Redress and Transformation are still too slow at Stellenbosch University

Stellenbosch University has launched a “rebranding period” and it should be used appropriately: to decolonise and transform the institution.

Luke Waltham

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Open Stellenbosch was a movement in 2015 which called for transformation at SU. Their efforts lead to SU becoming a dual medium institution. Credits: eNCA.

Following the Constitutional Courts ruling on the 2016 Language Policy of Stellenbosch University, which it made at the end of 2019, it is important to adhere to the transformative process of redress by ensuring that Stellenbosch truly does become an African university. The university is also currently going through a “rebranding process”, and therefore, there are a number of approaches that the university should consider taking in order to achieve a true transformative SU.

In both 2018 and 2019, the university did speed up a “redress” programme by introducing conversations at faculties, as well as erecting the bronze statue circle of formidable womxn, and the maps of areas of Stellenbosch outside the university library, on the Rooi Plein. In addition to this, the university has inscripted an array of African languages and sign languages on certain benches across campus.

However, this should only be regarded as “aesthetic redress”. It is important to note that this should be acknowledged, but much more needs to take place. A more impactful form of “aesthetic redress” to consider is the renaming building names of the institution. It has been long criticised that some buildings are named after white men who were apartheid apologists or, even worse, supporters of the apartheid regime.

The university allegedly has a task team that was formed to consider renaming buildings. However, this task team was supposed to have been in operation since 2016, so little is known about what they have achieved in the last 3–4 years. A building name that needs to change immediately, is Wilcocks. The man played a big role in supervising and assisting Hendrik Verwoerd with his apartheid blueprints. The only building that was renamed was the Equality Unit building, which is now called Simon Nkoli, an anti-apartheid and queer rights activist.

It is understandable that the university cannot simply change the names of buildings that were donated by alumni, but they should be able to change the…

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Luke Waltham

Luke Waltham is a BA Law Graduate. He is a BA Honours student and has been an activist for transformation, social justice and human rights. #BTSARMY