AfriForum criticises rights hearings

Johannesburg - The SA Human Rights Commission's (SAHRC) hearings into transformation at universities was biased and not transparent, AfriForum Youth said on Saturday.

"The roleplayers who were involved included one-sided and blatant racist organisations... the hearing involved no minority groups," Henk Maree, AfriForum Youth chairperson said in a statement.

Maree said his organisation questioned the transparency and credibility of the two day long hearing.

"The examples used by the commission to make their conclusions were amongst others, the Reitz incident, a 2008 incident which has been dealt with long ago, the drowning of a first year student at the Potchefstroom campus of the North West University in 2012, in which the probe found no element of race or discrimination, as well as the example of the University of the Free State two students accused of assault," he said.

The case of two UFS students, Cobus Muller and Charl Blom is expected to resume in the Bloemfontein Magistrate's Court on Monday.

Muller faces four charges which include reckless driving, crimen injuria, attempted murder and assault, while Blom faces a charge of assault.

The two allegedly tried to run over fellow-student Muzi Gwebu with their bakkie on the campus in February.

At the same university, four students were accused of duping cleaning staff at their Reitz residence to eat food which had been urinated on which was filmed as part of the residence's initiation process.

The students, RC Malherbe, Johnny Roberts, Schalk van der Merwe and Danie Grobler pleaded guilty to a charge of crimen injuria in July 2010 and were each fined R20 000 or 12 months' in jail.

On appeal, the fines for Van der Merwe and Malherbe were reduced to R10 000 each, while that of Roberts and Grobler were reduced to R15 000 each.

On Thursday and Friday, the SAHRC held hearings on transformation at universities.

The hearing was spurred by a complaint received in 2012 from the Higher Education Transformation Network about the death of a student, Thabang Mokhoang, at an orientation programme at the North West University. He drowned in a campus swimming pool. The commission was asked to determine what role discrimination had played in Mokhoang's death.

The commission said there had been a spike in racism-related incidents in South Africa, particularly at universities, with over 500 cases being reported to the commission in the past year.

In the 2013/14 financial year, 45% of the commission's complaints were race-related.

The commission's spokesperson Isaac Mangena said AfriForum Youth had "jumped the gun".

"We expected that those who are against transformation will talk down such a noble process," Mangena said.

"The hearings were not about groups but about the institutions. In our next batch of hearings, other stakeholders such as student and youth organisations such as AfriForum Youth will be invited," he said.

"We stand by our hearings. AfriForum Youth should be coming up with ways to ensure that the future is about co-existence between blacks and whites."