Picture: Supplied/Wits

Johannesburg - Fear lingers among students on Wits University’s Parktown Education campus, following incidents of mugging and rape in the area during recent weeks.
Many have resorted to walking in groups, and make sure they leave the campus before sunset to avoid being attacked.

“We don’t walk out late at night because of some recent incidents. We’ve heard that some students were raped and others were almost abducted in the Braamfontein and Parktown area,” said final-year student * Sarah Ngema, 22.

“We make sure we’re never alone and that we are at home early. As we’re so far from the main campus, we don’t get much security," she added.

Refiloe Tshwai, 18, a first-year student, was particularly worried about her safety when she leaves campus. “Walking around with your earphones is not good at all as you will get mugged. There are people who get mugged on a daily basis. There is security outside campus, but there’s a lot of mugging on Enoch Sontonga Avenue.

"Security is only around campus. If I finish too late and have to get a taxi on Enoch Sontonga Avenue in Braamfontein, that’s a bit nerve-racking.

“If I have a tablet on me, I put it within my books, and hope and pray that a taxi will come soon. I always make sure I don’t walk around with my phone out or my earphones anywhere, not even in my hands.”

On April 18, a third-year education student, Moses Modisane, appeared in the Johannesburg Magistrate's Court for a bail hearing following his arrest on April 10 on charges of raping a student at the Wits Junction residence.

The student who was allegedly attacked reported the incident to the Gender Equity Office (GEO).

The university confirmed that the alleged incident was reported to the GEO.

Wits University senior communications officer Buhle Zuma said the crime incidents were a reflection of what happens in the community.

“There is no crisis at any particular residence or campus.

"However, gender-based violence is a scourge in society that affects us all. This is not peculiar as campuses are a microcosm of society and what happens at universities is a reflection of the broader GBV (gender-based violence) pandemic in society. Wits deals with these in a complainant/victim supportive system.”

According to Zuma, the university had substantial policies that sought to protect victims from gender-based harm.

“Perpetrators are dealt with decisively. Wits fired several lecturers in 2013 when they were found guilty of sexual assault. The university asks that all incidents be reported to the independent GEO so that they can be properly investigated.

“At Wits, the alleged perpetrator will be suspended from student residences. An order for his suspension from the university will be served if, or when, he is released on bail. We continue to work with and support the victim,” said Zuma.

Modisane is expected to appear in court on Monday for a formal bail application, according to the spokesperson of the National Prosecuting Authority, Phindi Louw-Mjonondwane.

* Not her real name

The Sunday Independent