Grahamstown - The expulsion of three female students from Rhodes University over their involvement in anti-rape protests was met with outrage on social media.

According to reports, two female student activists were expelled from the university for life for "conduct beyond lawful boundaries" while a third activist was expelled for five years.

All three were affiliated with the Chapter 2.12 Movement.

The expulsion was handed down on November 17 to two of the three students after they were found guilty of assault, kidnapping, insubordination and defamation, PowerFM reported.

The news caused sparked the trend #RhodesWar, which saw students react to the expulsion and slam the university for its decision.

The Socio-Economic Rights Institute (Seri), acting on behalf of one of the activists, Yolanda Dyantyi, also reacted to the announcement, slamming Rhodes for imposing "the harshest penalty. imposed for ten years".

Seri indicated that it would launch an application to the High Court to review and set aside the disciplinary proceedings brought against Ms. Dyantyi.

"SERI believes that the University’s treatment of Ms. Dyantyi has been disproportionate, unfair and unlawful," the organisation said.

Rhodes meanwhile, in a statement, said it noted "with deep concern the gross misrepresentations of facts and cynical attempts at manipulating public opinion by some of the students who have been excluded from the University for committing criminal acts".

"There is a clear distinction between vigorously pursuing our common objective of eliminating sexual and gender-based violence on the one hand and using such a noble cause as a cover to commit acts of criminality, which serve to undermine a noble struggle.

"A comprehensive response in relation to all the issues raised will be issued as a matter of urgency. The issues were ventilated in processes involving the High Court, the Supreme Court of Appeals and the Constitutional Court."

The university added that the sanction against the two expelled students was meted out by an Independent Panel and was not related to them participating in protect action.

"It is related, instead to 'unlawful acts' which the courts found to have made serious inroads into the rights and liberties of others," Rhodes said.

The drama began after Rhodes sought an interim interdict against the students over their involvement in protests against gender-based violence last year. 

This interdict was granted and made final by the court. 

The students then approached the Constitutional Court following two unsuccessful attempts at the Grahamstown High Court, High Court and Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) to appeal an interdict against them, with the ConCourt dismissing their leave to appeal application.