Consultations reopen on UFS students

Monday, October 26, 2009

Pretoria - Following objections from government and members of the public, the University of the Free State (UFS) has decided to reopen consultations in regard to the four students who allegedly humiliated workers.

The university issued a statement on Sunday calling on all stakeholders concerned to engage with the management in order to deliberate on a way forward for the institution and especially for the staff and students concerned.

"All stakeholders inside and outside the UFS are invited to meet with the university management to table their concerns and to try to find consensus on a way forward," it said.

The institution came under fire last week after its Vice-Chancellor Professor Jonathan Jansen announced that the university would withdraw its own complaint against the four students alleged of abusing the rights of cleaners.

Earlier this year, a racist video which was initially aimed at protesting against the university's integration policy surfaced showing four students from the Reitz hostel degrading five cleaners.

The cleaners were allegedly forced to eat food laced in urine and participate in activities such as playing rugby.

Cabinet said last week expressed discontent at the decision to withdraw the complaint, saying the process has been flawed in that it did not follow the established norm of getting the perpetrators to admit guilt, to apologise to the victims before any charges could be dropped and to initiate a reconciliation process.

Higher Education and Training Minister, Dr Blade Nzimande, who visited the institution recently, said the institution must convene an urgent meeting of all stakeholders to seek a common and better way forward.

He said the government's call to suspend the decision is informed by the fact that Constitution and the values it embodies are above any individual institution and should be strictly adhered to and promoted.

Jansen has, however, maintained that although the university planned to withdraw the compliant against the students, the criminal charges by the Directorate of Special Prosecutions in the province, and the human rights charges by the Human Rights Commission, would still stand.

The university management said it will be available for consultations and discussions at any time and stakeholders concerned can call 051 401 2822 to set appointments