COMPILED BY KIRSTI BUICK AND MARGEAUX ERASMUS
I am an international student and last year was when I experienced a not-so-very-“Rainbow Nation” side of South Africa. When I joined Tuks, I never knew how far and rather complicated these so called “traditions” were going to be. I did not know a single word of Afrikaans when I entered res, my HK expected me to learn an entire song in less than five minutes, and I remember someone saying, “Arrgh nee man, it’s not that hard.” So other girls like me, with little or maybe no background in Afrikaans, sang these songs with our heads bowed down so people wouldn’t notice. Another shocking thing I witnessed in res was how an African and a white girl do not share double rooms. Why did I receive a form that [asked whether] I was comfortable in sharing a room with another race? As hidden as it may be, does this not show trails of racism?
The issue that really puzzles me is the whole 60-40 ratio in a residence. Is it wrong if 50% of the house has non-white habitants? Is the university going to suffer a loss? Are they not getting the same amount of money? Where exactly is the harm with a 50-50 ratio? Is it because we may encounter a 10% decrease in the amount of Afrikaans being spoken in the lifts? This is where reality hits you.
A rather recent event starts off like this: My friend and I are walking down the corridor. A first year approaches us, and as tradition, any first year must always greet her seniors. No matter how many times you see her during the day, you always greet her. Period. The first year greets my friend, gives me a look and walks off. My friend and the first year have nothing but one similarity: the melanin levels in their body. I asked myself, “Was I invisible? Was she temporarily blind?” If that’s not racism, I don’t know what is. Is this what home away from home is supposed to feel like?
I wouldn’t exactly call it “racism” but there is definitely racial segregation at Tuks. The majority of Tukkies, even though they interact with each other in class, hang out with people of their own race. You’ll often see groups of whites, blacks, Indians, Chinese, and occasionally a mixture during break time. Why this is so I do not know. It could be due to language barriers as some people prefer speaking in their home language and not English, it could be that they are more comfortable being around people of the same culture or ultimately it could be racism.
Yes, there is racism at Tuks. Cope@Tuks has always believed that until there is a 50/50 quota in this university, there will never be equality. Racism at Tuks is subtle but present and is a reflection of a society where one race still feels superior to the others. Tuks’s policies endorse this where white students in an Afrikaans class always enjoy favour over English classes.
Cope@Tuks realises that being a black student is challenging in this institution, where black students on a continual basis are reminded that they have to perform harder than their white counterparts to have their interests attended to. Some first-year classes are available in Afrikaans but none are available in any of the other ethnic languages. Who benefits? White students.
60% of students, some who stay in and around Pretoria (and can afford private accommodation) are placed into res yearly. Black students (Indians, Coloureds, Africans and Asians) have to compete among each other to make up the remaining 40%. A white student then has a better chance to get into residence than a black student.
In conclusion, racism at Tuks has come in the form of “preservation of culture”, where only a certain group’s culture is being “preserved” and only those belonging to it enjoy the benefits.
Thabo Mdlalose, Cope@Tuks Deputy Chairperson
Whether racism exists at this university is a question that might yield responses that vary from student to student based on their personal experiences, but we as the Pan Africanist Student Movement of Azania (PASMA) believe that racism at Tuks manifests itself on a policy level. For instance, the admission policy of the university is 60% white and 40% black – by black they mean Africans, Coloureds, Indians and Chinese – while the demographics of the country are 80% black and 20% white. We therefore say that the admission policy should reflect the demographics of the country. On an interpersonal level, racism at Tuks still appears dormant on the surface but beneath the surface lurks greater nastiness. We often experience and witness black and white fights at Hatfield Square. Therefore, if asked whether there is racism at Tuks, the answer would be an unequivocal yes.
Phillemon Pooe, PASMA Treasurer
One must bear in mind that racism impacts many groups of our student community. We feel that the use of the word “racism” is often used as a buzzword for any behaviour we do not agree with. As a whole we feel that racial groups at the University of Pretoria have a good relationship and understanding of each other.
We are, however, of the opinion that there exist practices that discriminate against certain students. A recent example AfriForum Youth tackled regarding discrimination was the campaign we launched against the unfair way in which prospective students are admitted to study veterinary sciences at the University of Pretoria. Unfortunately, many white students were barred from studying veterinary sciences due to the way students were grouped according to their racial profile and not according to their academic merits. Redress policies that are to the detriment of other societies or individuals have a negative effect on the harmony between racial groups. Even “positive discrimination” has a negative effect. Racism is a term that is used far too easily in today’s society and a clear line should be drawn between stereotyping, difference in opinions and skewed perceptions and what racism really is, which is hate for another cultural group. With this definition, we are of the opinion that UP is fortunate and has healthy racial relations.
Liza-Mari Coetzee, AfriForum Youth UP Chairperson
I think there is because race quotas [are] also a form of racism. Because so-called white students [are] deliberately left out because of the colour of their skin in placement of residences and certain degrees, although their academic points are good enough. Look in student parliament last year. Parties are so-called non-racial parties, but they want to implement race quotas more radically. So according to me, there is more racism now than ever before.
Francois Cloete, VF+ Chairperson
I wish people would stop caring so much about the colour of everyone else’s skin. I think South Africans are too sensitive about racism, and are quick to use it as an excuse for someone else’s behaviour. At Tuks, it is no different. A lot of the time, I think people imagine that others are simply being racist towards them.
Yes, there is racism at the University of Pretoria. Most of it is institutionalised racism. The University of Pretoria has done little to nothing in transforming the university and its management. The Department of Higher Education is still also to blame for the continued institutionalised racism. How the university has been able to carry on with institutionalised racism is mostly as a result of “institutional autonomy”. There are many instances where the working-class child is black and he/she has a hard time adapting to the university because it still upholds its tradition of being a Broederbond university, where only one culture is held above the rest and in most cases black students are subject to these. The university can claim cosmetically that they have transformed, it’s unfortunate that this transformation in the staff is only visible at the CSC but not top management as in most cases it still remains lily white.
The absurd quota system that is still being used at the residences is absurd. The res cultures enhance racism as only the whites from an Afrikaans background seem to enjoy and understand the cultures more than people from other backgrounds. The fact that you still have a residence system that does not allow white and black people to share a room, where you still have a system in the residences when a room is reserved for a “white” student, it can’t be occupied by a “black” student even if the “black” student is number one on the waiting list. In student parliament last year, the issue was raised about some of the female residences that have whites sleeping on one side of the corridor and blacks on the other. [It] is blatant that the university is still promoting separating the races.
The other issue is the fact that in the alumni body, there has been a blatant exclusion of blacks from the alumni body of the university, only a certain Broederbond made up of AfriForum and VF+ members. This again is an issue that the university has failed to address and that is why the Higher Education and Transformation Network has even gone to the Mail and Guardian about this issue.
The universities population does not represent the true demographics of the country. Eighteen years after democracy, this is a serious cause for concern.
Tokologo Ngakane, SASCO Chairperson
Do I believe Tuks is racist? No, I don’t. I believe the university is attempting to find some balance in our very complicated society and that they end up going from one extreme side of the spectrum to the next. Societies at Tuks then attempt to get cheap publicity by labelling the university racist. One of our core issues at DASO is moving away from the racial politics. When organisations decide to turn every issue into a race one, it stirs up feelings of division and divides students across racial boundaries when we should in fact be trying to unite students.
Unfortunately we live in a society where it appears that people go out of their way to keep us separated. Unfortunately, these organisations often misinterpret the university’s weak attempts at transformation as racism. If organisations at Tuks keep trying to play the race card at every turn, they will hinder us as the youth from moving forward.
Jordan Griffiths, DASO Chairperson
As we had not experienced racism in Vividus Men, we cannot comment.
Stefan Ras, Vividus Men Chairman
Problem identification is the first step towards solving the problem. It is an irrefutable fact that racism has found root in our institution. I was once a victim of that. Turning a blind eye on it will be to the detriment of our students. This problem is not only horizontally between the students but also vertically what happens in DC particularly the investigation process and not to mention the sentencing. Stats can corroborate this. I call upon management to start a dialogue that would speak to these issues and I believe that we can find common ground in making Tuks a better institution for all.
Andrew Masombuka, Xayata