Rhodes University Shut Down After Student Takes Her Life

By Lucas Nowicki

On Monday the Vice Chancellor of Rhodes University, Dr Sizwe Mabizela, announced a two-day suspension of all academic activities. This comes after Khensani Maseko, a student, took her own life on Friday, 3 August.

On Sunday evening, the Student Representative Council circulated a statement, calling for a “formal academic shutdown” in honour of Maseko.

The SRC believes Maseko was raped and this precipitated the taking of her own life.

On Monday morning hundreds of students gathered outside the Theatre Café before marching to the main administration building. SRC president Nhlakanipho Mahlangu, who led the march, said the the protest was “to mourn Khensani and take a stand against rape culture”.

khensanni

Maseko was a third-year law and politics student. She represented Rhodes as Miss Varsity Shield in 2017; was a member of the SRC in 2016; and an active member of the Economic Freedom Fighters’ Student Command.

 Many of the staff and students gathered outside the administration buildings were angry. They feel the university had done too little to combat rape within the university since students in 2016 posted on social media the #RU Reference list, a list of alleged rapists.

After weeks of protest following the list, the university and SRC formed a task team. “The task team’s report was finalised in December 2016,” said Professor Philip Machanick at the mass gathering on Monday. “If we had implemented this stuff in 2017 we would have been ahead of the MeToo movement.”

In place of academic activities, Tuesday’s programme will include talks, forums and discussions about gender-based violence within the institution.

Mabizela, in response to students questioning, stated that the university was working with SAPS and the National Prosecuting Authority to launch an enquiry into Maseko’s death. He said the alleged rapist had been served with a letter of suspension, while the investigation took place.

On Tuesday, in honour of where Maseko’s journey would have ended at university, students are walking up to Settlers Monument where graduation takes place each year.

Source: allafrica.com

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