ANC: Legislature must enforce transformation at Stellies

The group led a protest march on campus calling for radical transformation at the institution.

Protesters including members of the EFF protest on Elsunburg Agricultural Institute in Stellenbosch. Picture: Petrus Botha/EWN

CAPE TOWN - The African National Congress (ANC) in Parliament says the National Legislature must flex its oversight muscle to enforce real change at Stellenbosch University.

The ANC has accused the university's management of paying lip service to transformation given the situation on the ground.

The institution's management was called to an urgent meeting with the Portfolio Committee on Higher Education on Tuesday.

This is to respond to concerns about their policy as well as allegations of racism on campus.

But the ruling party is not satisfied with the response saying management doesn't seem to fully comprehend the implications of its language policy, which it describes as discriminatory.

The university revealed on Tuesday that 62.2 percent of students enrolled at the institution are white. Academic staff are also overwhelmingly white, making up 73 percent.

Rector Wim de Villiers told Members of Parliament that transformation was an incomplete, imperfect journey.

"But we're steadfast and committed to this journey."

On the contentious language policy, Vice Rector Arnold Schoonwinkel said the plan is to increase the university's multi-lingual offering.

"With the aim of 75 percent by 2020."

The university has set up a task team to respond to student requests and demands.

'LUISTER'

D e Villiers told MPs management has been trying to shift its language policy away from a stated preference for teaching and learning in Afrikaans.

He said the policy is being implemented but there are problems.

"I am not denying that there are problems with implementation; task teams are investigating this. There is an open invitation to all to raise the problems; we are investigating the proposals of Open Stellenbosch, the SRC and others. "

De Villiers added the institution is a multilingual university.

"In the end, as I have been alluded to, language is a complex and emotive issue given our history in South Africa and we need to handle it correctly."

The rector and his senior management team were called to an urgent meeting in parliament to respond to allegations of racism and discrimination contained in the documentary Luister.

EFFORTS GAINING MOMENTUM

Student movement Open Stellenbosch believes its efforts to push for meaningful transformation at is gaining momentum.

On Tuesday, the group led a protest march on campus calling for radical transformation at the institution.

Open Stellenbosch's march attracted hundreds of students, staff and alumni, including some from the University of Western Cape and University of Cape Town.

Security guards followed the chanting mass, ensuring all entrances to academic buildings were closed.

The demonstrators stopped at the main administration building and handed over a memorandum to management demanded an urgent meeting with the university council.

Open Stellenbosch's Ijeoma Opara said, "Which is basically stipulating what are the interests that we want to put for representation of black students on campus, we also want that to increase."

Open Stellenbosch, which was involved in producing the short film, says no student should be forced to learn in Afrikaans.