Our take: It’s time for South Africa to face its racism problem head-on

Only those who insist on living with their heads in the sand would deny that South Africa still has a long way to go to adequately grapple with both its apartheid past and pervasive present-day racism. 

There was outrage this week after a video emerged of a white Stellenbosch University student, Theuns du Toit, urinating on a black student’s belongings. Babalo Ndwayana, a first-year Agricultural Business Management student, recorded Du Toit urinating on his laptop and study material in Ndwayana’s room in the university’s Huis Marais residence. 🤢

When asked why he was urinating on Ndwayana’s things, he allegedly said, “it’s a white boy thing”, which Ndwayana understood to mean “this is what we do to black boys”. 

Ndwayana has since opened a criminal case against Du Toit. The university has suspended Du Toit and says it is investigating the incident. Earlier today it was reported that the pair’s fathers would meet to discuss the matter. Rudi du Toit told News24: “There are definitely going to be talks … Call it reconciliation.” Ndwayana’s father, Mkuseli Kaduka, confirmed that the two men had spoken on the phone and agreed to meet face to face. But Weekend Argus journalist Velani Ludidi later tweeted a Facebook post purportedly shared by Kaduka in which he said while he had received a call from Rudi du Toit, “I do not have plans to meet with the Du Toits although they would love for that to happen. I’m very much committed to seeing this fight through to the end.” He added that he wanted his son’s dignity to be restored and called for the perpetrator to face “what’s due to them”. 

Theuns du Toit has been widely condemned, and a petition has been lodged to have him expelled from Stellenbosch University. It’s a shocking, brazing incident which echoes the 2008 scandal at the University of the Free State when two white students tricked black workers into eating food laced with urine. 

Some may argue that racism is somehow dying out as we move further away from the apartheid system why, then, would young university students be perpetrating these acts? Often when racist behaviour makes headlines, there are calls for “reconciliation” or for the perpetrators to be taught a gentle lesson. That places the burden on victims of racism to do the heavy lifting. It’s long past time for us to stop hoping that racists will somehow be coddled into submission. Maybe something good could emerge from Ndwayana’s demeaning experience and see the start of a real shift towards justice for victims of racism.