Black Face Incident report
By Christine Magdalene Briedenhann (20) And Jo-Anne Cloete (19)
8 February 2016
Chronological Events of the Event
4 February (Thursday evening) at Heemstede Residence, Stellenbosch University:
STELLAR SPACE dress-up party at Heemstede – a private event only attended by Heemstede residents.
PB Briedenhann (PB) and J-AC Cloete (J-AC) painted their bodies purple with a paint mixed, using red and blue paint, by themselves in their room. They wore additional decorations in the form of tentacles made of silver foil and covered their shoes with foil as well. In addition to the foil they added glitter to their faces and wore blue lipstick. They wanted to portray “out-of-space” creatures on a limited budget for students.
Some photographs were taken by Renette Opperman, a friend of theirs, in the residence room. Some of those photographs show the paint mixture in a plastic cup in the background and it is clear to see that red and blue paint were mixed to produce purple. In the right side of the picture on J-AC’s side of the room, a mug with the South African flag is evident, portraying Jo-Anne’s patriotism.
When PB and J-AC went downstairs where the function was held, they were greeted with lots of laughs and enthusiasm for their creativity on the theme of the event. More photographs were taken in better light as well as a close up photographs. The flash of the cell phone shows the purple paint, glitter and foil tentacles on PB’s person in better detail.
4 February (Friday)
PB posted 2 photographs on Instagram at about 8H00 with the caption: Extraterrestrial Purps – PB used this caption as they “saw” themselves as purple aliens. Both girls attended classes.
10H40PB was in an Auditory class when she received a message from Demi Roodt (Heemstede Primaria)
“Hi is jy nou in klas?” “Demi”
PB replied: “Ja ek het klas tot 12 uur”
Demi: 10:42: “Kan jy asb 12 uur na my toe kom gou xx” PB: 10:43: “Ja, Het ek iets verkeerd gedoen?”
Demi: 10:43: “Relax ons sal dit hanteer xxx ons praat 12 uur”
PB had her phone on and quickly checked on her messages before lecture started. She saw some horrible comments on her Instagram about “Black facing”. PB had never heard this word before and did not know what it meant. She had a big fright and decided to remove the picture immediately as she saw how people reacted, like swearing etc.
The next message from Demi Roodt:
10H59: “Kan j dalk uit klas uitloop! Dit is nou chaos!”
J-AC was also contacted by Demi but could not reached as her phone was off (she was in class).
PB left class immediately and went to Demi Roodt’s room at Heemstede. 11H00: J-AC started her last class and was still unaware of events unfolding. 11H15:
Demi Roodt, Fanele and KB were there waiting for her in Demi’s room. The 3 girls are part of “I C Hemies”, a group that approves events hosted at Heemstede (privately) for inclusivity. There PB was notified that an ex-resident, Thabile Mokofeng, whom is affiliated with “Open Stellenbosch”, uploaded a screen shot of the 2 pictures from PB’s Instagram on her FB. Thabile is no longer a student at Stellenbosch. She is apparently attending university at WITS. She is not friendly towards Heemstede and had been in trouble several times the previous year when she was still a resident there.
The pictures were of PB and J-AC in purple paint (aliens) and one with the 2 girls with Natanje van Niekerk (NvN) - without paint. These pictures were taken the previous night before the housewarming party with the theme “Stellar Space”. The photographs were taken by Renette Opperman.
They explained that the pictures were apparently perceived from outsiders as them trying to portray themselves as another race – namely black. And they informed PB that is was going viral on Instagram and twitter.
They tried to show PB this post by Thabile Mokofeng but they were not able to show it on PB’s cell as Thabile is not on her friend’s list on FB. Fanele wanted to show it on her own phone, but her phone went dead.
Just as Demi wanted to show PB the post, Mathew “Smorenburg” from the newly established Equality Unit of the University phoned Demi. He instructed her to immediately bring PB, J-AC and NvN to Huis Russel Botman. NvN appeared in one of the photographs that PB posted on her Instagram account. She was however not painted purple, but she was also in trouble.
Fanele contacted a friend of J-AC to get hold of her to attend the meeting as her phone was still off.
J-AC’s class was dismissed and as she went out, she was grabbed by the arm by her friend who instructed her to go to Russel Botman centre.
At no stage was it offered to any of the girls that their parents or legal advisors could be present at this meeting.
Mathew and Lesley van Rooi (Resident head of Simonsberg) were waiting for the girls in the meeting room. It was never made clear why Lesley or Matthew had the authority to conduct such an impromptu meeting. They then told PB they would wait for J-AC and NvN to arrive. Mathew told PB to not tell her version of the events without the others being present. Mathew left to room to receive a phone call.
Lesley then prompted PB to start telling him her story, starting at the very beginning. PB told Lesley:
Monday evening they had a section meeting at Heemstede. At this meeting they were told that the theme for the house meeting would be Stellar Space and the residents should think of any funky, queer or out of this world attire- “think Miley Cyrus or Lady Gaga!”. It was also discussed that there would be a “best dressed prize”.
PB said that after this meeting J-AC and herself discussed that they knew this would be their last year at the residence and that for all events this year, they were going to go “full-out” to enjoy in the spirit of the house. She also said that as it was the first event of the year, they had wanted to show a lot spirit and wanted to hold their section in the residence’s reputation high, as their section had won “section of the year” the previous year.
PB said she suggested to J-AC that they should paint their bodies like aliens. J-AC suggested green but PB said that the colour green is normally associated with “Shrek” and that purple would be a better suited colour for outer space.
PB said that on Wednesday afternoon they went to the Chinese shop at the mall to buy paint. As there was no purple paint available, they bought one red and one blue bottle and decided to mix this to form purple. PB was just beginning to tell him the details of the glitter and foil decorations when J-AC and NvN arrived (simultaneously).
Mathew started with the meeting (Beauty had still not arrived). Lesley did not really speak at all, except for a small conversation (see later). Later Diamond (SRC Chair) joined but he did not say anything.
Mathew immediately started the meeting and talked for a lengthy time. He did not start the meeting by asking the girls for their version of the story. The girls say that although it is difficult to remember his exact words and the exact chronological order of the conversation, he started very intimidating, very intense, a bit abusive and very irritable with a lot of hand gestures.
“With everything that is going to happen in the following 2 – 3 days, up to the next week, I have no time to be sensitive.” He said they should not be naïve to not think that the next couple of days would be the worst days of their lives.
Only after lengthy intimidation and what felt like terrorization by the girls, Mathew asked PB, J-AC and Netanje to tell their version of events. J-AC spoke and told him everything starting at the section meeting where the residence unvailed the theme of the party. Whilst speaking, Mathew continuously interrupted J-AC. She specifically told him on more than one occasion that they were painted purple with glitter and blue lipstick, trying to portray aliens. When she used the word “aliens” he interrupted her: “Don’t use that word”.
He said to no longer use the term “alien” or “extraterrestrial” because it implies that they suggested that there are certain racial groups on campus which are ostracized because they feel alien and thus alienated and excluded from society. Later he elaborated on this – he said “extraterrestrial” makes other (non-white) races feel as if whites do not think that black people belong in their society and are thus deemed alien.
When J-AC said that their attire was queer, it almost looked like he took personal offence and said that they should not use that word either. He said that by painting themselves, they tried to show to blacks that they think they are superior to them. He said in the past there was an incident on social media where blacks were referred to as “monkeys” and now in this incident as “extraterrestrial”. He said that is why using that word would make matters worse for the girls.
They then protested, saying that this was not their intention, where upon he said that “their intensions did not matter”. The girls felt offended but kept silent when they were told that their intentions and version of the story did not matter. Mathew’s whole demeanor was overwhelming and perceived as scary by the girls. They were anyway already very afraid by the whole unfolding of a situation they could not grasp.
When PB and J-AC offered they could possibly have been negligent in their actions for not possibly forseeing that certain individuals could have taken offence, Mathew corrected the term negligent, to 'ignorant'.
Mathew continued to intimidate them by making remarks such as:
"Google never forgets. This will follow you forever and will be the first thing that shows up on Google search when future employers do a background check on you." "If this shows up in court as a racial issue, your intentions and versions of the story will not matter."
It was very late in the conversation when Mathew asked PB, J-AC and NvN whether they knew what “blackfacing” was. All three of them replied individually that they did not know what it was. Mathew told the girls to go google it when they get home and told them that the outside world will view this event as the following:
Three white girls at a tertiary education institution embodying ‘white privilege’ should know what blackfacing is in 2016.
He said that they were ignorant, naive and uneducated, if they are in 2016, and not aware of racial issues such as Black Facing.
He went on to say that Black Facing is when you paint yourself dark brown of black to exotify blackness and demean black people to show them that you feel superior.
Lesley then told them about the William-sister incident in 2014 at Simonsberg Residence which they were also not aware of. This incident was not dealt with by the university at that time.
Lesley also mentioned that they would not know about this incident as it happened before their time. Lesley said nothing happened to the boys that did this. Either Mathew or Lesley implied that it would not be possible for the university to do the same as a certain group at US demanded action this time (with the girls’ case).
Mathew then told PB, J-AC and NvN that he would inform them when they would need to obtain their own legal advice. (It was after the meeting that PB conveyed to J-AC in private that it could be, when Mathew tell them in future to start seeking legal advice, it might be too late already…)
Mathew also stated that the caption under the Instagram photos: "Extraterrestrial purps💜" will not be viewed by other people as a reference to purple people from another planet. Mathew said that the words extraterrestrial will be viewed as a reference to people of another colour not belonging to our society. Furthermore, he said the word "purps" was being viewed as the girls referring to themselves as “perpetrators”. J-AC mentioned that the spelling is different (“purp vs perp”), to which Mathew replied that it does not matter, as the pronounciation is the same.
Mathew told PB, J-AC and NvN not to speak to anyone or “try to defend themselves” by stating their version of the events, as they will make themselves look worse. “People are offended. Your intention won’t matter as people from the outside want you to understand the severity of “Black Facing””. He said he did not care about their intention.
Mathew told PB, J-AC and NvN that he would not be surprised if the girls were on the front cover of every newspaper across the country the following day, and that the news will reach international coverage. Mathew also stated that the University had already been contacted by BBC News and other international news channels. This made the girls felt extremely intimidated, humiliated and scared.
Mathew stated that the ”best thing for you guys is to release a statement as soon as possible”, to improve their situation on campus. He said that this should be placed on all platforms of social media where they are part of. He said it would be easiest for him to do and then forward it to them.
Mathew then immediately started drafting a statement on his cellphone, talking the words to himself while he typed. It was not possible to really hear or change the content as he was working quite fast. There were parts where J-AC interrupted him (she sat closer to him and could sometimes hear what he was saying) as she did not agree with the content, also being a bit more knowledgeable because of having been exposed to law for 1 year at university. Those parts he changed a bit. He only forwarded it to the girls via text message after the meeting was adjourned – as the girls walked out. He gave them no chance to proof read or to agree with the content.
The statement read as follows:
"We are aware that our actions in the #blackfacing incident last night at the Heemstede stellar space party where painting our bodies dark purple and cover with glitter appeared as black and thus as attempt to demean and exotify blackness. We apologise for any offense occurred and take full responsibility for this. We are working with the University and other role players in this regard. We thank those who are trying to support us knowing we had no bad intentions but request that you do not try defend the indefensible practice of #blackfacing."
Mathew firmly instructed PB, J-AC and NvN to post the statement as soon as possible. None of the girls were happy with this arrangement as they did not agree with the content and approach of the statement. Mathew insisted that it would be in the best interest of the girls and would better their situation.
(PB’s mum later was in utter shock by the statement that “appeared” on PB’s FB – the mum searched the internet non-stop as she earlier got an sms for PB that she was in trouble with the university about a Black Face event. She did not know what the term meant and since she could not talk to PB until after the meeting, whe searched the internet non-stop. She found the increminating statement on PB’s FB and was very alarmed. She saw how it got reposted, retweeted and the angry comments that it unleashed. She later confronted PB as to why she would post something so ridiculous, but was informed that it was written by Mathew and that she was given no choice.)
When NvN asked Mathew what photo must be posted together with the statement when uploading onto Instagram (being a platform where pictures must be posted), Mathew instructed NvN to post it along with the photo of the wall in the room where they gathered – there were both red as well as white walls in the room. Mathew explicitly stated that it must be a photo of the “red” wall in the room, and NOT the white wall.
Mathew instructed PB, J-AC and NvN to contact their parents to inform them of their situation. He forwarded his as well as Lesley’s numbers to them. At no stage did he ever offer to contact the parents himself. (PB’s father contacted Mathew and was thereafter contacted by Mathew later as PB’s father demanded updates on the meeting at 6pm that day).
Furthermore, Mathew instructed PB, J-AC and NvN to instruct family members and friends to not try to defend them on any media or social media platforms, because it would worsen their situation. Mathew instructed PB, J-AC and NvN to not speak to anyone else and try to defend themselves.
The meeting came to and end and Mathew escorted PB, J-AC and NvN, Demi and Beauty back to Heemstede Residence. At this time, the girls posted the statement written by Mathew. It resulted in a huge outcry on social media, to such an extent that PB’s mother deleted her FB account during the course of the afternoon. J-AC and NvN also deleted this post during the afternoon.
It was in this time that PB and J-AC said privately to each other that it felt as if the university was not on their side. They felt as if they could not trust Mathew and this scared them a lot.
Mathew then addressed the other Heemstede residents while they were having lunch (between 1 and 2 pm) in the Dining Hall and informed them of the severty of the situation and that the University had already been contacted by BBC News. After this meeting J-AC, PB and NvN went outside to sit on the grass, to process the situation they were in. Too many things happened too fast. It felt unreal to such an extent that it was unthinkable.
PB only now managed to phoned her mother for the first time since she was called to Heemstede by the Primaria. Earlier she only managed to sms her mum in fear (just before she entered the meeting at Huis Bosman) and said she was in trouble about a so-called “Black Face” assault against her. In the text she said that she could not speak with her mum until after the meeting but pleaded with her to pray for her.
During the phone call she gave her mother a run down of what happened during the meeting and urged her to phone Mathew or Lesley on the numbers that Mathew gave them, as she was very scared and confused about the whole business. They again spoke about Black Facing as neither PB nor her mother had ever heard about this term before that day. It was then that PB’s mum confronted her about the increminating FB post that she saw earlier.
The SRC released a statement 2:18 pm already!!! See addendum.
PB’s father immediately phoned Mathew, who informed him about the so called “Black Face” incident that the university was investigating against the girls. He said that management was regarding this incident in a very serious light. He told PB’s father that an investigating meeting was planned for 6 pm that evening and it was understood by PB’s father as if the girls would be able to state their case. He advised against any legal assistance for the girls. His words were that it would come across wrong to the other party – them being portrayed as “priviledged white girls with legal assistance”. He also advised that the girls should stand their ground at the meeting and appear to not be intimidated (be strong) and not to play the victim part.
PB’s parents accepted this advice and did not act, as they believed that justice would prevail during a meeting where they thought the girls would be able to state and proof, by other better lit photographs in their possesion, that they were painted purple (and not black like stated on hateful social media pages) and that they were dressed like aliens (purple, glitter, silver tentacles and shoes) in par with the theme of the house party (Stellar Space).
The girls knew they had the backing of all the residents at Heemstede whom could surely vouch that they were portraying purple “out-of-space” creatures and all this information also put the parents at rest. It was anyway impossible to have obtained legal assistance at that time of a Friday afternoon on such short notice. But since Mathew downplayed the need for legal or any other assistance, he in fact downplayed the severity of the girls’ precarious situation to CB’s father. The speed of the events unfoldly was so fast that it was difficult to keep track on what was next.
Both PB’s parents as well as J-AC’s mother believed in the common sense of the university and left it at that. PB’s father even discussed with Mathew that he foresaw that the drama would die done as it was Friday afternoon and he (wrongly) assumed students would rather start relaxing than attend a meeting at 6pm, of a matter that anyway had no substance. Mathew hesistantly said it might be possible and of all days a Friday could be the best day for such an ordeal to be less damaging.
At no stage was it ever mentioned to any parent that such a meeting would be “open” or attended by angry, out of hand protestors. Or that the doors of an otherwise safe and protected environment (Heemstede) would be flung wide open for each and anybody to enter and do as please.
It was understood that this meeting would be a chance for the gilrs to state their case. To proof their innocence and tell the university their side of the story, the fact that they dressed up like aliens in purple, at a house party and that all the residents of Heemstede could back this up. They also wanted to present more and better lit photographs and the parents thought that since the situation was almost laughable in the absurdity, that everything would normalize after the explanation by the girls.
PB’s advice from her mother was that she should rest assured that all would be well as their intentions were not to have insulted anybody or Black Face anybody (they had not even heard of this term up to that day). Also that PB’s Instagram photographs were just interpreted wrongly as they were underlit or probably colour downgraded by Instagram and FB, showing a darker purple than the actual colour they were painted. J-AC’s mother also spoke with PB’s mother several times that afternoon before the meeting and they both felt confident that justice would prevail.
The parents knew that the intentions of the girls were pure and that they were falsely accused, but believed that the university would see and acknowledge this when presented with other better lit photographs, showing the purple paint and the other alien-like decorations.
A better lit close-up picture of PB’s painted face which clearly shows the paint to be purple and not black This is the same picture that is now doing the rounds on social media by angry US students condemning the university on taking such harsh and hasty measures on innocent girls, falsely accused of trying to do “Black Facing” and not protecting them. Mathew was not interested in receiving this photo and stated it makes no difference what the colour of the paint was. It is perceived as black and that is finished and “klaar”.
It was understood by the CB’s father that Mathew would assist the girls at the meeting.
Earlier when Mathew spoke to PB’s father, he promised to phone back after the meeting to discuss how the meeting went and what the outcome was. More about this later.
Just after this call that PB managed to make a call to her mother, Beauty (a HK member) rushed PB, J-AC and Netanje back inside the residence and they were escorted secretly to their bedrooms. She informed them that members of the EFF and Open Stellenbosch had been let in by construction workers, working at Heemstede's backdoor. This invasion of privacy had put every Heemstede resident at risk, more so to PB and J-AC, whom the protesters were specifically looking for. Beauty informed J-AC and PB that the protesters in the quad were looking for them and asking about their location. Later photographs were posted of this incident on social media with the caption: “Where is Pooky?” .
(What is very strange, is that protestors were freely allowed inside Heemstede through an open front door a mere 2 hours later.)
The HK informed the protesters that the girls were not in the Residence. The protesters kept on demanding to see J-AC and PB, referring to PB as "Crispy whitebread". PB, J-AC and NvN were requested to stay in their rooms and not be seen. The girls felt emotional, afraid and unsafe in their own residence. The girls felt too afraid to even go to the bathroom.
+- 15H00: A HK member (they cannot now recall who it was because so many people came to speak to them and also because of the shocked state they were in) entered their room and told them to go down for an internal discussion in Heemstede’s recreation hall. All other house members (excluding the first year students) and the resident head, Miss Sherill February, were present. The girls did not expect to see all those residents in the hall and were quite nervous because they were not told about any such meeting being arranged.
The house members sat in a half circle and the girls were asked to stand in the centre of the circle. The Primaria asked whether they had anything to say about this situation. J-AC made an impromptu speech saying that she was sorry about the difficult time this incident caused everybody at Heemstede but was unable to finish due to overwhelming emotions.
PB was too emotional at that stage to contribute anything meaningful, having read the many hateful things said about her on social media for the past 5 hours, as well as her picture being circulated WITH her cell phone number – the photograph was one without paint and for anybody to easily recognize her on campus. She had already received a huge number of phone calls from unknown numbers, tons of hateful text messages and requests from numerous newspapers that had wanted to do reports on this matter. All this left her in a very fragile state.
The house members (especially three girls of colour) then stated that they all support the girls’ case and expressly stated that no-one at the house warming event objected to or felt offended by the purple paint on our bodies.
They were subsequently excused to go to their rooms after Miss February briefed them about another discussion which would be taking place at 18h00 in the recreational hall, staged by the university, but EXPRESSLY said that PB, J-AC and NvN may not be present at that discussion.
15H30: The girls stayed in their rooms and were fearing the worst. As minutes past, they were becoming more frightened and feeling that the University offered no support and they could not tell their part of the story. Mathews words resonated that they were not allowed to let people speak on their behalf (family members of friends) to try to defend them on any media or social media platforms. They felt as if the university was against them. In the mean time they were inundated with requests from the media to tell their side of the story – it felt like it was just getting worse by the minute.
15H42: Both PB and J-AC then received a message from Mathew saying that he expected them to attend the discussion at 18h00. This confused them as they were explicitly told not to attend the meeting by HK of Heemstede at the meeting earlier. They did not know whose instructions to follow. They did not know who was in charge of the affairs and that uncertainty made them even more vulnerable.
15H50: Zandalee (HK member) entered PB and J-AC’s room and once again reiterated that they should not attend the discussion after consensus in the house, for the sake of their own safety. This again contradicted Mathew’s sms to them minutes earlier. They again felt that Mathew is not to be trusted and that he did not care about their safety.
+- 16H00: J-AC was told to go down to Miss February’s flat without being informed for what reason or the purpose of the meeting. Miss February and Ilze Coetzee (HK of mentors) were present. J-AC was told that it is in the best interest of the house and the University that she be expelled from her role as mentor with immediate effect. There was no written reasons given and no information as to who concluded that J-AC be removed from her role as mentor. J-AC went back to her room and sobbed uncontrollably because of all the uncertainties, not being informed properly and injustice of the events so far.
17h00: Ilze Coetzee (HK) entered PB and J-AC’s room and told them to go down to Miss February’s flat. Again they were not informed about the reasons for the meeting and whom the audience will be. They were completely unprepared for what happened then.
17H00 to 18h00: When they entered the living room of Miss February’s flat, there were many unfamiliar faces and they really felt scared and threatened. The people then started to introduce themselves:
o Pieter Kloppers
o Facilitator with American accent for the 18h00 meeting (Both of them didn’t get his name – they were in state of shock about the “severity” and speed of events).
o Mathew (came later)
o Miss February
o Demi, Ilze and Beauty (HK members of Heemstede)
Pieter Klopper then started the meeting and mentioned the following: “The University will be following certain processes in dealing with your case and one of the things which is expected is that you be temporarily expelled from your residence”.
This came as a great shock to both girls as both felt Heemstede to be their home-from-home and they were very happy there. They were not explained what processes were followed and on what basis they were expelled. It was especially bad for CB who is from Namibia and has no family nearby. No assistance in accommodation was offered by Pieter Kloppers to CB. J-AC is from Stellenbosch and offered CB accommodation.
Pieter Kloppers further stated that their case was being reported to the CDC (Central Disciplinary Committee) for further investigation and that it would not take longer than one week for them to come to a decision. The girls raised their concerns about what was happening at the moment and asked questions about the processes and the reasons for all the decisions, but were not directly answered with certainty by any of the external individuals (from outside the residence).
They were then also informed for the first time that the discussion taking place at 18h00 was an Open Discussion and open to all internal and external people and that people from the EFF and “Open Stellenbosch” will be there. The way it was said made them weary of their safety.
They then asked whether they should attend the Open Discussion and raised their concerns about their personal safety and well-being. None of the people present, could give them a direct yes or no answer on their safety. CB asked whether they would have a spokesperson to represent their side of the story at the Open Discussion but again they were not given a definite answer. Up to that time, they were under the impression that the University would be representing the true version of events relating to and happening at the “Stellar Outer Space” event at Heemstede. They were not offered any advice or advised about referral for legal assistance or whatever they believe will be in the girls’ interest.
Nothing at this meeting of about an hour lead to any concrete conclusions as to what was going to happen next or what to expect next. All the girls’ were certain about, was of their temporary expulsion from the residence.
The girls in the end did not attend the Open Discussion because of their safety concerns and the absence of any assistance from Pieter Kloppers for their safety at the meeting. Pieter Kloppers then referred them to Victoria Street 49, The Trauma Consultation Centre. They were told by him that someone would escort them there and they were excused from the proceedings for the rest of the meeting.
The reality is that there was no escort and they had to walk to the Trauma Centre alone and without an escort, surrounded by people/protesters on their way to the Open Discussion. The mood amongst those people was not good (angry) and they felt exposed, scared, vulnerable and unprotected. Eventually when they reached the Trauma Centre, it was closed and there was no-one to receive them. They had to stand in Victoria Street, fearing for their safety, while the protesters were passing by. After about 10 minutes, the therapist came to receive and consult them in his office.
The therapist went as far as to ask whether they were traumatised to the extent that they wanted to commit suicide.
During the therapy session, they received many messages from different people. The messages ranged from advising them not to come close to the premise because the protesters were out of control and appeared to be violent, while another couple of messages asked them come and attend (messages from protesters that had wanted them to be there – PB’s personal number was posted on several tweets and circulated by these protestors FB pages and her image together with her number on posters on campus.
They were informed via sms that the audience at the Open Discussion were told that they were at the Trauma Centre at that stage. This is unimaginable, as they were sent there for counselling as well as to get away from the residence for their own safety. Threats were made by the protesters that they would get hold of the girls there, which made the girls feared even more.
After the counselling session, the girls left the Trauma Centre but could not return to the residence because of their official expulsion. There were still a lot of protesters at the residence – the doors were open for each and anybody to enter the residence. In the end they left campus with no spare clothes or belongings.
During this time, J-A’s mother arrived at the meeting. She was totally shocked when she heard the loud singing of protestors in the hall and that all doors were open to anybody – so out of contrast of other days when no one is allowed inside the building, to ensure everybody’s safety. She was met by Mathew and Pieter Kloppers, who seemed surprised to see her there. They almost marched her out of the building and they had words when J-AC’s mother said that the meeting violated the girls basic human rights.
Unfortunately she had to leave to fetch her younger son from school, but returned as soon as she could. Again she was told that she should not speak. The whole meeting’s nature was very racist and a lot of angry things were said and demanded. This upsetted J-A’s mother and she kept on putting her hand up to ask questions.
Eventually she was given a chance but was stopped after a mere few words:“I am proudly South African…” by the loud protesting of the audience that she should stop trying to quote Nelson Mandela, Ghandi, etc. She realised this meeting was futile, very racist and left. She immediately texted PB’s parent to fly to Stellenbosch as soon as possible, as she realised that the girls were in serious trouble. She felt that they had no support from the university - she felt that the university was against them.
After the meeting, Mathew phoned PB’s father. It was a long unsatisfactory conversation. He informed the father of the temporary expulsion and that a formal investigation was to take place starting the following week. He said that since the girls were expelled, it sort of forced the university to move faster with the case, to ensure that the girls could return quicker, should this case be resolved satisfactorily. His guestimate was 2 weeks up to 4 weeks. He specifically said that the expulsion was from residence ONLY and that the girls would be able to attend classes like normal.
He also mentioned that J-AC’s mother was “difficult” at the meeting and he was afraid that her behaviour would jeopardise the proceedings from that point onwards.
He also mentioned the previous Black Face incident 2 years earlier and although he spoke a lot, he managed to remain very neutral, giving PB’s dad no hope for a positive outcome, nor a too grave one.
PB’s father raised the issue of safety for the girls. Mathew said that he knew most of the activists by name and that they are very verbal but seldom violent. He also said that the girls could phone campus security any time should it be necessary.
On question by CB’s father that he (Mathew) did realise the girls were painted purple and not black like stated in on social media, he said that when he saw the photograph posted online, his first thoughts were that this is very dark and it is “Black Facing”. He said that since the democracy is “out there”, and not in the university, it is how the outside world perceives the image. He was not helpful at all in this regard and it made PB’s parents very uncomfortable and scared for their child.
Meanwhile, as the girls were driving to J-AC’s house in J-AC’s car, they discussed with each other that since they are still underage, and had never been exposed to such horrible circumstances and behaviour towards them, they did not know how to cope and manage with the situation. The worst was that they knew they had done NOTHING WRONG in the first place.
They kept asking each other why their parents had not been contacted by the university authorities and why they were not advised what to do, to explain their case better. They both said they thought that the Legal Centre at the university would be of assistance or otherwise Mathew and his team should have advised them to go private and find a lawyer to at least explain to all what is happening at the moment.
A lot of people warned the girls that PB’s recognizable face (taken from her FB and Instagram account without paint – just her normal face) as well as cell phone number were posted on different spots on campus as well as on social media. This scared PB a lot and she also felt very humiliated to be recognized in future to always be labelled the “Black Face girl”. She did not know how she could face fellow students on campus after that day.
The girls were also told that during the open meeting, the girl mentioned earlier (Olona, the next door neighbour in residence) whom is affiliated with Open Stellenbosch, apparently stood up and confessed that during the House warming party she personally approached PB and J-AC, looked them in the eyes, and told them that she felt offended by their body paint.
This according to both PB and J-AC is a blatant lie that she is telling. The girls feel that this untruthful confession, told in front of various extremist movements, further aggravated their situation. Both girls deny this and is willing to do an oath about his.
It is a well know fact that J-AC on routinely basis admits that she is an activist, law student, pro equality and not racist. She recently was offered to take over the vacant portfolio on the House Committee, namely Critical Engagement and Transformation. She unfortunately had to decline due to personal reasons.
None of the girls are whatsoever racist in nature and had never had any incident before in their lives. They get along well with girls of all colour in the residence. This accusation by a group of similar thinking people, is not true – they had no intend to do “Black Facing”.
Issued by AfriForum Youth, 19 February 2016
Politicsweb note: Following heavy criticism of his role in this affair in Rapport newspaper (Sunday 14 February 2016) - particular of his role in drafting the 'apology' the two students posted on social media - Mathew Smorenburg published the following graphic on his Twitter feed (15 February):