Society failed Maseko, says Rhodes vice-chancellor

Society had failed Rhodes University student Khensani Maseko and many like her, says Rhodes vice-chancellor Sizwe Mabizela.

Speaking today at a protest rally against sexual and gender-based violence, he said the manner in which society raised its young men in a patriarchal and misogynistic society contributed to the tragedy.

Maseko committed suicide last week after reporting to the university in late July that she had been raped earlier this year at the university.

“Khensani did not deserve to die under the circumstances she did. She did not deserve to have her beautiful life terminated in as tragic a manner as it was,” said Mabizela.

He said while society told young women what to wear and how to conduct themselves, it failed to teach young men that they had no right to interfere with the bodily integrity of others.

“We as a society have failed her in that we have not brought up young men who know how to love, respect and treat women. Patriarchy and misogyny are very much part of our society and we look the other way when we witness something terrible happening.”

He called on students and staff not to let her death be in vain.

“May it be a significant turning point that we as a university and a society redouble our efforts to eradicate the scourge of sexual and gender-based violence in our society.”

About 300 Rhodes students braved icy conditions and rain to march from the university to the Settlers Monument where Maseko would have graduated at the end of her degree.

A student adviser identified only as Mrs K sobbed softly as she spoke about Khensani.

“For every male who came through my office, I apologise for not speaking to you about consent. For every female I apologise for not listening to you.”

Students paid tribute to Maseko through poetry and song. The university shut down all academic activities on Monday and Tuesday (today).

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