South African students protest apartheid at Stellenbosch

The Ou Hoofgebou (old main building) on Stellenbosch University campus
The Ou Hoofgebou (old main building) on Stellenbosch University campus Dfmalan/Wikimedia Commons

South African students marched Friday against what they call a ‘culture of institutionalised apartheid’ at their university, despite a range of concessions and proposals by the institution.


Students at Stellenbosch are calling for ‘transformative change’ after the release of a documentary showing interviews with students alleging that racist practices are in place across the campus.

The documentary is called Luister, the Afrikaans word for Listen, and shows people giving accounts of being repeatedly victimised because of the colour of their skin. The group behind this, Open Stellenbosch, say these are some of the ways people are being impacted by what they call policies of apartheid at the university.

Aneli Mbude, a student with the Open Stellenbosch group, told RFI: "Being a black person in Stellenbosch is traumatising …There’s so much pain and heartbreak that you have to face, because it’s like you’re hated just because of the colour of your skin."

Much of this heated debate has focused around the use of Afrikaans as the primary language of teaching there. A large group of the student body is calling for a change to English, to rid academic life at the institution of the negative, oppressive connotations that many people have with the Afrikaans language.

The governing ANC party, the African National Congress, has waded into the debate this week with Baleka Mbete, the party’s chairperson, going to Stellenbosch.

"We want a South Africa where people must not feel that they are small because they are not white," he said.

Stellenbosch University has said it would be investing nearly 70 million rand (4.6 million euro) to diversify its staff, and that more programmes would be moving into the English language, but the protest groups say this is not enough. They have handed in demands for some management staff on the university’s council to step down too.

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