UCT anti-rape campaign rapes

JOHN HARVEY

“Enough is enough.” That is the message from the University of Cape Town student leaders, who this week announced a sweeping campaign to protest the brutal rapes that have occurred near the Rhodes Memorial in recent weeks in addition to ongoing concerns about sexual violence on campus.

Although police have not been able to confirm a serial rapist is on the loose in the area, there are strong indications this could be the case after a third UCT student was raped last Thursday.

While provincial Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences detectives have been appointed to investigate the attacks, Student Representative Council (SRC) deputy secretary general, Louise Bestbier, told the Tatler this week “more needed to be done”.

“After meeting with the deputy vice-chancellor of transformation, Professor Anwar Mall, on Monday, we have now set in motion a plan of action that aims to improve safety measures around the campus as well as create awareness about rape and sexual assault.”

The action plan, Ms Bestbier said, would be “even bigger” than the university’s It’s Not Okay campaign which in 2013 tackled the issue of date rape and abusive relationships. “Our protest, which we have dubbed the ‘There is No Excuse’ campaign, will officially launch on Thursday February 18, and will protest rape, assault and harrassment on and around campus,” she said.

Ms Bestbier said: “The launch will coincide with a march from the lower campus to Jameson Plaza.”

The student leaders present at Monday’s meeting included faculty council members, #PatriarchyMustFall members and the university’s SRCl. The student leaders raised several issues with Professor Mall, including:

* Lack of commitment from UCT management to address the concerns regarding safety and security on campus;

* Lenient disciplinary action in sexual assault cases; and

* Support structures that are inefficient.

Ms Bestbier said Professor Mall had made a verbal commitment to address their grievances.

Professor Mall said he was “very happy” to have met the student leaders.

“I am currently serving in the deputy vice-chancellor role in an acting capacity, and it was the first time I met with them,” Professor Mall said.

“I also took the opportunity to invite our head of safety and violence directive, Guy Lamb, which was very beneficial. The students articulated their feelings about the situation very well, and they gave me the mandate to find out what more can be done.”

Professor Mall said the rape scourge was being given top priority, and a specially-appointed task team was meeting every day to discuss what could be done.

He also welcomed the announcement of the campaign, saying it was essential that students mobilised to tackle the problem.

“With all the security we have, it makes no difference if the students are not aware of the dangers they face as individuals. We have been at pains to remind students to be very aware of the situation.”

In the latest rape near the Rhodes Memorial on Thursday February 4, the student crossed the M3 bridge near Rhodes Avenue at about 6pm, before proceeding uphill towards Rhodes Memorial.

On her way back at about 8pm she was attacked and dragged into the bushes and raped repeatedly. She was eventually released at about 1am the following morning, and reported the matter to the police.

According to a statement issued by UCT spokesperson, Kylie Hatton, the attacker is described as a well-spoken man who engages in conversation with those he attacks.

He is of slender build and in his mid-20s. He appears to know the mountain well, and wears a hoodie with black pants.

Police spokesperson Constable Noloyiso Rwexana said it remained unclear whether the same person was responsible for the attacks, although there appeared to be similarities in how they were carried out.

“Investigations are continuing. At this stage no identikit has been released of the suspect, but there is an investigator who is working on that,” she said.

Rape Crisis director Kathleen Dey said it was essential the issue of resourcing was addressed in combatting the scourge.

“It is true these rapes have taken place outside campus, but every effort needs to be made to get as much security into the area as possible.

“That requires resources that are effectively co-ordinated, including neighbourhood watches and private security,” Ms Dey said.

“To date there hasn’t seemed to have been much headway made in this respect. The response seems to have been a bit old-fashioned. With rape, there should be a 360° response, from examining rape culture, consulting experts in the field and formulating effective measures to stamp out rape culture.”

UCT took steps last month to place additional security at the bridge over the M3, a thoroughfare for students walking to upper campus.

“We continue to seek new ways to work together with the police, South African National Parks and other stakeholders to respond to this kind of criminal activity, and to create a safer space for everyone to move around.

“Students and staff are advised to use the Jammie Shuttle, to use the UCT blue route where possible, and to avoid walking alone,” Ms Hatton said.

Jonathan Hobday, chairperson of the Mowbray Community Police Forum, has also suggested that existing traffic cameras on the De Waal Drive footbridge be repositioned to pan areas on either side of the structure.

“The attacks are taking place away from the bridge, but it might be an idea to realign them so that they not only monitor traffic flow, but also what occurs on either side of the bridge in terms of the pedestrian flow,” Mr Hobday said.

* Meanwhile, foul play has been ruled out in the death of a UCT student who fell from the third floor of his Liesbeeck Gardens residence last Friday.

Mongameli Nicholas Zaza, who would have started his third year in his Bachelor of Social Sciences degree this year, was rushed to hospital but succumbed to his injuries on Sunday, university spokesperson, Gerda Kruger, said.

While the reason for the fall is yet to be established, Ms Kruger said there did not appear to be foul play involved. Those who witnessed the tragedy did not necessarily have the relevant facts.