‘Men must hear our cries’

By Toby Ngomane and Modiehi Mashamaite Time of article published Aug 8, 2018

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Grieving  Rhodes University students and staff members believe the death of Khensani Maseko has opened up the discussion on sexual consent.

The university held a memorial service for the third-year law student, who took her own life.

The 23-year-old was allegedly raped by her then boyfriend in May, and committed suicide last week at her family’s home in Alberton.

The issue of sexual consent was discussed in a series of talks, which was opened to everyone on campus on an overcast day that mirrored the sombre mood of Maseko’s moving memorial service.

Maseko’s close friends at Rhodes couldn't contain their grief throughout the march and service.

The student leader’s death coincides with the beginning of the University's “Silent Protest” week, dedicated to raising awareness and fighting sexual violence.

Maseko’s close friend, Khulile Kamanga, was emotional, describing her as a very confident person, who was goal driven and always willing to lend a hand to others.

“There are too many memories. But among my favourite time with Khensani was how she always pushed me to strive to be the best in my abilities,” Kamanga recalled.

“Khensani always wanted to see me doing well and living to my full potential. I am going to miss her comfort and advice - not forgetting all the lunch and ice-cream dates we had in our free time."

Another close friend, who asked to remain anonymous, echoed Kamanga’s views about Maseko always being helpful.

“Hopefully, people will find the strength to speak out and seek help. I hope that men are finally going to hear our cries - her cry I hope we don’t all brush this under the carpet, but actually follow up on all the other cases on campus,” the emotional friend asserted.

Maseko’s death has drawn the anger of students at Rhodes, who have slammed what they believe to be the culture of rape on the campus.

Dr Sizwe Mabizela, the university's vice-chancellor, addressed the students on their anger, conceding that rape was a problem on campus and speaking critically of the prevalence of this horrific act.

“We always tell young women how they should conduct themselves Yet we fail to tell young men they have no right to interfere with the bodily integrity of another person,” he asserted.

Mabizela added: “We hope this tragic incident will allow the university an opportunity to reflect and engage, even deeper, on how we must pull together as a university and society to eliminate the scourge of gender-based violence.

"This is the most fitting and lasting tribute we can give Khensani.”

EFF student leader Abongile James, who worked closely with Maseko, encouraged the student body to build on her legacy.

“The institution has lost a fighter who had no strength in her to fight anymore,” James said.

Maseko will be buried tomorrow, Women’s Day, in Joburg.

The Star

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