Protesters say institutions need to take rape more seriously. 

The Black Womxn Caucus and members of the Student Representative Council (SRC) at Wits University led a demonstration of about 50 students in support of excluded Rhodes activists on Wednesday, February 28.

The Rhodes students, including Yolanda Dyantyi, Noxolo Mfoco, Siyamthanda Nyulu and Yolanda Zulu, have been excluded from the institution in Grahamstown for their role in the #RUReferenceList campaign which was started in 2016 to protest sexual harassment and rape of female students. The #RUReferenceList is a list of alleged rapists and sexual harassers on the Rhodes campus which was circulated in 2016.

Dyantyi, who was present at today’s demonstration, said the current #RhodesWar campaign aimed to challenge institutions that perpetuate rape culture and to ultimately create a national conversation around issues of sexual violation against women, especially in spaces which are meant to protect them. The #RhodesWar hashtag appeared on social media in response to the exclusion of the students.

“The #RUReferenceList comes from decades of women struggles on the campus currently known as Rhodes where sexual violence and rape culture has been rife and women have actually mobilised themselves for years unsuccessfully,” Dyanti added.

Fatimata Moutloatse, founder and president of Black Womxn Caucus, a Wits student society for black females, told Wits Vuvuzela that it is important for Wits students to support the #RhodesWar movement in order to highlight rape cases that are ignored and to make the public aware that rape should be fought against daily. “For us this is a response not only of solidarity but because we’ve been through the same thing,” Moutloatse said.

She added that the movement not only addresses the excluded students but aims to challenge “the very deeply entrenched culture of rape and patriarchy in institutions of higher learning.

FEATURED PHOTO: The names of excluded Rhodes activists are displayed on the steps of the Wits Great Hall. Photo: Londell Ramalepe