The dark side of Stellenbosch University
A surprise that was never a surprise in the Wilgenhof men’s residence
To Stellenbosch, where the streets are shaded by big old oaks and where the university is grappling with a scandal involving secret alleged punishment rooms at Wilgenhof men’s residence.
Officials broke down the doors of two always-locked rooms at the res after a tip-off from a student.
Inside they found walls covered in graffiti, Ku Klux Klan-style hoods and a foul concoction of linseed oil and crystals. They also seized photographs of apparent initiation ceremonies going back decades and — holy grail! — a written account of ceremonies and crude sketches depicting sexual assault.
The university said the rooms were discovered during a “surprise audit”.
Tricky word, surprise.
Sun Tzu, the great Chinese general, liked the word a lot. “Victory is gained by surprise,” he wrote.
Yet the university is asking an apparently gullible public to believe that it had no idea what was going on late in the night at Wilgenhof, despite an essay by a former student published in March 2020.
The writer, Paul Joubert, described in graphic detail the Klan-style hoods, the midnight beatings, the homophobia, the punishment PT, the shadowy “Nagligte” who were given the task of keeping discipline in the res.
Apparently the university “engaged” with students that same March and … surprise! Here we are, four years later, and the university generals are wading their way through an ambush which, it might be said, they set for themselves.
That bad things happen in the small hours in places steeped in “tradition” comes as no surprise to anyone who endured boarding school, the army or, as it happens, the men’s residences of certain universities.
Most people survive, but some don’t. And what of the survivors? Well, off to the company boardroom for some where they bring some of those dark, hard-learned lessons with them. Surprise!
Would you like to comment on this article?
Sign up (it's quick and free) or sign in now.
Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.