A plaque commemoraring dr. H.F. Verwoerd, the former South African prime minister and once a professor of sociology at the university, was removed yesterday after pressure from black political groups. One such radical group, Open Stellenbosch, is composed of the same people who threw human excrement at statues of whites at the University of Cape Town.
The removal ceremony took place at the Accounting and Statistics Building, formerly the HF Verwoerd building, and was attended by Verwoerd’s grandson, Wilhelm Verwoerd.
Verwoerd, who spoke of his own experiences in confronting his grandfather’s actions, said he undertook a “journey of the heart”.
He told the crowd he had advocated in the 1990s that names associated with apartheid should no longer be allowed, which was met with applause.
Ironically, it had been black South Africans who taught him to heal. “How do I listen, really listen, to the heartbeat of untransformed pain and the anger of mostly black citizens? I was told, ‘In our culture, we respect our ancestors’,” he said. He was taught that to respect his grandfather as a political leader rubbed salt into the wounds
The removal of plaque played a “small but significant healing role” in South Africa.
The event was also attended by Rhodes Must Fall member Chumani Maxwele, who threw the excrement at the statue of Cecil John Rhodes. He saw the removal of the plaque as “equal to the removal” of UCT’s Cecil John Rhodes statue. It showed “the students are willing to do what it takes to make sure the country becomes united”.
Former Stellenbosch student Jenashton January said the removal was long overdue. ” I hope this is the beginning of real transformation.”