People who work to reconcile communities, to bring about change and transformation, need to do more than get people to sit and talk. They need to go on and make something work afterwards, said the former UFS Dean of Student Affairs Dr Rudi Buys.
Dr Buys launched his book, Brugbouers ‑ Die Reitz-video en die pad na versoening, on the Bloemfontein Campus of the University of the Free State (UFS).
Challenging peace, bringing people together
“Bridge-builders bring people together and drive forward a process that challenges peace,” said Dr Buys.
The book talks about the 2008 controversial Reitz-video that surfaced at the UFS when white male students demeaned and humiliated five black university workers in 2007 at a campus residence. The degrading treatment of the workers, recorded on film, led to racial conflicts at UFS and condemnation worldwide.
At the time Dr Buys was approached as a reconciliation consultant and later became the Dean of Student Affairs.
“It is my picture,” says former dean of students
The book tells the stories of four student leaders during the turbulent time that followed. Dr Buys said he added his own story to these, explaining what his process was as an Afrikaner who was challenged by the events. “It is my picture and what I experienced while I was part of the UFS and the process here at the time.”
He said the book was not an analysis of what happened.
Dr Buys said one of the things that stood out from the experiences of the student leaders was that their internal struggles with issues of racism were more similar than different. “The world would have us believe that it is something different.”
“Change will not come in one generation”
Taking part in the discussion, UFS Rector and Vice-Chancellor Prof Francis Petersen, indicated that the team who led the earlier process of transformation and integration had done excellent work. However, he warned that nobody should have the illusion that was enough. He said in a society where issues were profoundly entrenched, change would not come in one generation.
Prof Petersen said initiatives such as the constant debates, dialogues and conversations at student level and the current Thought Leadership Series were essential. “More of these engagements should happen,” Prof Petersen said.
Source University of the Free State