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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

South Africa 'racist video' trial postponed

A protest against an apparently racist video shot at a university in Bloemfontein, South Africa, on Wednesday
The video sparked student protests on campus

The case against four white former students in South Africa who allegedly forced black campus employees to eat urine-soaked food has been postponed.

A video of the incident surfaced in 2008 and they are accused of wilfully harming the employees' dignity through the use of racial gestures.

The footage caused a national outcry at the time and anti-racism protests.

The postponement until October has been allowed so lawyers for the accused can try for an out-of-court settlement.

Bloemfontein District Court spokesperson Medupi Simasiku told the BBC that the court to allow the lawyers to make submission to the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) to reconsider prosecuting the former students.

He said if the DPP grants their request the matter would be settled outside court.

"The university and the workers would have to find an alternative resolution to the situation," he said.

But if the trial begins on 26 October and the former University of Free State students are found guilty they face either a fine or a suspended sentence, Mr Simasiku explained.


Mr Simasiku said three of the four ex-students were in court and all five of the complainants.


In the video the campus employees - four women and a man - were allegedly forced to down full bottles of beer and perform athletic tasks

But it is the final extract of the film that most angered members of the public.

It shows a white male urinating on food, and then shouting "Take! Take!" in Afrikaans - apparently forcing the campus employees to eat the dirty food, and causing them to vomit.

The video is believed to have been recorded in 2007 in protest against the university's plans to integrate black and white students in the same residences the following year.

Lawyers for two of the students down played the incident last year saying the video was "no more than play-acting".

Correspondents say the University of Free State, which has predominantly white students, has encountered difficulties trying to integrate people from other racial groups.

At the time the footage emerged, the institution's rector, Professor Frederick Fourie, expressed shock at the video and strongly condemned it.

Black students and workers at the university staged protests calling for the students' expulsion.

Last year, the South African Institute of Race Relations expressed concern that the incident could threaten general improvements in race relations since the end of apartheid in 1994.

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