Rhodes 'rape list' leads to protesters being arrested

Rhodes 'rape list' leads to protesters being arrested

By Kayla Molander and Greg Roxburgh | GroundUP

Cape Town - At least three protesters have been arrested at Rhodes University for public violence. They were protesting over a list of alleged rapists that was circulated on social media late on Sunday evening, as well as what protesters call the culture of rape at universities.

Video footage of the arrests was posted around 9AM this morning.

Reports of students being pepper sprayed while Rhodes’ management watched, circulated moments before the arrests.

Photo of altercation between police and protester
A Rhodes University staff member is pepper sprayed by a police officer after he joined a protest against rape culture. Photo: Greg Roxburgh

Rhodes management has announced a full academic shut down in light of the police action. Video footage was shared showing Vice Chancellor Dr. Sizwe Mabizela asking police to stop their actions against the protesters, and police continue to shoot rubber bullets at protesters.

This follows two days of protests across campus, including a large one yesterday afternoon, in which students were dancing topless to express their rights over their bodies.

In response to requests from students, a task force is being convened to help address holes in the policy on sexual assault on campus. The announcement was made this morning via email that a meeting for all interested staff and students will be held at 4PM  in the Eden Grove Red lecture theatre. The meeting is expected to be chaired by staff member Thabani Masuku and student Catriona Macleod.

The list of alleged rapists consists of 11 names, and after being re-posted in the popular Rhodes SRC (Student Representative Council) Facebook group at about 8PM on Sunday, a large gathering of students proceeded to the various campus residences of the men named on the list and called for them to face the crowd.

On Sunday, between 10PM and midnight, three of the accused men voluntarily came out to meet the protesters. Witnesses report that none of the accused were manhandled.

According to Catherine Deiner, Rhodes’ Media Relations Officer, management engaged with the students on multiple occasions, and it wasn’t until 8AM on Monday morning that the South African Police Service (SAPS) was able to intervene and remove a single student from the custody of the protesters. The other two men had escaped or run away, and were unharmed. (article continues below)

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During the night a list of demands was given to vice chancellor Sizwe Mabizela on behalf of the protesters, who claim no affiliation to any student organisation. The students also called for a shutdown, which was denied by management. However, the students gathered around  9 am Monday morning, 18 April, at the Drama Department to boycott classes.

Monday Morning Protests
The protesters marched through various departments, calling students in lectures to join them. A student, Niké Mes, made announcements in many classrooms. “We’re tired of being scared. We’re tired of having to mobilise a protest of people like this for a simple issue of not wanting to be raped anymore.”

Their numbers were bolstered until reaching the Law Department, where students stayed in their classrooms. One law student who chose to remain anonymous questioned the tactics of the protesters, stating that the men on the list have a right to be presumed innocent until guilt is proven, and that due process has not been followed.

Among the protesting students, few knew about the list of demands, or what was happening. Most reported joining the group to support rape survivors. Students on campus were also hesitant to speak to journalists, for fear of the public shaming that has been prevalent on social media since the list was posted on Facebook.

“I’m just afraid that some of those men’s names were put there maybe [because of grudges]. I don’t know,” said one male student, who did not want to be named.

The leaders of the protests admitted to using vigilante tactics, but believe that their actions are necessary as the system has failed them. “The university’s not helping us. We need to help ourselves,” said Tarclin Jacobs, one of the protest organisers.

Read the Vice Chancellor’s Statement here

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Tags: Rhodes University rape list Vice Chancellor Dr. Sizwe Mabizela Eden Grove Red lecture theatre Catriona Macleod Thabani Masuku

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