Dear Stellenbosch student,
The recent video called Listen, loaded on social media by the group Open Stellenbosch, is nothing but cheap propaganda. I know some members of the public, and especially members of Open Stellenbosch, will not agree with my statement, but give me the opportunity to explain.
Experts described propaganda as the process by which the communicator projects a selection of facts out of context as the overall reality and determines the national agenda by doing so. From this description it is clear that the small group of extremist students at the University of Stellenbosch understand the role and implementation of cheap propaganda very well.
First, every viewer of the video should keep in mind that it is composed by 32 students and one lecturer. It is very dangerous and easy to make the assumption that the video reflected the feelings of all students and staff at the University of Stellenbosch. 33 members of the University of Stellenbosch out of a student body of about 15 000 certainly is not the voice of the students. The video referred to many examples of discrimination. It is strange that no factual basis in the form of case numbers, videos or photos is provided for these allegations. The information given in the video is so vague that almost none of it can be followed up to confirm the correctness.
The victims claim inter alia that security arrives when the group of students demonstrate and therefore security is racist. They conveniently overlook the fact that Open Stellenbosch hitherto never obtained permission for a legal protest. Protests by Open Stellenbosch were characterised by disruption of classes and career days. Any reasonable, moderate person will surely expect security to watch the group’s behaviour. It is standard practice for campus security to monitor any group of students while protesting, regardless of who they are or what the reason may be. The reason for the selection of facts by Open Stellenbosch is clear.
The message clearly portrayed by the group’s leaders is that ‘Open Stellenbosch is not interested in discussions.’ The Management of the University of Stellenbosch has invited the group’s leaders repeatedly to discussions to try and solve the problem. However, the invitations were turned down each time. The group claimed that the University would not meet their claims, but from their actions it is clear that Open Stellenbosch is not interested in discussions to find a middle ground. Although Open Stellenbosch repeatedly made it clear that they were not interested in discussing solutions, the impression is created in the video that Open Stellenbosch would like to talk, but nobody wants to talk to them. This is blatantly dishonest.
Initially Open Stellenbosch concealed their campaign as dissatisfaction with language issues. From the video it is clear that language is not the group’s real problem, but race. The unilateral video with its dramatic background music does not contain an interview with even one person who is not a member of Open Stellenbosch; no other voices balance the video.
Unfortunately no effort was made to follow a more balanced approach. There is also no interview with the rector, the Management of the University of Stellenbosch, the SRC or any other role-player. The only persons allowed to participate in the production of the video were supporters of Open Stellenbosch’s ideology of radical racially motivated transformation.
The purpose of this letter is not to belittle the students’ stories. The allegations in the video are serious and deserve to be investigated. I believe that some that some of the stories are actually true, but using a few students’ sad stories out of context to advance a group’s agenda is a cheap attempt to gain sympathy for a racially motivated campaign.
Open Stellenbosch is by no means the liberators they purport to be. I appeal to all students/readers of this letter to look at similar videos critically in future and to ask the simple question: “Is it factually correct or is it only a selection of facts out of context, which are projected as the overall reality in an attempt to determine the national agenda?”
By Henk Maree, National Chairman of AfriForum Youth.