Behind the Luister film
Dan Corder, Markus Hegewisch, Declan Manca and Eric Mulder are the four young white men who collaborated with “Open Stellenbosch‘, to expose the institutional racism and societal prejudice within Stellenbosch University. 32 students were interviewed and the testimonies shared of their lived experiences of racism, discrimination, exclusion and violence that continue at Stellenbosch University after 21 years of democracy.
What is interesting is that the interviewees are first point out the obvious controversy in that they fall under ‘white privilege’. However, they are at the forefront of exposing racism and promoting transformation for those of underprivileged classification. In a recent interview with News24, Dan Corder was faced with this exact question and explored the notion of appropriateness and how their whiteness may compromise the films validity. Corder made it clear that no one else was willing or proactive enough to embark on making such a film. They felt that society’s prejudices were unjust and wanted to use their privilege and socially normative race to help make people aware.
‘Open Stellenbosch’ has been criticised for not fulfilling their structure as a forum and social platform designed for voicing concerns. In response to the film, Stellenbosch University released this statement saying; “The Management of Stellenbosch University has thoroughly taken note of the Luister video that was distributed via social media.” – Prof Wim de Villiers. The response then goes on to defend the accusations made against the management and they make their case as to what steps the University is taking to combat the culture of racism, such as; created a bursary fund for descendants of forcibly removed inhabitants of Die Vlakte and announced the establishment of a Transformation Office and Transformation Committee.
Many say the statement was predictable and defensive; it would seem saving their corporate image is more important than actually addressing the issues that were being presented. Their response seems less proactive and more reactionary. In the above-mentioned interview with Dan Corder, he goes on to say that the film was meant to gain the attention from the management and wider demographic and draw focus to the ignored issues of racial conflict and prejudice. The university chose to reciprocate with a damage-control-type response that neither accepts the accusations nor actively disagrees with the movement, as to not cause any more conflict. Essentially, it would seem that they just wanted the issue to go away with passive acknowledgment.
Elsenburg Agricultural Institute Protest Controvsery
After the film was released, a violent scuffle broke out at Elsenburg Agricultural Institute near Stellenbosch during which the BAagri students were attacked with sjamboks. Social media users speculated one of the Luister interviewees was involved. A screenshot had also been posted on Twitter by Eikestadnuus, which allegedly showed a member of Open Stellenbosch waving a sjambok at an Elsenburg student. The Open Stellenbosch member was the opening interviewee in Luister.
Ijeoma Opara, speaking on behalf of Open Stellenbosch, confirmed that the male student was indeed a member of the movement. It was, however, confirmed by both the university and the committee that Elsenberg was a Western Cape government institution and thus the university could not intervene. Following the release of the confirmation, there was no further comment on why the interviewee was involved and the full matter behind the protest.
What this means for the credibility of the Luister film and its’ reputation
Owing to Elsenburg not being associated with Stellebosch University, and the young interviewee involved was acting in a politic group capacity and not as a representative of ‘Open Stellenbosch’ it would seem the film still holds its’ credibility. However, the young interviewee’s association with the Luister film wounds one of the themes of protest against violence. Overall, I think the controversy demonstrates the unrest and anger felt amongst students, both white and black.