NEWS & ANALYSIS

Breyten Breytenbach's speech exposed apartheid nostalgia - Stellenbosch SRC

James de Villiers says convocation had a chance to vote for a truly transformed statutory body, but chose not to

SRC disappointed in Convocation

At the Stellenbosch Convocation last night, in her well-articulated speech, Lovelyn Nwadeyi asked the Stellenbosch Alumni to listen. We, the SRC of Stellenbosch University, believe that both the Alumni and Breyten Breytenbach ignored this request, preferring to maintain the status quo.

We saw a system that allows people who have not attended this university in at least thirty years, to make crucial decisions regarding the future and prospects of the current generation of students. On 26 January 2016, Stellenbosch University’s Convocation had the opportunity to vote for a truly transformed statutory body that represents Stellenbosch’s changing demographics and needs.

However, the Convocation chose to remain within the boundaries of what is comfortable and, in real terms, regressed in its representation of diversity and much needed transformation. It is concerning that the newly elected executive of Convocation represents a bygone era, where the university represented one culture, one race and one language.

The exclusionary comments in Breytenbach's speech, as the new President of Convocation, exposed the apartheid nostalgia inherent at Stellenbosch University. Furthermore, we call upon the alumni that attended Convocation to re-evaluate their decisions as they perpetuated the exclusion of extremely poor and marginalised groups; provided mostly nonexistent translations services, applauded the acts committed by DF Malan, who was president during the implementation of Apartheid, and spoke on behalf of Coloured, Xhosa and Zulu South Africans specifically.

It is also an unfortunate occurrence that the issue of language at Stellenbosch would still be treated as if it would cause the death of Afrikaans at this institution. The idea to remove Afrikaans completely, perpetuated by the early sensationalist reporting by the Afrikaans media, has never been on the agenda at any formal meeting or discussed in any press release from this University.

What has been discussed is how to find a balance in this multilingual institution. We believe that the current recommendations by the Rector’s Management Team achieve this goal by ensuring that all students will have access to the relevant information. Towards this end, we commend faculties for not being deterred by Council’s decision as a stumbling block but rather approached it with an innovative academic mindset and developing the current language implementation in hindsight of students’ transformation and representation needs. We continue to call on Alumni to care about Stellenbosch University as it strives to create leaders.

We now need alumni to choose an inclusive Stellenbosch when Convocation elects its Council members at the end of March and assist us as we try to silence apartheid apologetic voices in the best interest of Stellenbosch, but also for South Africa as a whole.

Statement issued by James de Villiers, Head of Communication, Stellenbosch University SRC, 27 January 2016