SOUTH AFRICA

Like the good old apartheid times

The emergence of a video showing students bribing elderly black cleaners into downing beer and eating meat covered in urine has caused outrage in South Africa. Our Observers in the country tell us that although apartheid is over, its spirit still lingers.

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Forced to eat meat mixed with garlic and urine, cleaners at a South African university are going through their "initiation" process. Participating in beer-downing competitions, races and mock rugby games, if the black workers are sufficiently entertaining, they go away at the end of the day with a bottle of whisky.

This is what happened at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein in central South Africa last September, when five elderly black cleaners were filmed completing the humiliating tasks. On Tuesday (26. Feb) the video of the events surfaced on the internet, causing outrage across the country. Now, the four victimisers are facing criminal charges, and mass protests are taking the country by storm.

The video subtitled in English

"It would be unrealistic to expect anything less of these people"

Ndumiso Ngcobo is a maths and science teacher from Johannesburg:

I got a bit emotional when I watched the video. It was shocking; retarded, stupid bigotry. I wish I could say that it was an isolated incident but the tragic reality is that it's not. Everyone knows it. But these things happen, and you have to stay rational, so that you don't become stupid like them. What was shocking was that these people [the students] are supposed to be the intellectual ones. But in the end I'm not surprised. What can you expect in 14 years? You can't obliterate prejudice in a second. It's like a disease. Once it's inside you, you can't ever get rid of it. The only thing you can do is manage it. And people find that hard in South Africa.

It would be unrealistic to expect anything less of these people. What can you do? You can only hope it doesn't get passed on to the next generation. It's a case of one step forward and two steps back here. And in recent times we've taken a lot of steps back. People have closed their minds."

"Is having a sick sense of humour a jailable offence?"

Blogger Nick Vanderleek who attended the University of Free State last year:

Before we condemn we need to be clear on exactly what the facts are and exactly what happened. It may well be that play-acting was involved. If this was the case, those who shouted the loudest and howled in protest might be guilty of...well, jumping a gun. Inciting unnecessarily. The media, are you listening? Even so, this is still very damaging and comes at a difficult time, a stressful time for a lot of South Africans. It feels like a throwback to the old black white bullshit."

Is having a sick sense of humor a jailable offence?"

Posted here 28 Feb. 08

"This kind of thing has probably always been going on; it’s just that we didn’t know about it"

Danielle Theunnissen is a South African from Port Elizabeth who left the country in 1999 to live in the UK:

I was completely shocked, I didn't think this kind of thing was still going on in South Africa. When I was there, there was an obvious segregation and it was a known "fact" that white people were better than black people, but we had some kind of arrangement. They lived in their area and we lived in ours.

But the Afrikaans people, well, you've got to come here to see what they're like. They're still being brought up with an apartheid mindset. This kind of thing has probably always been going on; it's just that we didn't know about it. The internet has changed that."