Panel to investigate ‘horrific departure’ at Wilgenhof

Henry

Stellenbosch University (SU) is putting together a panel of experts to investigate “disturbing articles” found in two rooms in the Wilgenhof men’s dormitory.

Prof. Wim de Villiers, rector and vice-chancellor of SU, assured staff and students in a video message late on Friday afternoon that the incident is being treated with the necessary seriousness.

“You may have already seen media reports and our statement about certain articles that were found in two locked rooms in Wilgenhof men’s dormitory during an audit of spaces and facilities.

“The articles were removed and placed in safekeeping, while the rooms were repainted. These rooms will now be used for their original purpose,” said De Villiers.

News24 reported that graphic images, sketches and written descriptions of “punishment” inflicted in this residence are among the items found behind the locked doors of Wilgenhof residence. Reference was also made to the “horrific abuse” to which some of the residents were subjected.

De Villiers says that the items that have been removed and about which reports and photos have been circulated in the media, “are at first glance very disturbing”. “That is why the university is in the final phase of putting together a panel, consisting of the deputy registrar of oversight management, ethics and compliance, an experienced independent advocate from the Cape Bar Council and a former executive university management member in higher education to study the articles and the to advise the university on what the appropriate next steps should be.”

Photos that News24 received from a reliable source show some of the contents of the rooms in the residence. Although it is not clear when some of the photos were taken or how old some of the items are, it nevertheless painted a dark picture.

There were photos, names, signatures and descriptions with the exact dates of what happened in the room and when.

According to De Villiers, the panel was told to submit the report by the end of February. “We are committed to taking action after receiving the report. As rector of the institution, I want to assure all our students, staff and parents that we treat the matter with the seriousness it deserves, within the approved policies and practices of our institution.”

He further says that the university appreciates liaison with the house committee of Wilgenhof, as well as the Wilgenhofbond’s offer to provide historical context where necessary. “Now let’s allow the panel to do its job and help in the process to become the welcoming and inclusive center we all strive for.”

RNews approached several former residents for comment about the items and their purpose, but the requests were repeatedly firmly turned down.

“It’s safer that way,” said one of the former residents.