While Rhodes University has been left reeling by the death of Khensani Maseko‚ students at the nearby Nelson Mandela University (NMU) have forced the suspension of lectures following the alleged rape of a student at the weekend.
The Student Representative Council (SRC) at Rhodes on Monday led an “academic shutdown” on campus following reports that Maseko had committed suicide after she had been raped.
The council said in a statement that it was informed on Saturday about the death of Khensani Maseko‚ a third-year student‚ at her Johannesburg home on Friday.
“She had exceptional leadership qualities. She was not a conformist and she believed in what is right‚ not what she was told was right‚” said Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) Student Command member Abongile James.
James was part of the team that organised the academic shutdown on Monday.
She described Maseko‚ a third-year law student‚ as a selfless person who was passionate about women and the challenges they faced. “She always had women’s interests at heart. She was all about women empowerment. She helped in establishing the Ubuntu fund‚ which looks after the needs of disadvantaged students.”
Maseko‚ according to James‚ was not a conformist and stuck to her word. “She was always trying to make a change — not only on campus but in the Grahamstown community.”
Maseko died two months after she was allegedly raped by a fellow student on campus.
“The news of her passing has been received with great shock and sadness by the entire student body. As such‚ the student body is experiencing deep levels of grief and anger. In light of these events and in honour of her life‚ the SRC is launching a formal academic shutdown‚” said the SRC.
In a social media post‚ the council’s Dingaan Booi said: “It is with the greatest sadness that the Rhodes University Independent Electoral Board mourns the loss of one of our own. Miss Khensani Maseko was a valued member of our team‚ serving the student body of Rhodes University selflessly as our secretary. As such the IEB has taken the decision to postpone election activities. Revised dates will be released soon.”
A former Rhodes University student and a friend of Maseko’s‚ Siya Nyulu‚ said he met her in 2015 when she arrived at the institution.
“Khensani was a very caring and loving person. She was involved in student politics‚” said Nyulu.
He said he was aware of the allegations that Maseko was raped. “There are allegations that she was raped by a fellow student on campus.”
In one of her recent social media posts‚ Maseko wrote: “When people ask for help‚ help them”.
On Instagram‚ she wrote: “No one deserves to be raped.”
Rhodes University vice-chancellor Sizwe Mabizela was quoted on the student-run Oppidan Press’s Twitter page as saying during a meeting with students on Monday: “We have decided that we will approach the national prosecutor and SAPS to perform a full investigation into Khensani’s death.”
He was also quoted as saying the institution will issue a notice to suspend the alleged perpetrator.
— Oppidan Press (@oppidanpress) August 6, 2018
Student platform Activate? stated that during the meeting with management‚ students asked “why the university has not dealt with the existing 92 recommendations from the task team on sexual violence.”
Tributes are pouring in on social media for Maseko‚ who called herself “Lady of Justice”.
I wish I had the words to hold your pain.
Lala ngoxolo Khensani Maseko. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/1zHV1JRzGe
— Panashe Chigumadzi (@PanasheChig) August 5, 2018
Rest in peace Comrade #KhensaniMaseko
You fought a fight no one really knows and can imagine
Rest now baby 😥💔 pic.twitter.com/2Pi1Qrb3mI
— Chulayo M 🇱🇸🇿🇦MommaBear 🐾💙💛 (@ChulayoM) August 5, 2018
We are supposed to be celebrating women this month but instead we are mourning one of our own . Deeply saddened by the passing of Khensani Maseko I pray the Lord comforts her family through this terribly difficult heartbreaking time . May your soul RIP baby girl 💔
— Global Citizen (@ThatGiirlRumbie) August 4, 2018
— Reggie 👑 (@Infinite67) August 5, 2018
James said Rhodes students would hold a vigil for Maseko on Wednesday.
Meanwhile‚ Nelson Mandela University students also staged a protest on the Port Elizabeth campus on Monday following an alleged rape over the weekend.
The university said it was looking into the matter. “Nelson Mandela University is looking into a reported sexual assault incident on campus over the weekend‚” they said in a Facebook post.
“While a criminal charge was opened against the alleged perpetrator‚ who is also a student‚ with the South African Police Service‚ the university is gathering all the necessary information to pursue concurrent internal disciplinary action.
“The university is indeed troubled by reported incidents of rape and/or sexual assault among students‚ who share communal spaces on campus.”
Nomahlubi Jordaan – TimesLIVE