Race row derails Diversity Month at Mandela university

19 August 2014 - 09:07 By Angela Daniels and Jerome Cornelius

A race row has erupted at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University after a project to mark 20 years of democracy in South Africa backfired.

The Port Elizabeth university’s “talking walls” project, aimed at encouraging staff and students to speak about democracy, yielded a range of offensive statements.

According to Herald Online, the white boards that served as the talking walls saw responses ranging from the silly – one student suggested free alcohol in the canteen – to the more serious “F**k whites” which fanned racial tension. Also upsetting to some was a statement that suggested fewer whites should be at the university.

The boards have been pulled off the walls and are currently lying in a passage. The offensive messages have been wiped off.

Management student Tiffany Francis, 21, said: “The past is in the past and we must work together to make the future better. They should have a disciplinary hearing to prevent it happening again”.

Marketing student Sanela Genu, 20, thought the students responsible should be expelled. “They brought the school name into disrepute.”

University spokeswoman Roslyn Baatjies said the university was saddened by the offensive comments, especially as it is presently celebrating Diversity Month.

“This behaviour is not in keeping with our core values. We would like to believe this is an isolated incident and does not reflect the feelings of the majority of staff and students."

The comments had been written anonymously, so the university did not know who was responsible.