An anonymous post [dated 4 February 2018] on social media reads: “I have only been here for 2 days but so much has happened in just 48 hours… I thought my first year would be the best year filled with new friends and exploring what I thought was a beautiful town, if only I had known that I would get raped whilst exploring what would be my home town for the next three years I would have never have come to this hell hole. Now I leave as a broken would have been student. To first years that choose to remain in this place, stay away from grey dam by all means… Good bye Grahamstown, this town truly does breed rapists and I should have listened when Rhodes students warned us about coming here.”
The post appeared on the day that Vice Chancellor, Dr Sizwe Mabizela, assured parents and the over 1300 registered first year students that there was no place at Rhodes University for racism, sexism, misogyny, patriarchy, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, prejudice and discriminatory behaviour. In particular, Dr Mabizela declared “… we have a zero tolerance for sexual or gender-based violence at Rhodes.”
While the incident allegedly occurred outside of the University and while no rape incident was reported before or after the post, the Vice Chancellor ordered an urgent investigation. The following is the outcome of the investigation thus far:
- Student Counselling Unit: no record of a rape incident reported
- Office of the Vice Chancellor: no incident of rape reported
- Campus Protection Unit: no incident of rape reported
- Division of Students Affairs: no incident of rape reported
- Division of Students Affairs: no student has left any of the Residences in such circumstances.
- Division of Students Affairs: no inquiry/contact from any parent/fee-payer regarding a rape incident
- University Registrar’s Division: no incident of rape reported
- University Registrar’s Division: no student has deregistered over a rape complaint
- Grahamstown Settlers’ Hospital: no Rhodes student treated for rape
- Grahamstown Police: no incident of rape reported from Grey Dam area in Grahamstown.
Grey Dam is Grahamstown’s a unofficial recreational spot located approximately 1.5 kilometres south-east of the Rhodes campus.
The post follows a bigger social media campaign in November 2017 under #Rhodeswar launched after two students were excluded from the University for, among other acts, assault, kidnapping, insubordination and defamation. The acts were committed against two alleged rapists whose names were in a list, which was published anonymously on social media.
During the initial campaign, the University said it distinguished between the necessary vigorous pursuit of a common objective to eliminate sexual and gender-based violence on the one hand, and abusing such a noble cause as a cover to commit acts of criminality, which serve to undermine the noble struggle.
“We take any allegation of sexual and gender based violence seriously. I urge any person who falls victim to such violence to report immediately so that we can provide her/him with support and the alleged perpetrator dealt with,” Dr Mabizela said.
* Rhodes is currently running an orientation programme for first year students where they are being familiarised with the various aspects of the University, including the University’s sexual assault procedures and management protocol, detailing the support and options available to students in relation to sexual and gender-based violence.