CAPE TOWN – The fight continues for former Rhodes University student Yolanda Dyantyi as she awaits judgment on her case to overturn her lifetime exclusion from the institution.
Dyantyi was permanently expelled from the institution in November 2017 after a disciplinary hearing found her guilty of kidnapping, assault, insubordination and defamation during the 2016 #RUReference list protests.
Dyantyi then approached the Grahamstown High Court in 2019 for a review application to reverse her ban from the institution on the basis of procedural unfairness. The court dismissed her application.
On February 21, Dyantyi’s legal team appeared before a Bench of five judges at the Supreme Court of Appeals (SCA) in a bid to appeal the High Court judgment.
“From where we stood, the judges had a clear understanding of what had transpired, and we are hopeful. We are now waiting for the judgment and what we have asked for is for the court to replace the high court’s order.
“We have asked the court to say that both the conviction and the sanction by the proctor was unfair and then set it aside. This means that she will not be excluded from the university any more and that she will not have the endorsement against her transcript, which has been a stumbling block in her life,” said Dyantyi’s attorney, Nomzamo Zondo.
After her appearance, Dyantyi said that she felt optimistic about the proceedings at the SCA.
“It was quite nice appearing before a Bench of five judges, and the majority of them were women gave me a bit of comfort. They heard my arguments, but I obviously do not want to give a proclamation before the judgment. I think me and my legal team were left to feel positive about the proceedings,” said Dyantyi.
Her expulsion, which was held in her absence, came just days before her final exam, which she said was unfair, as she was not allowed to present her side of the story.
“We told them on the day that my lawyers were not available for the date that was set. They wanted me gone before the academic year ended because they found me guilty when I only had two final exams the following week. This is why we say it was procedurally unfair.
“This is not to say that I want to go back to Rhodes, but more on that the judgment that has tarnished my name and dignity publicly — also, losing my degree and a lot of other opportunities. I am a black woman, and I have rights as well. Allow me to present to you my side of the story,” she added.
Dyantyi, now a student at Unisa, detailed her struggles picking up the pieces after her ban.
“I have had to pick up the pieces. Even getting into Unisa was so difficult. It is quite difficult even now; I have not even paid my registration for this year. Picking up the pieces has been so difficult because I have had to find alternatives to survive,” she said.
Dyantyi has also started #StandWithYolanda, for people and organisations to support her financially, legally, and in solidarity.
Dyantyi, a rape survivor, said that she does not regret participating in the #RUReference List protests.
“I have no regrets. I was protesting for my own reasons as a survivor of rape. I was standing in solidarity with others as well. Those protests were a breaking point and will forever be a breaking point in this country because nothing seems to be changing. All you see is just men, corporate and sectors coming together to silence women,” she said.
Dyantyi says that she will continue to champion the marginalised women through her organisation, Archive Amabali Wethu. She recently came in second place for the intercontinental young women in entrepreneurship hosted by UN Women and Gender Links.