After months of no action from police, a Wits first-year student explores other channels for justice.

For three months after opening a case of rape in April this year, a first-year Wits student was forced to live in the same residence as her alleged rapist, as the police failed
to take action.

It was only in July that the alleged rapist, also in first year at Wits, was asked to leave the South Point residence, Diamond House, in Braamfontein, after her mother laid a complaint to South Point customer care.

Mpho Matlala*, 19, told Wits Vuvuzela that she was raped in March this year. “I woke up naked in my room and could feel that something had happened to me but I could not remember anything from leaving Kitchener’s [Bar] to waking up naked in my bed.”

She believes that her drink was spiked by one of the males in her friendship circle at the popular Braamfontein nightspot that Saturday evening.

Matlala says her roommate told her that the same male student, with whom she had previously had a short fling, had brought her back to their room in nothing but a towel that belonged to him. He came back the next day to retrieve his towel.

“The following morning he told me that he and I were left in his room alone the previous night and I started taking off my clothes,” she said.

Matlala says her brother took her to a clinic in the south of Johannesburg that same day, but they were turned away after asking for a pap smear. “Our mistake was that we asked for a pap smear instead of a rape kit,” she says.

Matlala opened a case of rape at the Hillbrow police station a month later. Sergeant Mduduzi Zondo, communications manager of the Hillbrow SAPS told Wits Vuvuzela, “I can confirm that a case of rape was reported. An investigation was done and the case was taken to the senior public prosecutor.” Zondo added that there were no further developments in the case. According to Matlala, after her mother complained to South Point, she was invited to a discussion with South Point staff and the alleged rapist.

However, after she found herself in the same room as him, Matlala says she had a panic attack for which she was hospitalised. “He was only evicted after he had already gone to South Point to say I was disrupting and threatening him,” Matlala says.

Matlala says she reported the alleged rape to the Wits Gender Equity Office (GEO) on Monday, August 13 because nothing has come from reporting to the police. Previously, Director of GEO Crystal Dicks has told Wits Vuvuzela that although South Point was not a Wits residence they had worked with them.

“South Point management have made commitments, so if they are not fulfilling those commitments to ensure that those residences where our students are living are safe, then the university needs to take action,” she said at the time, adding that a Wits student living at a South Point residence was still the university’s responsibility.

“We have had reports of incidents at South Point. If they are our students, we will take care of them. Often in South Point residences the alleged perpetrators are not Wits students themselves so we don’t have jurisdiction but we can still support the students who are victims of harm,” said Dicks.

Wits Vuvuzela reached out to South Point for comment, but after several interactions in person, by phone and in writing, representatives of the student accommodation company would not provide one.
*Not her real name

FEATURED IMAGE: Spotlight on Diamond House after rape incident   Photo: Londell Phumi Ramalepe