Members of the young communist league at UCT are taking fellow students and staff to the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) accusing them of re-opening “deep wounds of the past”.

The Young Communist League of South Africa (YCLSA) lodged a complaint against the Varsity newspaper to the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) last week.

Varsity published a poll on April 2 with the headline “UCT votes on the most attractive race” showing “the Caucasian race” as the most attractive.

YCLSA wrote they were “shocked and disgusted” by the survey as they (YCLSA) are working towards a non-racial South Africa in which, “deep wounds of the past are not easily forgotten”.

“UCT is a microcosm of the broader Cape Town which remains a racist city with Apartheid nostalgia,” read the statement. The YCLSA said UCT and Cape Town have fostered an environment that makes racists feel safe.

UCT lecturer and Daily Maverick columnist Jacques Rousseau said the Varsity article was “silly” but what was even “sillier” was the YCLSA going to report the article to the SAHRC.

Writing on the Synapses website, Rousseau said the article was an opinion piece and reported on a straw poll.

The Wits SRC acting president, Tokelo Nhlapo, said: “He (Rousseau) is being silly. It (SA) is a constitutional democracy and the YCLSA feels their rights have been violated. It is silly for him as a white political lecturer to say someone black can’t take this matter forward.”

The survey was presented as “quasi-scientific” with the author Qamran Tabo stating she surveyed 60 people, 10 from each of the following racial groups: white, coloured (culturally), Indian, East Asian, biracial and African. Her findings suggested that the most attractive race was Caucasian at 38%; Coloured (culturally) at 19%, Indian 14%; 11% Asian; 10% Mixed (biracial) and Black at a low (8%).

She concluded her “study” by suggesting that dating a white person was perceived as being “the ultimate status symbol” for many people of colour and that bagging a white partner was an achievement.

The YCLSA statement said the survey was encouraging the idea of one race being perceived as the “jewel” of all others.

SAHRC has agreed to investigate the complaint against  Varsity. “We will engage with the university (UCT) and the newspaper and provide them with the opportunity to respond to the allegations and then depending on that process, we will decide on the suitable way forward,” said Western Cape HRC manager, Melanie Dugmore.

Witsies were interviewed this week about the Varsity article. Their reactions are on the Vox Pop on this page.

Dr Kevin Whitehead (Wits Psychology) analyses survey