Uyinene Mrwetyana and Jesse Hess, both students, were raped and killed in Cape Town.

Johannesburg - Universities South Africa - the organisation which represents 26 vice chancellors from the countries academic institutions has called for a meeting with President Cyril Ramaphosa to discuss the scourge of gender-based violence.

The 26 heads of universities want to meet with the president before next Friday to register their anger about the current situation and to have a discussion about plans to develop a plan of action to address gender-based violence on university campuses.

They said the country was experiencing an ‘epidemic of incomprehensible violence’.

UCT student Uyinene Mrwetyana, 19, was raped and murdered at a Post Office in Cape Town in August. Her gruesome death was also followed by the killing of University of Western Cape student Jesse Hess, who was allegedly raped and murdered at her Parow flat with her 85-year-old grandfather.

The principals said the country was in a ‘truly tragic moment’.

“This is not the society we want and the status quo pertaining to gender-based harm must change. We cannot stand back and allow women to be violated. We need all branches of society to unite and work together to eradicate gender-based harm in society.

“We also need political leadership and a practical agenda that works within our national and constitutional laws to ensure that we find a long-term sustainable solution to eradicate this scourge,” they said. 

The university heads said people were angry about the violent abuse women suffered daily, and they were angry about being ignored, the empty promises and angry about the lawlessness which was taking place in the country.

“We have every right to be angry. At the same time, we cannot allow our anger to spill over in a way which reduces us to lawlessness or advances further harm,” they said. 

The university heads also hit back at those who had attempted to hijack the grief of many abused woman, by using social media to name alleged perpetrators of abuse who had not been investigated for the claims made against them. 

“On investigation, it was found that some of these accusations were scurrilous and that these accusers used the current moment opportunistically in order to settle scores on unrelated matters. These are the unintended consequences of social media hype and mob justice, where people abuse a just cause to further their own agendas. 

“It is imperative to hold those who are guilty of perpetrating gender-based harm to account and we should do so through the channels and processes developed to address gender violence. Universities SA and its members have a zero tolerance approach to gender-based harm and progressive policies are in place to ensure that perpetrators are dealt with decisively,” said Universities South Africa.

They called on the universities respective Gender Equity Offices to investigate all complaints of gender-based violence speedily. 

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