The race crusaders go after the UFS again

Rhoda Kadalie says whether a hate crime, or just thuggery, the assault on Muzi Gwebu was not a "scandal"

Last Tuesday eNCA news reporter announced rather cavalierly that "the University of the Free State was hit by another racist scandal". Not to be outdone, talk show host, Eusebius McKaiser, labelled it a horrific race attack before the facts had even been established. These allegations made my hackles rise.

The story was that two white students had allegedly assaulted a black student, Muzi Gwebu, after some car scrape, which ended in a violent altercation. Claims were also swirling that the two white students were drunk, their car swerving all over the city, before they landed on the campus. Race baiters embellish where they can.

Facts are of no consequence, the media labelling it a scandal when in fact it was an incident. Unaware of the distinction between the two they held forth, oblivious of the fact that a scandal attributes value to the event and implies shame, dishonour, and disgrace.

The assault might well have been a hate crime or just pure thuggery. Who knows? That is for the courts to decide. But this was no scandal. Never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity, the race crusaders concluded rather arrogantly that this incident was racially inspired even before investigations started.

Add to this, the hypocrisy of the media and pundits alike and it will explain why they encourage trial by media. The media forgets the black student from the University of Johannesburg who was trampled to death by fellow students. They forget about the white woman from UFS whose leg was amputated by a black driver. Were these instances acts of racism?

For all we know, the UFS incident might be a hate crime but that has to be established by the courts. One cannot brand the entire university racist just because of the transgressions of two people. Prof Jansen has done more than any VC to promote reconciliation and transformation. UFS has won awards and much acclaim for its innovative strategies to promote inclusion, gender and racial equality, and reconciliation.

That is why the rank opportunism of radio talk show host, Eusebius McKaiser, is so disconcerting. He simply adds fuel to the fire to increase his listenership. Facts should be central to his profession - not populism and self-promotion.

UFS rector, Prof Jonathan Jansen, did the right thing to investigate the incident until they found the perpetrators. He expelled them immediately, provided support to the victim and informed the students about what happened, in spite of the SRC President's lies that there was a cover up. That is more than one can say about other campuses that hide their "sin" with the spate of witch-hunts, race purges, cases of corruption, sexual harassment and sexual violence, that plague SA's campuses. Our universities are indeed inundated with scandals but this altercation is no such thing.

We should worry about universities that have become the personal fiefdoms of their Vice-Chancellors. Unlike these "tin pots" Prof Jansen has done more than any VC to transform his campus. His interactions with staff and students are face-to-face and frequent. He engages intellectually with students, colleagues and the public alike. Known for his outspokenness, he does not hesitate to tackle the challenges facing the state of the nation's education.

He analyses, criticises and asks the kinds of critical questions an academic and VC should be asking. Hence the viciousness of the attacks against UFS because there are those who do not want Jansen to succeed. They excel at destroying rather than building and supporting Jansen's mission, which is to build this country, enrich it, by creating opportunities for the youth. His life exemplifies UFS' motto - In Truth is the Light of Wisdom!

This article first appeared in Die Burger.

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