May 11, 2017 / 1:51 PM / 6 months ago

South African students suspended over Nazi-inspired posters

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - Three South African students were suspended on Thursday on suspicion of putting up Nazi-inspired posters at a university, at a time of growing tension in race relations.

FILE PHOTO: Students take part in a protest at South Africa's Stellenbosch University in Stellenbosch, September 1, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings/File Photo

Stellenbosch University said the images, which copied Nazi youth movement posters without their swastika flags, contained “highly offensive references to Nazi propaganda and Neo-Nazism” and were in breach of the university’s policies on harassment and discrimination.

The posters for an “Anglo-Afrikaner student” event appeared on Tuesday and were taken down on Wednesday. Under the motto “Fight for Stellenbosch” in English and Afrikaans, one series showed a blond brown-shirted man and another a young woman with long blond braids.

“I have decided to suspend the three students suspected of misconduct while disciplinary proceedings are ongoing,” said Wim de Villiers, rector and vice chancellor at the university, who has described the posters as “deliberate mischief-making”.

Scores of mainly black students and some academics held a meeting on Thursday to condemn the posters publicly, a member of the apolitical Student Representative Council said.

“Racism is still very much alive, and the posters just showed us once again,” said council spokesman Kamva Somdyala.

Two years ago, the same university was rocked by protests by black students against teaching in Afrikaans, a language widely identified with apartheid.

The campus is moving away from its whites-only roots and its racial composition today better reflects the country’s mixed demographics. Black, coloured and Asian students make up around a third of the university’s population compared to only a few non-whites in 1990. It teaches in English and Afrikaans.

Racial tensions have risen in South Africa in recent months. In April, two white farmers were arrested on suspicion of murdering a black youth in a farming community in the North West province.

In November, two white men were in court to face charges of assault and kidnapping after a video showed them forcing a wailing black man into a coffin in Mpumalanga province.

Their trial is set to start in June.

Reporting by Wendell Roelf; Editing by James Macharia and Mark Trevelyan

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