ActionSA Welcomes Investigation into Wilgenhof Residence, Calls for Accountability

ActionSA is deeply concerned by the revelation of the “strafkamer” at Wilgenhof, a Stellenbosch University men’s residence.

We welcome the confirmation from Student Representative Council (SRC) President, Phiwokuhle Qabaka, that a panel will investigate the matter, but this must result in accountability for those who failed to safeguard students and ensure an inclusive residential culture.

The images released by News24 depict disturbing scenes of potential instances of sexual assault and physical abuse. Such practices have no place on university campuses, which should be a safe and respectful environment for all students.

Of greatest concern is that the SRC was made aware of the allegations in 2020 yet failed to take the appropriate action. The University management and the SRC have an obligation to ensure that no students are subjected to dehumanising or abusive behaviour. It failed to do so. Within the residence itself there appears to be a breakdown of the duty of care by the leadership. As such in addition to the investigation into Wilgenhof, ActionSA thus calls for a comprehensive investigation into all residences and their institutional culture.

Importantly, these investigations must result in accountability, especially for those who knowingly allowed abusive practices to proceed under their watch. There is a clear need for university management to demonstrate a commitment to eradicating any abhorrent and dehumanising practices that persist. The fact that the practices at Wilgenhof took place despite the university’s stated commitment to institutional reform demonstrates that these efforts have been inadequate.

ActionSA will continue to monitor the situation in Stellenbosch. We remain committed to ensuring that instances of sexual assault and racism are eradicated from all university campuses. Universities have an obligation to promote an inclusive and supportive environment for students and preventing a culture of discrimination from finding expression on their campuses.