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Maudi Obed Maphutha

Human Beings Have Never Been Animals

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As the days go by, one wonders what is going to happen next in the shocking case of the Reitz four:  the unforgivable events that happened at the University of Free State. The rector of that University came into the limelight saying, “I am going nowhere… the students will get a pardon… the internal charges leveled against them will be dropped and life will go on as normal.” His arrogance over this matter has sparked a lot of public feeling, with some student chapters threatening to disrupt classes at the University if the charges were dropped.

Racism in this country has often been put under the spotlight for many unbecoming events, most probably because of this country’s historic context.  It is a common knowledge that, long before we gained our liberation in 1994, white domination in this country left many of us subject to the will of the white man.  His words were final.  However, gone are those days.  In the era that we live in now, we cannot afford to have people who behave in such a manner as the Reitz four and to just let it pass by without mention. I am just wondering if the rector in question has he ever put himself in the shoes of those poor women and man, and felt for a second the pain that they are going through? Well if not, it will be very easy for him to pass a ruling that may hinder justice from taking place. I don’t find it surprising in this country, though, because the justice system has (in my opinion) never been independent, working to benefit others more than others.

The four students videorised themselves urinating on food which they later fed to three black women and one black male as part of an “initiation” game.  The issue here, however, is the fact that these four Afrikaans boys did this to elderly black men and women.  I know racism has always been brought up as an excuse amongst many of my peers as an excuse as to why a black man does not succeed in life but this is not the case here. One question that I am still trying to find answers to is, if young men of that age can intentionally, within a school environment, do something as unforgivable as they did, what is stopping them from doing it in other environments as well?  I am also prone to assume that some of them were taught this type of behavior in their own homes:  that a black person is sub-human and should, therefore, not be respected. This reminds me of one case in Limpopo where a young black farm worker was killed by a white farmer who later said in court that, “I mistook him for a baboon”.

If I can take you back to the mines, when black men were treated as laborers who had no personal autonomy and basic human dignity.  They were natives whose entire lives and intimacies, not excluding bowel movements, were subject to control by illiberal capitalists. At the end of their daily routines, they were subjected to a humiliating naked body search, their hairs scrutinized, nose, mouth and ears searched nakedly with an iron bar; whites thinking that there was a diamond hidden in some of their body parts. Long after that era has passed, their own kids are still terrorizing our mothers by feeding them body excretion, and yet a University’s rector can grant such people pardon.  I am not so sure if there is any future ahead of us if we still have such people in our communities.  It leaves much to be desired and I just wish that when judgment day comes, all those who will be first to be judged, shall be those who sinned the Human Rights of others.

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