Wits vice-chancellor Adam Habib. File picture: Nokuthula Mbatha/The Star
Wits vice-chancellor Adam Habib. File picture: Nokuthula Mbatha/The Star

Damning report on response to student's rape at Wits

By Tebogo Monama Time of article published Nov 28, 2016

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Johannesburg - Only one individual in her residence was supportive of the Wits University student who was allegedly sexually assaulted at the Wits Junction residence.

This is according to a statement released by Wits University vice-chancellor Professor Adam Habib.

Students at the university caused an uproar on social media when they alleged that the university did not follow proper procedure and allowed the alleged sexual offender to stay in the same residence with the victim because he needed to finish writing his exams.

Videos circulating on social media show another female student confronting Wits Junction management and security about why they had ignored the rape accusations.

Student residence cluster manager Thokozani Manyange was also filmed replying to the students who confronted him about the alleged rape, stating: “If you knew the details of the matter, you would not feel unsafe.”

Last week, the university released gender analyst Nomboniso Gasa’s report into the rape incident after a social media outcry.

Habib said Gasa’s report indicated, among others, that: “While one individual from Residence Life in particular was empathetic and continuously supportive, other officials did not demonstrate sufficient empathy and care, and failed the complainant by not meeting the university’s commitment to providing a safe space for complainants of gender-based harm.”

It was alleged that a female student was sexually abused at the Wits Junction residence in Parktown.

The Kenyan student is currently out of the country and the Namibian student who allegedly abused her was moved from the residence for his own safety.

Gasa’s report, according to Habib, is not kind to Wits University and its operations around dealing with sexual abuse.

He said while it commended the Wits gender equality office (GEO) investigation and counselling operations, it recognised that there were systemic weaknesses and procedural shortcomings, which manifest in times of crisis.

“In particular, it notes that the gender equality office management did not anticipate the need for a mechanism to deal with the fact that its request to Residence Life to remove the alleged perpetrator was rejected,” Habib said.

“Procedures to anticipate this should be designed. It questions why, when recommendations of the GEO were rejected by other university structures, alongside having initiated suspension proceedings within the GEO procedures, the matter was not elevated to executive management for urgent intervention.”

Habib said the report would be made available to address the shortcomings in Wits’s response.

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