Johannesburg - Student leaders at Rhodes University were expelled for daring to challenge patriarchy and bringing attention to the failures of management to address blatant rape culture on campus, said Yolanda Dyantyi, one of the expelled students.

Dyantyi on Friday spoke of the charges against her, and other students who have been expelled at the institution in relation to their 2016 anti-rape protests.

Dyantyi and a fellow student, Dominique McFall, were banned for life from the university by a disciplinary committee last month and will not complete their studies at the institution.

The expulsion was handed down after they were found guilty of assault, kidnapping, insubordination and defamation for their alleged involvement when, in April 2016, a group of students went to male residences in search of men named on the #RUReferenceList - a list of men alleged to be rapists or sexual assailants.

Three men were held by the group. Two escaped, but one was kept until the next day.

Dyantyi and McFall are planning to appeal the university’s decision in the high court in Grahamstown.

This year when students registered at the university, said Dyantyi, they were forced to sign a clause that says they would be suspended if they participated in protest action.

“This is how the university is gunning for student leaders who marshalled protests against rape culture on campus in 2016,” she said. “And making sure no one else would protest at campus.”

The university said in May this year that a student found guilty of rape should be expelled for 10 years.

But when news of the permanent expulsion of the anti-rape activists came to light this week, a public outcry followed, comparing the severity of the punishments to the offences committed.

Responding to this social media outcry, under the hashtag #RhodesWar, the university said in a statement that 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”.

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.

“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,” the university said.

Dyantyi is adamant that she and her co-accused were not given a fair hearing and would appeal the university’s decision to expel them in the high court in Grahamstown in the next few weeks.

But Rhodes University is equally adamant that the students were expelled for criminality and not for protesting.

Saturday Star