BY MIA VAN DER MERWE
During Die Matie’s history as an informative student newspaper, numerous scandalous incidents occurred on campus. For the last 80 years, Die Matie has been the eye in the sky for countless student-related events. Some of these incidents were less serious than others. Some resulted in comic relief from the daily lives of Stellenbosch University (SU) students. Other incidents, however, bordered on the serious and the criminal.
1949 – “Wanneer Mure Praat… Oor Bure op Straat”
During its early formative years, Die Matie published a column about campus rumours related to students. This tongue-in-cheek section discussed the latest student gossip on campus and was called “Wanneer Mure Praat… Oor Bure op Straat” (“When Walls Talk… About Neighbours on the Street”).
This section featured lengthy discussions about recent student scandals and the most riveting rumours going around campus. The names of the people being discussed were not omitted. Full names, and sometimes the students’ residences, were mentioned for effortless identification of the unfortunate parties involved.
1954 – “’n Week van Krisisse in Stellenbosch”
In this publication of Die Matie, big bold letters announced a week of crisis for Stellenbosch. This followed the suspension of four students from the university and three others from their residence. All the suspended students resided in Huis Visser.
These Huis Visser residents were supposed to sit down after dinner to listen to a speech by the then Rector, Dr H.B. Thom, about hostel budgets and savings. However, they decided to play hooky and left the dining hall without listening to the speech.
The following morning all of the students apologised in writing. Nevertheless, three of them had to leave their residence within 24 hours. No other residences were allowed to house them. Four others were suspended from the university with immediate effect. They were all final year students; two of them were busy with postgraduate studies.
1968 – “Simonsberg en daardie rok!”
The 1960s saw drastic and revolutionary changes in the way women dressed. This was the era where women started wearing shorter skirts and higher heels.
One dress, however, had the whole campus talking for weeks. On 23 August 1968, Simonsberg had their annual dance in Camps Bay, Cape Town. The highlight was the orchestra and three colour changing disco lights. That was until a certain student showed up in a very short dress with holes in very strategic places.
Legend has it that all the men present had stiff necks the next day. The female student remained unnamed. But if you wanted to, you could go buy a photo of the dress (and the woman) from the local photographer, Edrich. Edrich’s business did very well that spring.
1978 – “Helshoogte Dilemma”
In March of 1978, Helshoogte men’s residence got the goahead to enlarge the field behind the residence. This was when Johan Bouwer, Vice-Prim of Helshoogte, decided to take matters into his own hands.
Wearing only PT shorts and armed with a ten-pound hammer, Bouwer went to work. He started slamming down the wall behind the residence with remarkable vigour. Scared students contacted campus security to remove the “crazy person” who was demolishing their building.
Campus security was reluctant to engage with a “crazy person”. They tried to talk him out of his mission to destroy the wall, but Bouwer would not budge. Ultimately, the Department of Agriculture’s help was deployed. All was resolved peacefully and the demolition was continued by those who were actually in charge.
1986 – “Willows en Visser haaks ná spuitverwery”
In March of 1986, chaos ensued when a first-year of Huis Marais was spray-painted by Wilgenhof residents after he shouted “Bekfluitjie!” outside the Wilgenhof residence. As revenge a number of Huis Visser residents kidnapped and spray-painted a Wilgenhof student.
In a second incident Huis Visser students kidnapped a group of Minerva HK’s during a house meeting. The men took the women of Minerva to be showered at Huis Visser. According to Minerva’s Prim at the time, Barene Hugo, the incident was a planned operation by Huis Visser’s HK. With the help of Dagbreek, the women retaliated by bombing the men’s residence with water balloons.
Consequently, 30 more Minerva women were taken to Huis Visser to be showered. Hugo saw this as an “eye for an eye” type of situation. She proceeded to throw paint on the bikes and cars that stood at Huis Visser.
1998 – “Simonsberg-verkragting: Wat gebeur het”
1998 saw the first reported rape in an SU residence. A female student from Serruria was raped in Simonsberg men’s residence.
It was confirmed that a group of Serruria women were socialising with Simonsberg students. The HK’s of Simonsberg invited the women from Serruria to their club, where partying and drinking followed.
An official internal investigation was launched into the incident. Prof P.G. du Plessis, head of student affairs at the time, confirmed that this was the first reported rape in a residence at the university. The alleged rapist was expelled from the residence, but he was still allowed to continue his studies.
2000 – “Doopskandaal in Huis Marais”
In the early months of 2000, Huis Marais experienced a situation that brought the residence’s orientation activities for first-years under fire. This came after first-years anonymously reported that they were being mistreated by some senior students in the residence.
Allegedly, a first-year was singled out and ordered to go down onto his knees with his head bent. A few Huis Marais seniors allegedly proceeded to urinate in front of the first year as a means of showing dominance. Several other first years told Die Matie that they had been physically assaulted in Huis Marais.
Seniors allegedly pushed first years around, hit their heads and hit them with their fists. The Prim of Huis Marais at the time, Derek Kahts, stated that he was unaware of the mentioned incidents. He said none of the first years reported these incidents.
2016 – “Majuba in hot water”
In April 2016, sexually explicit and derogatory posters were displayed at Majuba. One of the posters, which promoted a social event with a women’s residence, Irene, had the image of two animated lions playing with each other. The caption read “Sadly I know what comes next”, followed by an image of two lions mating.
Another poster advertised “Quadlympics”. This social event was to be hosted by Lydia, another women’s residence. This poster was captioned “Any hole is my goal”.
According to Majuba’s head at the time, the posters were made by a first-year student on the social committee. Apparently, the posters were taken down the moment it was seen by a HK member. Hein Steggman, Prim of Majuba in 2016, admitted that the posters were degrading towards women. He stated that action must be taken to evaluate the core values of the men in the residence.
According to Prof Amanda Gouws, a lecturer in political science, “this is what rape culture means” and these are the actions that lead to the normalisation of rape and sexual assault.
2020 – “The Whistle Blows for the Wild Willows”
In February last year, Wilgenhof men’s residence came under fire for the distribution of an alleged homophobic post on social media. First years in Wilgenhof posted an Instagram Story of a fellow student in response to the suspension of certain welcoming practices at Wilgenhof.
The picture of the student was captioned, “When you want to take our O-Week away because you were accidentally placed in a male residence in first year”.
The student was seen as a queer leader on campus. The HK were temporarily expelled from their duties until the investigation had been completed. In the end, no student was held accountable for the incident. The reasoning was that the relevant Instagram account was an open account and the login details were in the description of the account.
This lead to a protest planned by the QueerUS Society. Protestors marched to Wilgenhof but received no answer. Then they marched to Admin A where they knew Prof Wim de Villiers, the Rector, and Mr Alan Winde, the Western Cape Premier, would be present.