Protestors at the picket fence lining the Long Table Woordfees-event. Photo: Brynley van Aardt

The whistle blows for the wild Willows

BY BRYNLEY VAN AARDT

After Wilgenhof men’s residence has come under fire for an alleged homophobic incident during the welcoming period, Stellenbosch University (SU)Management have taken action against the residence. Dr Choice Makhetha, Senior Director of Student Affairs said,

“On 28 February, the Rector and Vice-Chancellor of SU, Prof Wim de Villiers, notified the House Committee members of Wilgenhof residence that they had been temporarily relieved of their duties pending the outcome of an investigation. They had earlier been given due notice by the Division Student Affairs and been afforded the opportunity to respond, which they failed to do.”

In response, GC van Heerden, prim of Wilgenhof, said, “I and the rest of the House Committee responded to the communication, but we did not respond to the demands it required of us.”

Due to the whole House Committee being temporarily relieved of duties, the residence head, Spurgeon Wilson was told by SU Management that he is to be in charge.

“This is currently a very difficult period for the house as there is no active leadership, but the whole house has really been stepping in. Residents have been volunteering to ensure the house runs smoothly,” Wilson said.

Wilgenhof residents are not sure when and if their house committee will be given their roles back, as it is a disciplinary action and they are not kept updated.

“We are still trying to find out who posted on Instagram, but it is very difficult. We have had meetings with the first years and the whole house, but we are still not sure who it was,” Wilson continued.

After another controversial incident, wherein a Wilgenhof mentor posted an image on his Whatsapp story stating that “It is wrong to call the Bible homophobic, because it’s not fear, it’s disgust”, students supported by the Anti-GBV movement and QueerUS society planned a protest against queerphobia on the Rooiplein last Thursday. Wilson met the protestors there and addressed them with Paul Joubert, an executive member of the QueerUS society, facilitating the discussion.

Wilson said that he would not open the gates of Wilgenhof for the protestors.

After Wilson left, Joubert said that “being polite” was not getting them answers so they decided to be “non-violently impolite” and march to Wilgenhof with the hope of getting someone else to respond to them and open the door.

After the doors were not opened, protestors decided to walk to the Long Table Woordfees-event held at Admin A where they knew rector Wim de Villiers would be, as well as Western Cape Premier Alan Winde and other important people.

Joubert, along with a leader of the Anti-GBV Movement ended the protest after standing at the picket fence of the Long Table. “The group is thinning out and we don’t want that, because I think that is vulnerable,” Joubert said.

“I think that we have achieved a lot today. I think we got the Wilgenhof residence head to be honest about how little he has done and how little he cares. While this is incredibly frustrating and upsetting and depressing, at the same time this is incredibly heart-warming to have all your support, both queers and allies,” Joubert continued.

Organisers of the protest then contacted SU Management on behalf of the protestors and Anti-GBV SU, sent out a memorandum calling for the suspension of the “queerphobic mentor immediately”, for Student Affairs to speed up their investigation and for all residences as well as the Rectorate to adhere to the memorandum they signed last year with regards to discrimination among other things.

“Our mandate is clear, we will not stop fighting until hatred, violence and oppression of marginalised bodies are eradicated in our society. We aim for a just, equitable, safe and empowering society for all,” the Anti-GBV memorandum concluded.

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