are 'initiation' victims at Bloemfontein Free State University where Reitz Four tormented black workers
(4)Tweet this (6)Comments (0) David Smith guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 3 August 2010 18.10 BST Article historyA race row has erupted in South Africa after the emergence of another humiliating 'initiation' video - this time with white students as the victims.
The incident happened at Free State University in Bloemfontein, also the scene of a notorious internet video in which black workers were tormented by white students dubbed the Reitz Four.
White political leaders accused the university of "double standards" in its reaction to the two cases, reviving debate about race relations in a nation that appeared united during the football World Cup.
The new video, which quickly spread on the web, shows four white students at Villa Bravado, a predominantly black men's hall of residence, having water thrown at them by black students.
The white students are also forced to stand on one leg and crawl around in the water on the floor as watching students laugh and cheer.
Free State University said the initiation practices happened last September and October; it learned of them earlier this year "with great dismay".
"These events took place despite the comprehensive amount of support and assistance regarding transformation which is continuously provided to students in residences," the university said in a statement.
Disciplinary action had been taken, it added, with the student head immediately suspended from resident committee management.
But it denied the video was racially motivated revenge for the infamous Reitz Four incident.
It said: "The UFS is convinced that the event was not an incident where black students acted against white students, because black members of the residence committee had undergone the same initiation exercise earlier.
"The misconduct was a continuation of a forbidden initiation practice that is not allowed at the UFS."
The case of the Reitz Four – named after a hall of residence at the university – plunged South African race relations into crisis when a video showed five black workers being forced to eat food that appeared to be soaked in urine. Last week, five white former students were fined R20,000 (£1,726) each for illegally and deliberately injuring the workers' dignity.
Today Freedom Front Plus, a political party that represents South Africa's Afrikaner population, questioned why the university had waited for the video to spread before going public.
"The university is using double standards when you look at the way they reacted to the first case and the second case," said its leader, Pieter Mulder.
"They said there would be no more initiation ceremonies and they would have transparency. But this happened last October and only emerged yesterday. That's not transparency."
He also accused the university of being more lenient towards the black perpetrators than their white counterparts, saying: "The first case was handled differently."
Frans Cronje, deputy chief executive of the South African Institute of Race Relations, said: "It's inevitable that people are going to draw comparisons between this and the Reitz kids. But there's a different power relationship here: in most respects these students are equals, and it's not master and servant.
"The real problem lies in the fact that the university hasn't stamped out initiation practices on the campus completely as Prof Jansen [the vice-chancellor] said would be done. They may well be right in saying there is no racial element, but the impression created will inevitably be one of double standards. You shouldn't put black and white students together in a situation where politicians will make capital out of it."
But he denied racial harmony was seriously threatened, adding: "We'll go through a rumpus for a while but actually this is 10 students fooling around." Jonathan Jansen, the university's first black vice-chancellor, said: "I expect that these events were the last of students exercising forbidden initiation practices. I strongly wish to express the loathing that my management and myself have for any form of forbidden initiation practice."