Rape case sparks outrage

2018-05-10 16:00
An MI7 security guard checks the damage to their vehicle after students smashed the windows with rocks.Classes and exams were disrupted after students went on the rampage at UKZN PMB main campus on Wednesday.

An MI7 security guard checks the damage to their vehicle after students smashed the windows with rocks.Classes and exams were disrupted after students went on the rampage at UKZN PMB main campus on Wednesday. (Ian Carbutt)

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The alleged off-campus rape of a University of KwaZulu-Natal student, allegedly by a fellow student two months ago, led to a violent rampage at the Pietermaritzburg campus on Wednesday.

One student was detained during the heated protest which began on Wednesday morning with students disrupting several lectures and ordering students and staff to leave lecture theatres.

The student was later released by police with a warning.

About 100 protesters marched across the Pietermaritzburg main campus expressing anger at UKZN’s perceived “lack of action” regarding the alleged rape incident.

Protesters claimed the perpetrator is known to the victim.

Read: Sexual assault victim believes her drink was spiked at party

The windows and windscreen of a private security van were smashed with concrete bricks. Bags of grass and hay stacked at the base of the campus’s prominent white jacaranda tree were set alight during the protest. It could not be determined on Wednesday if the fire will result in the tree having to be removed.

Protesters clashed with campus security outside the Petrie exam venue where a conveyancing exam set by the KZN Law Society and being taken by more than 100 attorneys, was halted.

The glass pane of the venue’s door was shattered as dozens of students tried to pull three UKZN Risk Management Services (RMS) guards away from the doorway they were protecting. One RMS guard lost his glasses in the heated scuffle.

UKZN acting spokesperson Normah Zondo said later the student around whom the fracas centred, was allegedly raped on March 3. She had sought counselling for the incident and the counsellor referred the matter to the RMS.

She said the university was in the “process of finalising its internal investigation” in relation to the rape, and will refer the matter to the university proctor.

Zondo told The Witness that RMS and the police would continue to closely monitor the situation after the protest had died down.

Student Representative Council (SRC) president Bongani Mthiyane said: “This rape happened in March, but until today nothing has been done. The victim has to attend campus and it is believed the perpetrator also goes here.”

Mthiyane said students decided to protest to implore the university hierarchy to come to Pietermaritzburg and attend to the situation.

“We need the university to act because the student shouldn’t have to live like this. How can she write exams in this state?”

He added: “An MUT [Mangosuthu University of Technology] student was killed recently. We lost a student this weekend. It is a traumatic time for us and our safety.”

A Durban-based conveyancing attorney who took the disrupted exam told The Witness: “I’ve never seen anything like this. We are all practising attorneys who run our own firms and work. We have nothing to do with the university and they had no reason to disrupt us.”

Those taking the exam — a six-hour exam run over two sessions — said it would need to be rescheduled.

“It will take so much effort to get us into the same room to write this exam again,” one said.

Demonstrators started their action by singing and marching around the campus. Students who were removed from their lectures milled around the campus and some were seen waiting for lifts home.

One said: “I was in a biology lecture and some of them came in and told us to stop. My lecturer ran out.”

Mthiyane said students were also protesting about a lack of transport for off-campus students since the bus strike began.

Some of those students had failed to submit assignments, sit for tests, or attend lectures because of this, he said.

Zondo said university management was committed to assisting students who missed academic activities or failed to submit assignments because of having no transport.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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