Wednesday was an emotional day for the University of Cape Town (UCT) community and for wider South African society, with several protest events rising up against sexual and gender-based violence in this country. Since the beginning of the week, staff and students have been gathering in separate vigils, prayer circles and small groups to remember Uyinene ‘Nene’ Mrwetyana.
A mass picket to Parliament on Wednesday morning swelled to over 3 000 people when members of the public joined staff and students in solidarity against sexual and gender-based violence. At the memorial service held on the plaza and steps in front of Sarah Baartman Hall, staff and students drew together again to mourn Nene’s loss.
To give the campus community time for reflection and healing, the UCT executive made a decision that no academic classes or tests will take place on Thursday, 5 September, and Friday, 6 September 2019. Exceptions will be made for activities that cannot be cancelled.
Students experiencing any distress are encouraged to utilise the SADAG UCT Student Careline (0800 24 25 26), which is free from a Telkom line, or to SMS 31393 for a callback. This line offers 24/7 telephonic counselling, advice, referral facilities and general mental health support. The Student Wellness Service has also made arrangements for individual and group debriefings for students, extending their hours of service to offer students proper access to care.
Meanwhile, the University of the Western Cape says it is looking into the allegations of a rape incident at a residence last night, following widespread reports on social media. A video on Twitter shows an angry crowd wanting to storm a residence, as the alleged rape suspect is carried out by security.
“We understand that students had gone to the residence to point out who they claimed were suspected rapists. The students allegedly tried to apprehend the individuals. Police arrived on the scene and took action in an attempt to disperse the crowd. The students, accused of these crimes, were removed from the premises. The University also understands that there are reports of shots being fired by police officers. We request that these allegations should be verified by the SAPS,” said university spokesperson Gasant Abarder.
Western Cape police spokesperson Siyabulelo Malo said action was taken by them to restore the peace when students became riotous.
“No injuries were reported during this incident. The alleged suspect was brought to Bellville South police for questioning.”
Abarder said the university is aware of the heightened anger in the wake of the murders of young students, including UWC’s own Jesse Hess, and other acts of violence against women. Today, students and academics paid tribute to Hess, a theology student, on campus.
“We are angry too – enough is enough. To bring perpetrators to book requires a concerted effort by all. We urge students who have information about any crime, including rape, to report it to the campus security and the SAPS so that the relevant authorities can investigate.” VOC