May 11, 2017 / 1:58 PM / 3 months ago

South African students face disciplining over Nazi-inspired posters

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - Three South African students could be disciplined for placing Nazi-inspired posters at a university rocked by protests two years ago against teaching in Afrikaans, a language widely identified with apartheid.

The posters for an "Anglo-Afrikaner student" event at Stellenbosch University came at a time when several racist incidents have been reported across South Africa, bringing race relations in the country back into the spotlight.

The university said the images, which copied Nazi youth movement posters without their swastika flags, had "highly offensive references to Nazi propaganda and Neo-Nazism".

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. They appeared on Tuesday and were taken down on Wednesday.

"It is safe to say that a disciplinary process could follow," said Martin Viljoen, a spokesman for the university about 50 km (31 miles) north of Cape Town. He gave no details.

Vice Chancellor and Rector Wim de Villiers said on Wednesday that the posters seemed to be "deliberate mischief-making".

Afrikaans, one of the country's 11 official languages, was brought to South Africa by Dutch settlers and is closely identified with the white minority during the apartheid era.

The use of Afrikaans in teaching at Stellenbosch sparked protests by black students in 2015, just as it did during the 1976 Soweto uprising, when police killed at least 69 students protesting against plans to teach them in Afrikaans.

The campus is moving away from its whites-only roots and the racial composition of the campus 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 South African 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.

Reporting by Wendell Roelf; Editing by James Macharia and Tom Heneghan

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