08/02/2018 10:48 SAST | Updated 08/02/2018 10:48 SAST

Barring Afrikaans-Only Residences From UP Activities 'Totalitarian And Inhumane'

AfriForum lawyer and father of a Sonop resident defends the University of Pretoria's two student residences that remain 96 percent white.

UP private student residence Sonop, which remains 96 percent white.
UP private student residence Sonop, which remains 96 percent white.

A University of Pretoria SRC decision to bar the Sonop and De Goede Hoop student residences — two privately owned, majority-white, Afrikaans-focused residences — from all university social activity has raised the ire of parents and the Afrikaans community, who feel the decision is exclusionary.

Speaking to HuffPost, Willie Spies, a lawyer for minority-rights advocacy group AfriForum (and a Sonop alumnus whose son is currently a resident at the 100-year-old institution) said the decision by the university was "inhumane" and could signal the dawn of South Africa's "totalitarian" era.

"Diversity means that people should be allowed to be themselves, and run their own affairs — as long as it's not exclusionary, of course — but they should be allowed to run their institutions the way they choose to. We cannot run into a totalitarian situation. It's unfair and inhumane to do it," Spies said.

The legal expert claimed over the phone that the fact that only six out of the 160 students are black was owing to the fact that the residence couldn't afford to subsidise "the 90 percent".

Shortly thereafter, he terminated his conversation with HuffPost, saying: "I am not speaking on behalf of Sonop, and I have serious doubts about the journalistic integrity of your organisation."

Sonop said they would be meeting with the university to find a way forward.

During a visit to De Goede Hoop in 2017, the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL) found that there were no black students whatsoever registered at the residence. This led to admission policy changes and quota demands.

Social media weighed in on Twitter this morning, with Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa one of the most outspoken, saying he welcomes the decision by the University of Pretoria.