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Stellenbosch Men’s Residences Not Willing To Change, Varsity Director Claims

Stellenbosch Men’s Residences Not Willing To Change, Varsity Director Claims..  Stellenbosch University is steeped in a culture of racism where initiations and bullying are rife and some attempts to transform residences are met with systemic resistance, according to senior university director Dr Choice Makhetha.
Stellenbosch Men's Residences Not Willing To Change, Varsity Director Claims

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The institution that has been rocked by allegations of racism after the urinating incident that has angered the nation.

In an interview with Sowetan, Makhetha, senior director of student affairs,  said when she arrived at Stellenbosch in 2019 she quickly identified two men’s residences: Wilgenhof and Huis Marais as places that needed urgent transformation.

Huis Marais is the residence where Theuns du Toit urinated on Babalo Ndwayana’s belongings and desk, sparking outrage and students protests.

She said while Wilgenhof was willing to change because they were supported by their alumni, Huis Marais was not.

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“When I got to Stellenbosch in 2019 I was told by students that there are two student residences that are untouchable. This was Wilgenhof and Huis Marais. When I approached Wilgenhof they acknowledged the problems that were happening and even the alumni of the res condemned what was happening [initiations and bullying],” she said.

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Before joining Stellenbosch University in 2019 Makhetha worked in similar roles at the University of the Free State in the early 2000s where the racist Reitz video was also uncovered where five cleaners were forced into initiation practices by white students who also made them drink urine. Makhetha was the first senior employee at UFS who found out about the Reitz video.

Drawing parallels between the Reitz video and the Du Toit urinating case, Makhetha said when she learnt of the latest racism saga it felt like déjà vu.

At Stellenbosch, Makhetha said people who identified as part of the LGBTIQ community at the Wilgenhof residence shared their grievances and how they were treated badly and they rewrote the constitution of the residence successfully.   

“When I first got to Stellenbosch we had a proposal in early 2020 to turn Huis Marais into a co-ed res because we realised that there needs to be a lot of work done. I think if we had gone with the first proposal we would have made a lot of strides,” she said.

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In Makhetha’s plan, she wanted the men’s-only residence to have a complete overhaul into a co-ed res which would be reformed with the insight of black, LGBTIQ and female students.  

“It would have been easier to change the culture of Huis Marais if we were able to change its intake,” she said. 

Though the proposal was not accepted by stakeholders, she said a decision was made last year to stop first- year students from staying at Huis Marais.

“We believed that everything was sorted out and then the urination incident happened,” she said.

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