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YouTube Video Exposes Racism Among White S. African Students, Sparks Protests

A video circulating on the Internet depicting the humiliation of older black workers by white students has outraged and sickened South Africans. As VOA's Delia Robertson reports from our bureau in Johannesburg, it has already caused protests with more expected.

At first glance the scene seems to be one of normal university residence activity, young male students preparing a not very appetizing meal.

But earlier scenes show the same white young men encouraging older black workers to quickly drink beer, a drink evidently not to the taste of some of the workers. That had been followed by views of the same five workers, four female and one male, running races and playing rugby - the viewer is told they are auditioning for a racially integrated rugby team.

Back in the kitchen, the young man preparing the meal carries the bowl into the toilet, where he apparently urinates into the food.

The young man laughs, and then carries the food back into the kitchen, and says that as it is late, there is no time to prepare and cook the food on a barbeque, and that they will instead use the microwave.

Next the viewer is taken to a courtyard, where the workers kneel on the ground around two small trash buckets. They are handed small containers of the contents from the bowl and urged to swallow it.

"Swallow, swallow, swallow, " the young man urges, his voice partly drowning out the gagging and vomiting that follows.

The video was filmed last September, following a decision to racially integrate university residences at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein. The integration decision prompted widespread anger among white students, particularly at the whites-only Reitz male residence where the video was shot.

The video came into the public domain this week, via a jilted girlfriend of one of the men involved. Reaction to it has been swift and widespread.

It has sickened and outraged South Africans from across the spectrum; and caused shock at the apparent depth of racism still so much part of society 14 years after the end of apartheid. The young men involved were all younger than 10 years old in 1994.

Two of the students completed their studies at the end of last year; and the remaining two have been suspended and banned from the university campus.

The South African Human Rights Commission, a constitutionally mandated body, says it will investigate and the National Prosecuting Authority is looking into whether any criminal acts were committed in the production of the video and the treatment of the black workers.

Lawyers for some of the young men say their clients are innocent and that, in fact, no one urinated into the food; and that the scene was faked by squirting liquid from a plastic bottle. Some observers say that even if that is proved to be true, the entire video is a humiliation of the workers.