A bursary fund for descendants of people who were forcibly removed from Die Vlakte, an area close to the town centre of Stellenbosch, in the 1960s, was established this week.
Prof Wim de Villiers, Rector and Vice-Chancellor of Stellenbosch University, announced the bursary at his inauguration last week (29 April 2015) while the University's management met this week to determine the initial criteria.
"The bursary is in direct response to students calling for the creation of such a bursary. It also serves as a further sign of redress the University committed itself to at the turn of the century," Prof De Villiers said. "Last year, Stellenbosch University paid out R588 million in bursaries and loans to the 37% of our students in need of financial assistance. Of this amount, 55% went to black, coloured and Indian students based on merit and financial need."
Among others, academic faculties at the University, already earmarked nearly R350 000 for the bursary.
Criteria for the bursary fund are currently being finalised, but bursaries will be made available to undergraduate students for the normal duration of a degree programme up to the maximum of four years. Applicants who are no longer living in the Stellenbosch area but who can give proof of their parents or grandparents being affected by the evictions, will also be considered. Community leaders will also be requested to form part of the panel that will consider applications.
The bursary creates, apart from the existing recruitment bursaries available to coloured, black and Indian students, new opportunities to local residents to further their studies at the University.
- The public can also contribute to the bursary. Liaise with Lorenza George at tel 021 808 3090 or via e-mail at email@example.com for more information.
MORE INFORMATION ON DIE VLAKTE, THE UNIVERSITY'S MEMORY ROOM AND THE OLD LÜCKHOFF SCHOOL
Die Vlakte was declared a white group area on 25 September 1964 in terms of the Group Areas Act of 1950. Besides the 3 700 coloured residents, six schools, four churches, a mosque, a cinema and 10 business enterprises were affected by the forced removals that followed. As an institution, the University did not protest against the evictions at the time and in general the university authorities went along with the government policy.
For decades, the removals from the Die Vlakte, and the Battle of Andringa Street (info below) were not part of the official history of Stellenbosch and were only placed on record with the publication of In ons Bloed (2006) and Nog altyd hier gewees: Die storie van ŉ Stellenbosse gemeenskap (2007) – publications on the history of the area and supported by the University.
In 2013, the University opened a Memory Room in the Wilcocks Building as a gesture of reconciliation between Stellenbosch University and the town's coloured community (video here and article). The Room is a permanent contemporary exhibition space depicting the suppressed history of people of Die Vlakte – as the area in the Stellenbosch town centre demarcated by Muller Street, Ryneveld Street, Banghoek Road, Smuts Street, Merriman Avenue and Bird Street was known in the 20th century – and the Battle of Andringa Street.
The brainchild of the late Prof Russel Botman, the then Rector and Vice-Chancellor of Stellenbosch University, the Memory Room originated from the apology (available here) in 2012 offered by student leaders in Dagbreek men's residence for the role they played in the Battle of Andringa Street (when white students attacked Coloured residents of the adjacent Vlakte and damaged their residences in 1940) and the subsequent meeting between students and former residents of Andringa Street at Botman's house. "It's a place where we can reflect on the past, and hopefully learn to reconcile with one another. Reconciliation is born of memory and cannot happen if there is denial and amnesia," Prof Botman said at the time of the opening.
Forced removals from Die Vlakte under the Group Areas Act also resulted in the Lückhoff School in Banghoek Road being given to the University. The Lückhoff School has since been rededicated to the local community (in 2007) and houses various community organisations in addition to the University's Community Interaction division. In 2008 and 2009 a permanent photo exhibition was installed in the building to give recognition to old boys and girls of the school who had become prominent role players in South African society.
Photo: Later Prof Russel Botman, Rector and Vice-Chancellor of Stellenbosch University, with Mr John Abels and Mrs Sybil Kannemeyer, residents of Idas Valley, at the opening of the Memory Room in 2013. Photographer: Anton Jordaan.