Shimla Park race brawl report: UFS told to address 'racism'

Johann van der Westhuizen says ongoing discourse on transformation necessary

Shimla Park race brawl report: UFS told to address racism

Bloemfontein - A racially charged brawl at the University of the Free State (UFS) in February 2016 will have longstanding ramifications for the institution, as it enforces the recommendations of a formal inquiry this year.

Shimla Park became the centre of a turf war during a rugby match, when protesters stormed the fields.

Moments later a group of rugby supporters chased down the student protesters, and a full-on brawl ensued.

In dramatic video footage, the rugby supporters can be seen kicking the student protesters, and vice versa.

The fracas showed the cracks in the tenuous race relations at the university, which has struggled with social cohesion and a string of racist attacks.

In the wake of the brawl, students went on the rampage and vandalised two men's hostels. Unconfirmed allegations from insiders were that white students were being assaulted on campus.

The university confirmed that the report had been submitted in December and that the institution would implement all of its recommendations.

University must 'create understanding'

According to a statement issued on Thursday, the commission, led by retired Constitutional Court Justice Johann van der Westhuizen, had examined written submissions, audio-visual material, and conducted in loco inspections during the course of its investigation.

"Recommendations in the report include, among others, that overt or covert racism, intentional or otherwise, must be addressed by the UFS without delay," the statement reads.

"Furthermore, an ongoing discourse on transformation and understanding between students and staff of different races and from different backgrounds is necessary to promote social cohesion. The use of hate speech, or inflammatory or hurtful language that borders on it should be avoided."

"The recommendations further indicate that the UFS must actively strive to create greater understanding, for example, understanding by white students for the frustration and anger of black students, understanding by black students for the fear of white students."

The veil was lifted on racism at the institution in 2007 when the now infamous Reitz Residence video was thrust to the fore.

Students Johnny Roberts, Danie Grobler, Schalk van der Merwe and RC Malherbe had made Rebecca Adams, Laukaziemma Koko, Noom Phororo, Nitta Ntseng and David Molete - all cleaners at the residence - eat meat which had allegedly been urinated on. They videotaped the incident.

The video showed the four white male students making the five black, workers - one male and four females - down a bottle of beer, run a race, play rugby and then kneel and eat the meat.