painted themselves purple for a residence party.

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The face paint has been deemed to be racially offensive as it depicted a black face.

But their suspension was lifted a week later after an investigation and the two apologised stating that they dressed up as purple aliens for a space-themed residence party.

In 2019 the university had to pull a controversial study that sparked outrage after it found coloured women had “an increased risk for low cognitive functioning due to low education levels and unhealthy lifestyle behaviours”.

The study “Age and education effects on cognitive functioning in coloured South African women,” used a group of 60 women (18-64 years), and was conducted by researchers from the university's sport science department.

Last year the university opened a criminal case after being made aware of a TikTok account using the institution’s logo and name where racist videos were posted including one that describes a black person as a poor k****r.