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HRC must stop dragging its feet with regard to bullying of Afrikaans students at US

The Human Rights Commission (HRC) is in an unacceptable manner dragging its feet with regard to the bullying of Afrikaans students at the University of Stellenbosch (US).

By allowing the situation to continue indefinitely, a toxic environment is created where tension between students about language is causing great damage to social relationships.

The FF Plus lodged a complaint about similar bullying behaviour at the US in 2021 when Afrikaans students in Stellenbosch and elsewhere were prohibited from speaking Afrikaans even in their hostel rooms or in private conversations among each other.

The HRC investigated the matter and after a long, drawn-out process, issued a report with preliminary findings in October last year.

A strict embargo was, however, placed on the report and the FF Plus honours it. The embargo was to allow all interest groups to state their side of the case.

Two years have lapsed since the incident and five months have passed after the report was compiled, so the FF Plus is of the opinion that all interest groups have now had a fair opportunity to submit comments.

Those who have not yet done so are clearly drawing out the process on purpose. It is irresponsible of the HRC to allow this while the situation remains the same at the US.

The FF Plus is of the opinion that a clear finding and guidelines to all role-players concerning the matter would, to a large extent, help to solve the problem.

At this stage, it is clear that the University's rector and vice-chancellor, Professor Wim de Villiers, is not willing to take appropriate steps against students who intimidate fellow-students and warn them not to speak Afrikaans.

Some students have now once again lodged a complaint with the HRC with the help of the organisation Studenteplein.

According to Network24, André Gaum, a commissioner of the HRC also said, "any ban or attempted ban on an official language in a social context is unconstitutional and must be stopped immediately". ('Spreek studenteleiers aan wat glo Afrikaans verbied aan die US', 15 February 2023).

He also added that the ban on speaking Afrikaans is a "violation of the Afrikaans students' human rights".

It is, therefore, clear that the HRC must take a strong stance on the matter. But talk is cheap, and the FF Plus is calling on the Commission to publish its report at once so that clear guidelines can be formulated.

It is unacceptable that human rights are violated with impunity, and it is equally unacceptable for the HRC to do nothing about it.

 

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