Pretoria : The Department of Higher Education and Training says it will not tolerate any unconstitutional activities being carried out at any of the country’s tertiary institutions.
This follows reports of alleged Nazi-style saluting by first year students during an initiation ceremony at the North West University’s Potchefstroom campus last week.
University management has indicated that these pictures are snippets out of a longer video of the students “singing a greeting to their primaria”, and that the images were taken out of context.
While the institution has apologised for any offense, it has indicated that this is part of a tradition that first-year students engage in and do not see this as an initiation practice.
In a statement on Tuesday, the department said it does not condone any complacency by managers and governance at the institutions on such acts and that it was shocking that the university management defends what can only be called initiation rituals taking place.
The department’s view is that such practices are not at all innocent and can only be characterised as unacceptable practices where the use of gestures associated with Nazism are shunned upon throughout the world and are relics of a time which symbolised oppression, persecution and some of the worst atrocities committed in human history.
The department said a concerted effort and education programme were needed to change such practices.
“It is important to note that such traditions, while they may seem harmless ‘cultural’ and ‘team building’ events on the surface to some, contribute to a culture of exclusion and perpetuate stereotypes about race, gender and sexuality, and lead our youth to be indoctrinated into beliefs that are not in the spirit of our democracy and result in students leaving university not equipped to be part of our collective future.”
According to the ministry, the greater threat is that as a result of these ‘traditions’, young people are damaged and indoctrinated into beliefs that will ill-equip them to make a positive contribution to the country.
“Universities should be places where we teach our students to think critically, and not to be cowed conformists. If they leave our institutions ignorant, bigoted and uninformed about basic human rights, we have failed them. If they go into the world thinking it is perfectly acceptable to perform the Nazi salute while shouting ‘Heil PUK!’, we have failed them.”
The department has requested the university to provide a full report on this incident, which was submitted on Monday.
The department says Minister Blade Nzimande is still studying and considering the report.
“Should the need arise, further action will be taken by the department.”
Source: South African Official News