Cape Town – In the next five years, Stellenbosch University (SU) will be a majority black/people of colour university, said SU’s distinguished Professor of Education Jonathan Jansen.
Professor Jansen was one of the panellists unpacking the 148-page Khampepe Commission of Inquiry report at Stellenbosch Business School on Wednesday.
The external independent inquiry was requested by the university and led by retired Justice Sisi Khampepe following alleged racism incidents involving residence students in May.
Jansen was an expert witness for the commission, alongside former public protector and current SU Social Justice chairperson Thuli Madonsela.
“The reason you have this latter day performance of racism at SU is precisely because the university is changing, not because it is untransformed.
“The more you push transformation as a university leader or leadership, the more the pushback becomes quite dramatic.”
Jansen likened the recent incidents involving white students and urine to that of four white University of Free State students who had racially abused five black workers in 2007.
The white students had made the workers take part in dehumanising activities, and consuming a concoction made with urine.
“Just like dogs use urine to mark their territory and anxiety, white male students use the same strategy to protest black incursion into their intimate spaces such as residences,” Jansen said.
In 1994, SU had 90% white students and 10% black (POC included) students. In 2022, it had “50/50”, Jansen said.
“Within the next five years, this will be a majority black campus as far as student enrolments are concerned. Because the white student enrolments have plateaued at 40 000+-. The black student numbers have obviously increased.”
SU is not seeing an exodus of white students, as white students looking to flee growing black enrolments at other universities are joining SU.
Jansen said the university has to accelerate the appointment of talented black academics across all faculties.
“That has to include the top scholars and scientists from other African countries.”
On threats made to defund the university as a pushback against transformation, Jansen said that one should question how the money was accumulated in the first place.
Medical practitioner and SU graduate Dr Busisiwe Raphuthing spoke of her own experiences, in particular having to navigate the language barrier. One of the commission’s findings was the exclusionary nature of the Afrikaans language and culture.
“I was brought into the illusion that I’m inadequate, I’m incompetent, and my cognitive function is substandard compared to that of my white colleagues, and that was a shock.”
At the time, students were informed that there would be an option to have the Afrikaans lectures translated into their preferred language. However, this was not provided.
“I spent hours and hours trying to catch up on material we were taught during the day, because we were taught in Afrikaans. My black colleagues and I were now academically impaired.
“Not because we had any inherent cognitive disability, but we were impaired because of the system that chose to prefer one language and one tribe over the other. We were angry, but we were stuck.”