Rhodes and NMU on 'shutdown' after alleged student rapes
While Rhodes University has been left reeling by the death of Khensani Maseko‚ students at the nearby Nelson Mandela University (NMU) have forced a suspension of lectures following the rape of a student over the weekend.
The Student Representative Council (SRC) at Rhodes on Monday led an “academic shutdown” on campus following reports that Maseko had committed suicide after she had been raped.
The council said in a statement that it was informed on Saturday about the death of Khensani Maseko‚ a third-year BA student‚ at her Johannesburg home on Friday.
“She had exceptional leadership qualities. She was not a conformist and she believed in what is right‚ not what she was told was right‚” said Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) Student Command member Abongile James.
James was part of the team that organised the academic shutdown on Monday.
She described Maseko‚ a third-year law student‚ as a selfless person who was passionate about women and the challenges they faced. “She always had women’s interests at heart. She was all about women empowerment. She helped in establishing the Ubuntu fund‚ which looks after the needs of disadvantaged students.”
Maseko‚ according to James‚ was not a conformist and stuck to her word. “She was always trying to make a change - not only on campus but in the Grahamstown community.”
Maseko died two months after she was allegedly raped by a fellow student on campus.
“The news of her passing has been received with great shock and sadness by the entire student body. As such‚ the student body is experiencing deep levels of grief and anger. In light of these events and in honour of her life‚ the SRC is launching a formal academic shutdown‚” said the SRC.
In a social media post‚ the council’s Dingaan Booi said: “It is with the greatest sadness that the Rhodes University Independent Electoral Board mourns the loss of one of our own. Miss Khensani Maseko was a valued member of our team‚ serving the student body of Rhodes University selflessly as our secretary. As such the IEB has taken the decision to postpone election activities. Revised dates will be released soon.”
A former Rhodes University student and a friend of Maseko's‚ Siya Nyulu‚ said he met Maseko in 2015 when she arrived at the institution.
“Khensani was a very caring and loving person. She was involved in student politics‚” said Nyulu.
He said he was aware of the allegations that Maseko was raped. “There are allegations that she was raped by a fellow student on campus.”
In one of her recent social media posts‚ Maseko wrote: “When people ask for help‚ help them”.
On Instagram‚ she wrote: “No one deserves to be raped.”
Rhodes University vice-chancellor Sizwe Mabizela was quoted on the student-run Oppidan Press’s Twitter page as saying during a meeting with students on Monday: “We have decided that we will approach the national prosecutor and SAPS to perform a full investigation into Khensani’s death.”
He was also quoted as saying the institution will issue a notice to suspend the alleged perpetrator.
Student platform Activate stated that during the meeting with management‚ students asked “why the university has not dealt with the existing 92 recommendations from the task team on sexual violence.”
Tributes are pouring in on social media for Maseko‚ who called herself “Lady of Justice”.
Khensani Maseko took her own life yesterday because she was RAPED. An entire human being waking up and deciding that it's her last day on earth because a man thought he had ownership to her womanhood. Men are fuckin disgusting maan 😷💔💔— Money Calls Me Mommy (@Dineo_Em) August 4, 2018
1st year 2015 we knew Khensani at Rhodes as the confident girl w/ a MacBook. You exuded so much confidence & as intimidating as it was, we were all drawn to your light. You were passionate & fierce. You were an amazing soul Ma’ Maseko. Rest In Peace Khensani ❤️ pic.twitter.com/ToevCXHZ8D— The Responsible Rebel (@tebatso_molapo) August 4, 2018
You don't need to know Khensani Maseko personally to be impacted by her passing...her passing is so disturbing💔— Kgošigadi Tsholo (@Tsholo_Ramdee) August 5, 2018
We are supposed to be celebrating women this month but instead we are mourning one of our own . Deeply saddened by the passing of Khensani Maseko I pray the Lord comforts her family through this terribly difficult heartbreaking time . May your soul RIP baby girl 💔— Global Citizen (@ThatGiirlRumbie) August 4, 2018
Meanwhile‚ Nelson Mandela University students also staged a protest on the Port Elizabeth campus on Monday following an alleged rape over the weekend.
The university said it was looking into the matter. “Nelson Mandela University is looking into a reported sexual assault incident on campus over the weekend‚” they said in a Facebook post.
“While a criminal charge was opened against the alleged perpetrator‚ who is also a student‚ with the South African Police Service‚ the university is gathering all the necessary information to pursue concurrent internal disciplinary action.
“The university is indeed troubled by reported incidents of rape and/or sexual assault among students‚ who share communal spaces on campus.”