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Stellenbosch University student Babalo Ndwayana has rejected the panel composition for suspended fellow student Theuns Du Toit, who was caught on video peeing on his laptop, saying the matter won’t be handled objectively.
The hearing was supposed to go ahead on Wednesday, but there were preliminary issues that had to be ironed out, said Ndwayana’s lawyer Nomonde Gxilishe from the University of South Africa (Unisa) law clinic in Cape Town.
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The racist incident drew widespread condemnation last month, leading to protests at the institution. Du Toit, a white student, had broken into Ndwayana’s room at Huis Marais residence on Sunday morning and started urinating on his books and laptop.
“What are you doing in my room,” Ndwayana was heard asking Du Toit in his video of the incident. He called on the university to expel Du Toit.
“Babalo told the university through us, his attorneys assisting him in this matter, that the panel was not going to be objective in deciding Du Toit’s fate. He said he won’t be part of it.
“The panel and the university were informed about his decision. He didn’t just storm out of the venue as reported,” she said.
Ndwayana had apparently objected to the presence of certain members of the panel, though Gxilishe would not elaborate on the reasons.
The university’s rules specify how a disciplinary committee should be constituted.
Ndwayana, who wants Du Toit expelled, had high hopes that the issue would be treated with urgency.
“Everyone saw the indignity he suffered. He has been stressed, and it’s been a traumatic experience for him. He hoped this would be taken seriously and urgently. He is demoralised and disappointed that the sensitivity and urgency required here is not coming through for him,” Gxilishe said.
The disciplinary hearing is held behind closed doors.
According to university spokesperson Martin Viljoen, the hearing commenced on Wednesday and concluded on Thursday. Du Toit’s closing arguments have been presented.
“The CDC indicated on Thursday afternoon that due to the complexity of the matter and the amount of evidence to be considered, they are not able to provide an outcome as of yet.
“They will take time to consider the evidence and provide a written outcome. A date for when this process will be completed is not available yet,” Viljoen said.
He said the disciplinary committee, guided by the university’s disciplinary code, consists of a panel of “credible and knowledgeable” members with relevant senior legal and other expertise, selected by director of legal services from the established disciplinary committee for each academic year.
Information on the composition of the committee and the confidential internal proceedings are not open to “outside influence or speculation,” in the interest of the rights of all involved.
“The disciplinary code provides clear rules for acceptable student conduct and sets out disciplinary measures and procedures, which ensure that disciplinary action by the university is taken efficiently and in a manner that is reasonable, lawful and procedurally fair.”
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More racism allegations at the institution surfaced after the uproar. The university announced that it had launched an investigation after a residence head allegedly used the k-word.
Management also came under fire in March this year after tweeting a picture of mostly white women, from the institution’s top and senior management level, in celebration of International Women’s Day.
In the tweet – which read that under the theme “Break the Bias” – the university said the women would share their views around the achievement of women’s equality, prompting backlash from the SA Students Congress (Sasco) and the Economic Freedom Fighters Student Command (EFFSC) at the time.
Meanwhile, it appears that police in Stellenbosch are yet to act on the case opened against Du Toit by Ndwayana on the day of the incident.
Officers previously told Ndwayana that they were busy with the investigation, Gxilishe said.
“We are going there as we need to know what is happening with the case, it was opened on the same day but there has been no accountability. Nothing has happened.
“Witness statements were taken, they took the material that was urinated on, they have the footage. The last time they spoke to Babalo they said investigations continued and would effect an arrest.
“That is why we are helping Babalo, he cannot go through this alone, he needs all the help he can get in this matter.”
She added that they do not expect to be called back to Du Toit’s hearing, and that it could proceed without Ndwayana.
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