Deep division over alleged racial attack at Wits

Wits Vuvuzela has been inundated with reactions to a recent article detailing an alleged racial attack on a Law student. The reactions though, have been divided over the significance of the altercation.

by Anelisa Tuswa

There have been mixed reactions to Wits Vuvuzela’s reporting of an incident in which a fourth-year law student claims she was verbally and physically assaulted by a fellow student. Since the article first appeared last week, Wits Vuvuzela has received over 100 comments via its website and Facebook page.

Sinethemba Memela claimed she was racially assaulted by a fellow student outside a lecture hall following a verbal altercation between the two during the lecture. Memela claimed her alleged aggressor had mocked their lecturer, Dr Malebakeng Forere’s accent. While a number of comments expressed sympathety for Memela and her account of the incident, many were critical of her.

One comment suggested that “we have to question the maturity of her (Memela’s) actions.” Another referred to the incident as a “sob story” and accused Memela of seeking pity.

Another comment read, “Why did you think it was necessary to join someone else’s conversation if you were not part of it in the first place?”

The individual, who did not provide their real name, closed the comment by saying, “I would think Memela was being a bitch by imposing and she is black, not white. If I a black person had called her a black bitch would you all say it was racist? Who are the real racists here?”

Others did not believe the incident was racially motivated. “Molepu” asked why Memela did not complain about being called a “bitch” instead of focusing on race.

Those who supported Memela expressed concern about the incident and its significance for the university. Collen Jaha Raka Kubayi wrote that she cannot find the difference between what happened to Memela and “what happened at the Free State University, when our black mothers were made to eat and drink urine and faeces.”

Nomakwezi Mkunyana-Manqaba said this was “bad and embarrassing” for the Wits community.

Wits university has confirmed that an investigation into the incident is underway but has not released any further information.