FOUR white South Africans pled guilty on Tuesday to charges of humiliating black housekeepers in a racial abuse video at their former university that drew international outrage.
Magistrate Mziwonke Hinxa said he accepted a guilty plea entered by the accused to the charge of crimen injuria, or seriously impairing another's dignity, committed against the five housekeepers.
"After listening to presentations by both parties, the court has found the accused guilty as charged," Hinxa said, accepting their guilty plea.
Sentencing will be Wednesday over the video, which was made to mock racial integration in student housing. One clip showed a young man apparently urinating into a bowl of stew and then serving it to the housekeepers.
The video sparked an international scandal when it landed on the Internet in February 2008.
In the statement the boys denied urinating on the food, saying: "It was an act meant to look like urine."
They claimed that one woman whom they had known for three years was approached to recruit other participants for the filming of the video.
Mediation efforts had failed to resolve the case, with the housekeepers saying they wanted to pursue a trial against the students. The guilty plea avoided what could have been an emotive trial in a case that shocked South Africa.
Defence lawyer Kemp J Kemp told the court that the students had not intended to humiliate the housekeepers, but later realised they had done just that.
"The accused did not realise the effect of the video and what it would have on the university and the plaintiffs. They now, in retrospect, accept that the use of the workers for the video was insensitive, ill considered and wrong," he said.
The video was shot at a time when the University of Free State was introducing racial integration at student hostels, following decades of race-based hostel allocation.
The students' film ended with the words: "That, at the end of the day, is what we think of integration."
None of the young men -- Johnny Roberts, Schalk van der Merwe, RC Malherbe and Danie Grobler -- are still studying at the university.
The whites-only male hostel where the video was shot was later shut down and eventually re-opened as a diversity centre to address issues of racism, sexism, xenophobia and reconciliation.
In October last year, university rector Jonathan Jansen came under fire when he announced that the institution was withdrawing disciplinary charges against the students, in an attempt to promote reconciliation.
Jansen was heavily criticised for choosing reconciliation over retribution, igniting further debate about the limits of forgiveness in a nation that has already forgiven much of its racist past.
He invited the students to return to campus to finish their studies -- an offer none of them accepted.
Jansen says his act of reconciliation has prevented any new incidents on campus and helped him push a new requirement that black and white students share university housing equally.
According to the university, 64 percent of the students are black and English speaking, while 35 percent is white and speak mostly Afrikaans.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu was one of the few people who supported Jansen's decision.
The five workers have also launched a civil case against the four boys at the Bloemfontein Equality Court. They are each suing them for 1 million rand (136,00 dollars, 105,000 euros). - AFP