The University of the Western Cape has confirmed that no rape took place on campus this week, following reports on social media that angry students had confronted an alleged perpetrator. Kovacs student residence was disrupted in the early hours of Wednesday morning when 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 who were accused of sexual violence were removed from the premises.
Speaking to VOC Breakfast Beat, UWC spokesperson, Gasant Abarder said that students are playing a “dangerous game” by claiming certain individuals are perpetrators without concrete proof.
“There was no rape incident… but there’s a lot of anger. There’s a lot of frustration out there and campuses are no different.”
Anger has reached boiling point at UWC after the murder of theology student Jesse Hess last week. Hess’s murder comes in light of several other rape and murders of women in Cape Town, including UCT student Uyinene Mrwetyana.
Abarder explained that if the university receives any complaint of this nature, they filter it through their own internal complaints system to check if any disciplinary codes have been broken. Then, they are obliged to report it straight to SAPS. As part of the larger community, the University is affected by crime like any other institution in the CBD.
“No case like that (gender-based violence) goes unreported. The university does not sit on a case like that, it’s prioritised… our campus protection services work very closely with the SAPS and we’ve got a very stringent sexual violence policy that was approved by the Council in June last year.”
The policy was created with the specific aim to curb gender-based violence on and around campus.
Part of this policy is re-dressing the notion of masculinity and gender roles in society.
“We’ve got a gender reconciliation programme that’s been in existence for three years now. And it’s about recalibrating the roles of young men on campus and how they engage with women,” said Abarder.
“We cant’s hide away from the fact that South Africa has got a rape culture. We come from a very violent past and [there is a] serious lack of role models and male role models, like fathers, in the community. The university has started to try and bridge that gap. And to try and take young men by the hand and show them a better way…”
Abarder shed light on the Jesse Hess Commemoration held on Wednesday, where tears were shed on black shirts and speeches and poems were read out all in honour of a once-hopeful young woman. Organisers had to make use of additional campus quads to accommodate all who attended the heartfelt service.
“The university is in a state of grieving. We’re in a state of mourning. We’ve lost a very bright and talented young lady…who made a very positive contribution to the university.”