David Bullard asks whether there is more to the SU urination incident than meets the eye
OUT TO LUNCH
There was a time when I had ambitions to become a barrister. This is mentioned in the cover blurb of my first ‘Out to Lunch’ book which, as I may have mentioned ad nauseam, became the number one bestseller back in 2002; although on the cover it refers to “a disastrous attempt to become a barrister”. This was something gleefully used against me by my enemies who added “failed as a lawyer” to my many other failings without being bright enough to realise that I had written my own cover blurb. Publisher’s expenses only stretch so far you know.
My brief ambition to become a barrister was driven by a number of factors. The first was the realisation that, despite having performed in a production of Macbeth with the young Helen Mirren, my future as an actor wasn’t promising. So the law seemed a pretty logical second choice. If you can’t dress up and perform on stage in front of a large audience then why not not dress up in a wig and gown and perform in a courtroom to a slightly smaller audience? The other attraction was the quaintness and tradition of the English legal profession.
If you want to become a barrister as opposed to a solicitor in the UK you have to join one of the four Inns of Court and eat dinner on a number of occasions in hall. Utterly pointless as are many great traditions but always a stark reminder of the division between those who can appear in the high court and those who will spend a lifetime as bog standard solicitors (who are likely to earn far more money in their early days of practice).
So I chose Middle Temple because it had a lovely church, a very impressive dining hall and was within walking distance of the Old Cock Tavern in Fleet Street where I imagined the fictional barrister Horace Rumpole would have quaffed his favourite Chateau Thames Embankment. I registered at London University as an external student and stocked up on some of the weightier text books for the first year. Smith and Hogan on Criminal Law was one of my favourites and I soon learned the difference between mens rea and actus reus and how it may well make the difference between the noose and a life sentence in a murder case. I also learned allabout the ‘man on the Clapham omnibus’ and the legal principle of applying what the reasonable man might think in either a criminal or civil case.
I managed to do pretty well in criminal law and the law of contract exams but I’m afraid I was bored silly by the law of tort and particularly constitutional law. Sadly to qualify as a barrister you have to have a knowledge of the entire legal system but if it had been purely a matter of passing exams in the smuttier criminal cases then I would be up there with the best of them today, terrorising witnesses with my cross examination technique, mumbling “As your Lordship pleases” to the judge and wrapping the whole prosecution up with “So, I put it to you Mr X, that on the night of the murder you had not, as you claim, been abducted by an alien spaceship but were hiding in the deceased’s wardrobe with a kitchen knife dripping with blood. No further questions M’lud”.
A sad loss to the English legal system as I am sure you will all agree.
Applying the ‘man on the Clapham omnibus’ principle to the all-consuming story of the week, the Stellenbosch University ‘pissgate’ affair, it’s tempting to wonder whether there is more to the matter than meets the eye.
We have only the mainstream media to rely on for information so far and as we all know they do tend to take things out of context and blow things out of proportion in a desperate attempt to attract clicks on their websites.
What does seem clear is that at around 4am on Sunday morning Babalo Ndwayana, was awoken by a strange noise in his room. On turning on the lights he saw a drunken fellow first year student, later identified as Theuns du Toit, urinating on his study desk on which were his university supplied laptop and textbooks. He then reached for his phone and started recording. In the recording Mr Ndwayana asks him “why are you peeing in my room?” To which Mr Du Toit replies “I am waiting for someone” and then, after some more grunts, mumbles “waiting for your roommate”. According to one report Mr Ndwayana shared a room with a friend of Mr Du Toit but it does not seem the friend was present when all this happened.
It’s beyond dispute that Mr Du Toit did urinate on Mr Ndwayana’s belongings and, even ignoring the racial dynamics, that ought to be regarded as an act worthy of heavy punishment. Surely nobody would suggest that only people of the same race group at a university are allowed to urinate on each other’s belongings.
On May 17th News24 reported:“Stellenbosch University student Babalo Ndwayana told News24 on Mondaythat he would forgive the fellow student who urinated on his belongings in theearly hours of Sunday morning. Both students live in the Huis Marais residence”
I thought this rather magnanimous of Mr Ndwayana in the circumstances butwithin hours of that news report appearing he had changed his mind and was atthe Stellenbosch police station to make a criminal complaint against Mr Du Toitover breaking and entering, malicious damage to property and racism. That is aquite understandable reaction but it would be interesting to learn what, or who,changed his mind in that very short time period.
Much more interesting though is the matter of the original framing of the video, and this is where the ‘man on the Clapham omnibus’ comes in. According to the Weekend Arguscontemporaries of Mr Du Toit’s from high school described him as a quiet person with close friends of different races. A fellow Huis Marais student told the newspaper that after he had arrived back at the residence that morning, as all hell was breaking loose, he had run to “Theuns’ room and asked him, bra, what’s going on and he said he couldn’t remember because he was too drunk.”
If this is correct, and Mr Du Toit himself could not give an account of his actions since he could not remember them, how come everyone else is so sure of his motives? The framing of this incident as a deliberate white-on-black attack was done through a statement issued several hours after it had happened by SASCO Stellenbosch. This claimed that the “racist white student” had been asked by the “black student” victim why he was peeing on his stuff and “the racist response was that it is what they do to black boys”. The video was then released that evening on social media, triggering widespread unrest on campus and allegations that Stellenbosch University is a seething pit of racial hatred.
Yet according to a later version in Die Matie, the student newspaper, when asked by Mr Ndwayana why he was peeing on his stuff, Du Toit had actually said, “This is what white boys do.” News24 meanwhile reported another version, namely that “According to Ndwayana, when the recording stopped, [Du Toit] told him that ‘it’s a white boy thing’ which he interpreted to mean ‘this is what they [white boys] do to black boys’.”
So what the jury have to ask themselves is why the ANC’s student branch on campus was drawn into this matter so early, why it then immediately released an inflammatory and apparently inaccurate statement on the matter, and why a video of the whole despicable and humiliating episode found its way into the public domain shortly after?
No further questions M’lud.
The above matter, now referred to as ‘The Du Toitskloof Piss’ by the Twittercognoscenti, rather eclipsed the other pearl clutching news item last week whichI shall refer to as ‘Nasty’ Mthethwa’s Erectile Dysfunction. The plan was toerect a 100 metre flag pole in that well known tourist trap known as Pretoria andfly a huge South African flag from it as a reminder to the ever complainingproles that a bit of national pride wouldn’t go amiss.
Last Friday the CEO, Pres Frogboiler, finally scrapped the plan but one wondershow on earth such a batshit crazy idea could even see the light of day. Surely itwas discussed at Cabinet level and given the go-ahead but it might have been asmart idea to first run the proposal past what is known as a focus group to see ifit would be well received, But, as we know, smart ideas are to the ANC whatJohnny Depp is to sobriety.
One of the more hilarious reasons that ‘Nasty’ gave for this being a winnerduring a TV interview was that it would give the steel industry a much neededboost. Surely rebuilding Durban would also do that. The main surprise here (ormaybe not) is that the Frogboiler took so long to get the message from thepeople that this was not regarded as R22 mln well spent. That shows just howout of touch the ANC are with the rest of the country. Unfortunately, thescrapping of the giant toothpick project now gives ‘Nasty’ more time on hishands to rename large chunks of the country that still have colonial era namesthat can trigger the heebie-jeebies in so many sensitive South Africans. Farmore so than a lack of jobs, no water and insufficient food apparently.
Way back in 1996 I asked in my Sunday Times column how a country likeSouth Africa could possibly justify having a sports minister when there wereplenty of perfectly qualified sports administrators back then who were able to dotheir job without political supervision. The minister back then was SteveTshwete who predictably accused me of being a ‘racist’ and demanded the rightof reply which was granted in the place of the following week’s Out to Lunchcolumn.
Nothing has changed and I ask today why on earth we need and are paying for aMinister of Sports, Arts and Culture, particularly one who failed to spend hisdepartment’s budget last year on supporting all those things and now needs tofritter it away on boondoggles.
The only answer I can come up with is thatSports, Arts and Culture is where you get sent if you’ve screwed up everythingelse you’ve been given but still remain a loyal cadre.