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UCT hosts assembly on gender-based violence in remembrance of slain students

Participants at the Anti-Gender Based Violence and Femicide Assembly hosted by UCT. Picture: Shakirah Thebus/Cape Argus

Participants at the Anti-Gender Based Violence and Femicide Assembly hosted by UCT. Picture: Shakirah Thebus/Cape Argus

Published Sep 8, 2023


Cape Town - UCT held an Anti-gender-based Violence and Femicide Assembly in remembrance of students who had their lives violently cut short.

The assembly formed part of efforts to address the scourge in the Post School Education and Training (PSET) sector and to deliberate on what practical steps can be taken and/or are currently being implemented.

At the start of the assembly, murdered students such as Zolile Khumalo, Khensani Maseko, Nosicelo Mtebeni, Jesse Hess, Xolile Mbatha, Precious Ramabulana, Ntokozo Xaba, Mandy Makola, Karabo Mokoena and Uyinene Mrwetyana were remembered, underscoring the reality of these heinous crimes.

The assembly was hosted by the UCT Student Representative Council in collaboration with the Department of Higher Education, Science and Innovation (DHET), Higher Health, Uyinene Mrwetyana Foundation, at the New Lecture Theatre, yesterday.

Higher Health CEO Professor Ramneek Ahluwalia said 10% of rapes recorded in South Africa come from higher education.

The interventions mentioned by Ahluwalia included fitting of street lights at the Mandeni Campus of Umfolozi TVET College, from outside the campus to the main CBD. The college recorded a high number of GBV incidents. Once this was done, cases saw a 75% reduction within one year.

At another TVET campus in Limpopo, it was found that bathroom latches at its sports complex were not being monitored, and that a number of cases of sexual violence occurred there. Once corrected, it started to make a change, he said.

Ahluwalia also stressed the importance of working with the police and the National Prosecuting Authority.

“Higher education cannot take a judicial decision but higher education can work with the judiciary, can collaborate with the judicial system, and give evidence to the judicial system. Evidence securing is very critical.”

DHET Deputy Minister Buti Manamela delivered the keynote address.

“We should not just mask it with abbreviations (GBVF), but we should say what it is, because if we do not call it rape, homophobia, hate (and) violence, we will continue to have it hidden under the acronym of gender-based violence,” Manamela said.

“Over and above us exposing the fact that there is gender-based violence and femicide on our campuses, it also gives us an opportunity to get into action. And so, we can do all this work, we can advocate for zero-tolerance of gender-based violence, we can put policies in place, but I think importantly, we have to target human behaviour.”

Professor Rozena Maart linked the current-day scourge to the history of violence perpetrated against enslaved people by colonial forces.

“The history of violence cannot be looked at separately from the history of gender-based violence and femicide, and the history of GBV cannot be cannot be looked at in isolation from the broader history of our country.”

Recent police statistics for April to June this year show that 69 rapes and nine murders had taken place at educational institutions (schools, universities, colleges and daycare facilities).

UCT student Mosebjadi Kekana said: “On campus, there has been a huge increase in the level of safety. But there is a huge element of unsafety when you are a UCT student, particularly if you live off campus.

“I lived in Claremont, I had to walk to the bus stop feeling unsafe every single time … I'm not sure that we’re doing enough as a society to protect students.”