Two weeks ago, the UCT SRC held a night vigil to symbolise the institution’s stand against violent crime, following the rape and murder of Anene Booysen, and the murder of UCT student Bayanda Baba. Last week, the UCT community continued and staged a very successful march for the same cause. Both these were great attempts to show that the students and the institution as a whole care. But do we really care? Or is it more of a PR initiative, something to feed the public so that they can see that “UCT cares”.
One of the speakers at the vigil said something that evoked the cynic in me: “We are not doing enough”. It left me thinking: “Of course we are not doing enough!” because it was not the first time someone had uttered those words. Whenever there’s a slain UCT student, there’s a march or some talk, and every time, someone says we are not doing enough. For five years I’ve been hearing the same song here, surely that’s enough time to actually do something that’s at least close to the “enough” that the institution is aiming for.
The question is: Is the institution actually doing something, or are we doing things purely because the spotlight is on the UCT community, with the expectation to do act? Last year, a UCT student was allegedly raped on the periphery of our campus, and not much was said. No march, no inquiry that was made known to the students and no additional security visible in the area. It was dealt with in a very hush-hush manner. Even a group of students who tried to host a talk on the matter were told to restrict it to a handful of people in residences and allow no media. A UCT student got raped, fellow students who are trying to address the issue are told to limit the reach of their efforts and to have no coverage of the event? Surely, I’m not the only one who feels uneasy about this. Is it perhaps that it placed a heavier responsibility on the institution to act (as UCT was directly affected), in comparison to the Anene Booysen case, where we could just light candles, make statements and “act” from a distance. Could it be that the priorities leaned more towards dealing swiftly with negative PR that would come as a result of such an incident if it directly affected UCT, rather than handling the problem? This is a question that all members of the UCT community need to ask themselves.
To digress a bit, the silent stance that the institution has taken on the rampant problem of suicides further fuels my belief that problems are handled at the institution’s convenience, and that the issues that university community is vocal about are prioritized according to how much PR damage they can cause. How else can the silence on the matter be explained?
I am not accusing the UCT of not doing making an effort to fight crime. Of course UCT is trying, at the GSCID Patrol initiative is an example. I am merely pointing out that this effort is simply not enough, and I’m worried about the instances where little or no effort is evident.
Students too, how many actually do more than just light candles? How many know what the Discrimination and harassment Office does in an attempt to combat rape? How many of the societies that are directly involved with community development are actively trying to address these very relevant issues? That said, I doubt this is only a UCT problem. Nationwide, many institutions seem to suppress any talk of such when they are directly involved. Also, people are social network activists who don’t actually do anything about the issue of rape and violence in general. Until we actually put more effort and not sift through which problems are dealt with, it will seem like nothing but lip service.