HuffPost visited privately owned University of Pretoria student residences Sonop and De Goede Hoop on Thursday to gauge the response from students to the banning of both residences from social activities by the SRC in response to their lack of transformation.
"[The transformation saga] is stirring up racism rather than solving it... It should not be made into a big issue"– Anonymous student
The two private residences, which maintain an explicit "Afrikaans, Christian" character that applies to their admission policies, failed to meet UP's transformation quota, which states that one-third of the students in any residence ought to be black. Out of 160 residents at Sonop, only six are black – less than 4 percent.
Upon our arrival, the residences were dead quiet, as many students were attending classes. In HuffPost interviews with the students that we did encounter, however, there was a general consensus that "private institutions can do what they like", so both residences should be allowed to maintain their almost exclusively white character.
"We are aware of these two residences – [the controversy has] been ongoing since we got here. But if they [are] reserved for a certain group of people, then there is nothing that we can do, because they [are] trying to [preserve] their culture," a third-year student who asked to remain anonymous said.
Regarding calls from the UP SRC president for Sonop to become a residence that truly reflects the diverse student population, another student said: "[The transformation saga] is stirring up racism rather than solving it... It should not be made into a big issue."
The sanction was imposed by the university's management and the SRC. University spokesperson Rikus Delport told IOL that there had been "challenges to transformation" at privately owned residences.
Speaking to HuffPost on Thursday, 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 "totalitarian".