Disrupt university rape culture at Wits

ru list

DISRUPTING RAPE CULTURE: The documentary was screened at Wits on Tuesday. Photo: Shannon Correia

Anti-sexual violence activists at Wits presented a student documentary on Tuesday about the Rhodes University #RUReferenceList which exposed rape culture at that university.
The documentary, called Disrupt, has been screened around Wits campuses and residences, where a facilitated discussion around the student protest action in relation to gender and sexual violence took place. The turnout of the screening was described by Gender Equity Office (GEO) investigations and advocacy officer Charlene Beukes as ‘amazing’.
“The screening was to start a conversation about rape culture on Wits campuses” and engaging the university about ways to combat rape culture,” said Beukes.
The screening and talk included Wits organisations such as the GEO, Counselling and Careers Development Unit, Student Development and Leadership Unit, Vow FM and Drama for life, as well as some of residences including Mens Res.
Executive producer of Disrupt Mitchel Parker said “the documentary takes a look at the #RUReferencelist protest that took place at Rhodes University. [It] looks at the actual events of the days, where we added context.”
Parker said that he hopes that “the documentary challenges people like management in universities to look at their rape and sexual assault policies.”
The making of the documentary was in collaboration Chapter 2:12, a campaign that started at Stellenbosch University and now includes Rhodes.
One of the observer who attended the screening and participated in the discussion, Mpumi Mlambo, said that the documentary had both pros and cons. “It made us aware that even though you may be looking at social protests like the #RUReferenceList from a distance,” she said.
But Mlambo said she thought the story was “one-dimensional”.
“I found the video a little problematic because it the story was one dimensional. I would have loved to hear the rapist being mentioned as a possible friend, brother, lecturer or vice-chancellor.”
The documentary features #RUReferenceList student protesters Reabetsoe Ralethe, Mercy Watama and Carla Botha.
The Disrupt documentary can be seen on the Rhodes Activate Online YouTube page.

For sexual assualt assistance,
contact the Wits Gender Equity Office at 011 717 9792 or email Maria Wanyane at

Students complain of sexual harassment

Students on campus are signing a petition against alleged sexual harassment by private security.

DON'T TOUCH: Private security personnel on campus are accused of sexually harassing students. Photo: Michelle Gumede

DON’T TOUCH: Private security personnel on campus are accused of sexually harassing students. Photo: Michelle Gumede


Over 500 Wits students are signing a petition against the alleged sexual harassment by private security on campus hired to provide “operational control” in the face of fees protests.

“Wits University ought to be free space where females need not to worry about their safety,” says third-year BA student Mpho Ndaba, who started the petition.

The petition aims to raise awareness about sexual harassment on campus. Ndaba says the more female students he has spoken to, the more he realised that the harassment was being normalised.

According to Ndaba, students are not reporting these incidents because they think it’s normal or okay.

One of the students complaining, fourth-year BADA student Swankie Mafoko, says she was verbally harassed by the private security while she was reporting for VOW FM. Mafoko says she was inside Solomon House, when some security guards dressed in black and red came and stood behind her. The men started making sexual remarks about her body in a demeaning way.

She says she wasn’t bothered at first because she is used to catcalling at taxi ranks and other public spaces but she was shocked at the intensity of these guys’ remarks.

“What shocked me was when they were describing my breasts,” says Mafoko.

She says she was so shaken that she put on her denim jacket to cover her breasts and she immediately left without finishing her reporting.

“I panicked and walked away,” Mafoko says.

Mafoko says she did not report her incident because she didn’t see them and she doesn’t believe she can prove her victimisation.

“You can’t prove that kind of harassment on video, it’s my word against theirs,” Mafoko says.

Maria Wanyane, of the Wits Gender Equity office, says they have not received any official complaints about sexual harassment by private security so far.

Private security, who are mainly male, have been stationed on campus since October 2015 at a cost of nearly R2-million per month.

According to the Wits Gender Equity Office, sexual harassment doesn’t have to be physical. It can be any unwanted attention which can include heckling, whistling and catcalling.

“It’s important for everyone who has experienced any form of harassment to come forward and report it,” says Wanyane.

Wanyane says even if someone is harassed on campus by someone they don’t know, the unit has the power to view security footage and assist in identifying alleged perpetrators.