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Four S. Africans to pay fine for racist video

Four white South African men reached a deal on Wednesday to pay fines for making a video showing elderly black cleaners being humiliated, including by drinking what was apparently urine-tainted soup.
Image: South African former University students appear in court on charges of crimen injuria
South African former university students, from left, Johnny Roberts, Schalk van der Merwe, RC Malherbe and Danie Grobler pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges of humiliating black housekeepers in a video.Libuseng Nyaka / AFP - Getty Images
/ Source: Reuters

Four white South African men reached a deal on Wednesday to pay fines for making a video showing elderly black cleaners being humiliated, including by drinking what was purported to be urine-tainted soup.

The video shot by the four former students at the University of the Free State in a conservative Afrikaner farming region came to light about two years ago, sparking outrage in a country working to heal the wounds of its apartheid past.

The four pleaded guilty in a Bloemfontein court on Tuesday, asking for forgiveness from the victims who worked at a university dormitory.

"They have agreed to a fine but they have not agreed to an amount," Mothusi Lepheana, head of the Free State Human Rights Commission, told Reuters by telephone from the court, about 230 miles southwest of Johannesburg.

The defendants were seeking fines of 5,000 rand ($680) each while the state was seeking 15,000 rand. The court was expected to announce its decision on Friday, legal officials said.

"They didn't consider jail time. It was not raised by the state or anybody," Lepheana said.

The video showed the four women and one man running a race barefoot while wearing their cleaning uniforms and being taken to a bar where they drank alcohol and danced to Afrikaans music in what was portrayed as an initiation ceremony.

The video also showed one student urinating into a container of soup placed on a toilet seat. He said: "This is the final ingredient," before heating the soup in a microwave oven and giving it to the elderly cleaners.

A lawyer for the defendants said that what appeared to be urine was juice being squeezed from a bottle that could not be seen on camera.

The video's discovery in 2008 led to protests on campus and scuffles with riot police. One of the country's biggest dailies, the Star, at the time dubbed it "the apartheid video."

University officials had asked for people to move on, saying the four had shown genuine contrition and allowing the case to linger would deepen the humiliation of the victims.

Some whites in the region had rallied behind the students, saying they should not be punished for what was a common prank and protested at the school's desegregation policies.