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Nzimande: Stellenbosch race report could help others

Image: GovernmentZA [CC BY-NC 2.0], via Flickr

But institutional differences mean report's findings will not be universal, minister adds

A damning report highlighting experiences of racism at South Africa’s Stellenbosch University could provide lessons for other institutions of higher learning in the country, according to higher education minister Blade Nzimande.

However, he said the government was not planning to turn any of the report’s recommendations into best practice guidelines for the rest of the country’s universities. Nzimande (pictured) made the comment in a 12 December answer to a written Parliamentary question from Inkatha Freedom Party MP Sanele Zondo.

The report, released in November, formed part of a public inquiry led by retired judge Sisi Khampepe. Set up in June following several high-profile instances of alleged student-on-student racism at the Stellenbosch University, it found that racial transformation policies were not reflected in practice and that Black students and staff still experience “subtle forms of racism and exclusion”.

At the time of the report’s publication, Stellenbosch rector Wim de Villiers said the university will work harder to increase the representation and sense of belonging of previously under-represented groups. 

“This is a sobering moment for the university,” de Villiers said. “It is evident that Black staff members and students do not feel welcome here, despite our deliberate transformation efforts to date.”

In his written reply, Nzimande said every South African university should study the report, its findings and recommendations, and consider what lessons, if any, might apply to them. 

But, he added, since South Africa’s universities have different histories, cultures and circumstances when it comes to racial representation and experiences, “there is no one solution to a problem that could be applied across the sector in this regard”.