Emma Hurd in Johannesburg
A video which shows white students abusing and humiliating black cleaners at a university in South Africa has sparked anger and protests across the country.
The tape, made by four students at the University of the Free State, shows them urinating in food which they then feed to the group of women in a “fear factor” style contest.
The women are apparently unaware that the stew, which they are encouraged to eat on their hands and knees, has been contaminated.
They are also filmed taking part in a drinking contest and a running race, while the students laugh at them and insult them in Afrikaans.
The emergence of the video, which is believed to have been filmed last September, has prompted angry demonstrations at the university, with hundreds of students clashing with the security forces as staff appeal for calm.
“We understand that you are angry and that is justified,” Beatrice Marshoff, the Premier of the university, told the crowd.
“But you are students and we are pleading with you to come and learn.”
The campus has been closed because of the protests that have resulted in windows being smashed in some of the buildings.
The story of the video has made front-page news in South Africa, a country where racism remains an explosive issue 14 years after the end of apartheid.
All the major political parties and the Human Rights Commission have condemned the video and the police have promised criminal action against the students who made it, apparently to protest against plans to racially integrate the university dormitories.
It is a rare, overt indication of the level of racial hatred that still exists in South Africa among a small minority of the population.
The majority here are appalled by the tape, but in a country where racial harmony remains an ideal rather than a reality, few are surprised.
Koku Adomdza, Director of The 1990 Trust, a UK based human rights organisation reacted to the news as follows, “ This is an appalling revelation and shows the degree to which prejudice still prevails in South Africa. Critical is the mindset of superiority complex that could drive university students to think through, plan and execute such deplorable abuse of the fundamental human rights of unsuspecting female staff of the university. All racism is unacceptable as they violate human rights and as such cannot be dismissed as ‘youthful pranks’. There is clear guidance in law regarding race-related crime. The fact that the abuse occurred in September 2007 – the Bicentenary Commemoration Year of the Slave Trade Abolition Act adds another dimension to it all. The 1990 Trust calls on the relevant authorities including the University of the Free State to take appropriate action without fail”.