Racism at Stellenbosch University- a working class perspective

In March this year 5 white, female researchers from Stellenbosch University published an article in an international journal. They argued that women of colour are less intelligent than white people. It turns out that several of the staff have written similar articles. In fact it seems they have made a career out of racist ‘science’. It should be remembered that racism is a social tool of violence by international capital and imperialism to justify their domination and control.

Another group of 5 researchers, from outside the University, which included a provincial executive member of the SRWP, launched a counter-offensive. They launched a petition calling for the article to be withdrawn. Within a short space of time the petition gathered over 10 000 signatures.

The Psychology Society of South Africa and the Psychology Department at Stellenbosch also called for the article’s withdrawal. Naturally there was and still is widespread anger at the racist article. The editors withdrew it and the university has just adopted measures for modules on anti-racism for all first-year students, new guidelines for research by staff as well as taking steps to establish full departments on Gender and Critical race studies. These are all substantial steps forward. However, important questions and challenges remain.


It is clear that 25 years into a new democracy that racism is still ingrained in South Africa in general and at Stellenbosch University in particular. It was at this university that race ‘science’ was taken to the extreme and provided the justification for the cheap labour system of exploitation as well as segregated areas. The cheap labour system as well as segregated areas still exist, albeit without the sign boards.

A multi-class formation like the ANC has shown that it is incapable of abolishing racism and the cheap labour system. On the contrary, the middle class and capitalist elements within the ANC dominate the workers within its ranks. The middle class and capitalist elements within the ANC openly support capitalist and imperialist domination continuing. As the traditional leaders Bill (now called the bantustan bill) shows, the ANC is prepared to promote anti-democratic and patriarchal measures that will advance the further exploitation of the broader masses.  

Stellenbosch University was among the first to outsource support staff in 1996. This was a means of perpetuating apartheid slave capitalist relations on campus.

The #feesmustfall movement has been vindicated. All students and staff, around the country, who were victimised, expelled, who are interdicted, who are still facing charges or who are in prison should have all charges withdrawn and the measures overturned. All outsourcing at all universities and in the rest of the country should be immediately ended. The suppression of Indigenous Knowledge Systems needs to end. Thus, Eurocentric knowledge production needs to be decolonized in order to eradicate the white supremacy located within academia.

The past 25 years show us that it is only the working class, organised independently, that has the interest of carrying through democratic demands up to the end. This is why it is important to join and build an independent, revolutionary working class party.

We also support the demands presented by the ex-workers and some current workers at the University of Stellenbosch to the management. We list these below:

  1. Restitution for all the harm done to the formerly oppressed masses in the country and Namibia as a result of racist research at SU.
  2. Restitution for the low-paid workers who worked at the university and who finished off before 1996.
  3. Restitution for all those retrenched in 1996, irrespective if they continued in employment at an outsourced company at the University or not. Restitution for all other outsourced workers who may have finished working, doing services for the University, before 7 December 2015.
  4. For all workers who were working at outsourced companies at the University on the 7th Dec 2015, who have not yet received compensation, or who have received too little compensation, to receive this forthwith.
  5. All workers to be insourced and to receive commensurate staff benefits, including the opportunity for our children to study at the University. These insourcing discussions to start immediately and to be concluded in 2019.
  6. All students who were expelled or interdicted to be reinstated. If there are any still with charges, to have them withdrawn immediately. At the same time, the 5 researchers and/or the Senate should come to our community to apologize in person. All the researchers who justify the oppression of one group by another, whether directly or indirectly, have caused immeasurable harm.  
  7. We would also like open gatherings to be held on campus and the community which include workers and staff. We need to discuss restorative justice and what it means to all of us. This should include future employment possibilities for the children of those who have retired or who may have passed away. 

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Without exception,ALL the parties taking part in the elections,despite their promises, will deliver a future of more unemployment, lower wages, more hardship, more evictions, more homelessness, more exclusion from education, death and destruction through starvation and Aids.

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