Whites-only grant challenged

June 25, 2004

The South African government has launched a legal challenge against a 1920 trust that grants scholarships only to white male Christian students of the University of Cape Town.

It will argue that the conditions are discriminatory and therefore unconstitutional.

The university is supporting the state lawsuit, which registrar Hugh Amoore believes could be an important test case because "other bursaries or awards with conditions that are repugnant to the constitution could be dealt with in a similar way if this application succeeds".

In 1920, Edmund Scarbrow ordered that on his death his estate should be placed in trust and used to fund scholarships for males "of European descent, gentile (ie non-Jew) and with limited or no means".

The education department action seeks to change the conditions of the will that set up the Scarbrow Bursary Fund Testamentary Trust. It will be the first time South Africa's post-apartheid constitution is used to challenge a will or a case involving a trust.

The trust intends to defend the case, which is awaiting a court date.

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