Racism is still part of “everyday life” in South Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Monday, after a scandal erupted over a viral video showing the humiliation of black students.
“Racism is still a feature of everyday life in South Africa,” Ramaphosa wrote in his weekly letter.
He said the nation was “outraged at the sight of a white student at Stellenbosch University degrading and humiliating a black fellow in a despicable act”.
The shows a white freshman urinating on a black colleague’s books and laptop in the early hours of Sunday, May 15.
A voice off camera asks “Why are you peeing in my room?” The white student responds emphatically, “I’m waiting for someone.
The South African Students’ Congress said white students later said “that’s what they do to black boys.”
“We need to understand what makes racist attitudes thrive in our schools and places of higher learning,” Ramaphosa said.
“We need to understand what kind of institutional cultures contribute to racism in the workplace, in social organizations and in communities.”
The incident sparked a week of protests in Stellenbosch, a predominantly white school in a predominantly black country.
Ramaphosa quoted a fourth-year student, Kwenzokuhle Khumalo, who said at one of the protests last week that, “You met the wrong generation this time.”
The university opened disciplinary proceedings amid calls for the student’s expulsion for what it called a “destructive, hurtful and racist incident”.
Justice Minister Ronald Lamola on Monday denounced the incident as “akin to urinating on the Constitution itself”.
“It’s done the year we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Constitution. This type of barbaric incident must be condemned and dealt with accordingly.
South Africa‘s constitution cemented the transition away from white supremacist rule and is often held up as a model of democratic values - although implementing those values remains a work in progress.