A government minister in South Africa speaks out against racism in higher education after a spate of 'blackface' controversies
A South African minister has described a univeristy in the country as an "apartheid institution" after a series of race-related scandals at schools
Blade Nzimande, minister of higher education and training, said the North-West University (NWU) in Potchefstroom "remains fundamentally an apartheid institution, if not an enclave in urgent need of transformation".
His comments came as he presented the results of an investigation launched after a video emerged of NWU students performing a Nazi-style salute.
The minister said initiation rituals at the university were designed to "violate human rights and dehumanize first-year students". Anyone who is not white, or Afrikaans, is a target, he said.
"A culture of fear exists at the institution and people do not talk freely for fear of victimization," Mr Nzimande added.
The controversial assessment comes just days after two students at Stellenbosch University near Cape Town painted their faces dark brown and dressed up as tennis stars Serena and Venus Williams.
Pictures of the pair spread on social media and sparked a nationwide debate on racism in South Africa's higher education system. The students have since apologised.
"We would like to reassure you that there was absolutely no malicious or racial intent in what we did, it was an error in judgement on all our behalves, and we regret this," said Mark Burman and Ross Bartlett in a statement.
"This was not us dressing as a ‘blackface minstrel’, in the sense of theatrical makeup used to perpetuate racial stereotypes and caricatures," said the men.
"This was simply us dressing up as two successful sporting siblings, as authentically as possible."
Earlier this month, two University of Pretoria students were also subject to an investigation after dressing up as domestic workers and painting their face black. The students were temporarily suspended.