Rape causes infighting at UKZN

2007-11-24 00:00

“Stop racialising the issue and deal with the safety of women on campus.”

These were the sentiments of academics from the UKZN who spoke to Weekend Witness yesterday in reaction to the protest that has arisen after an American student was raped at the Howard College Campus of the university recently.

Infighting has broken out at the institution, where allegations of racism have been levelled after a meeting to discuss safety issues ended on a sour note.

A senior lecturer close to the furore, who spoke to The Witness on condition of anonymity, said that the issue is a “hot topic” at the university at present.

“There is a lot of debate around it, with different opinions, but what is of concern is that the core issue, which is the safety of women in residences, is being sidelined while political agendas are being played out.”

He said that it appears that any comment on the debate by white males is perceived as racist.

He accused the SRC of “racialising” the issue, while it should be used as an opportunity to improve the conditions of all women on campus.

He also said it is unfortunate that with exams mostly finished, many students have left the residences, and it is not clear if they will be able to make input in an inquiry that has been launched into the safety at residences.

A huge debate is currently being played out on the Internet by academics and others around the issue.

Mshengu Kwazi, Central Students Representative Council (SRC) secretary-general, has lashed out at at “racist tendencies manifesting from the incident and the misdirected expression of anger by some academics at Howard College”.

Kwazi said that the deputy dean of students, Dr Bhekithemba Ngcobo, was “manhandled … by … white academics” after he allegedly failed to give “pre-determined answers” to questions around the rape case.

A meeting held on Thursday proceeded more peacefully, “because they were [participants] of another race”, he said. “When other African students were attacked, raped and robbed, there was no outcry by the white academics.”

Kwazi said that the SRC will be meeting with the vice chancellor, Malegapuru Makgoba, to present their views to him soon. “We are calling on management to tighten security.” He condemned the “deliberate malicious distortion” of their views and said that their primary objective is to ensure the safety of students on campus.

Students who were present at Monday’s meeting have criticised the lack of response to their questions around security issues on campus and accountability for shortfalls in this area.

Numerous attempts to reach the university for comment were unsuccessful yesterday.

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