Rhodes speaks out after death of rape victim

Rhodes University student Khensani Maseko.
Rhodes University student Khensani Maseko.
Image: Khensani Maseko via Instagram

Dozens of Rhodes University students and staff on Tuesday braved icy, wet conditions to commemorate the life of Khensani Maseko, who was described as a brave, fearless and ambitious student leader.

The third-year student took her own life last week just a few days after reporting to the university that she had been raped at the institution in May.

The cold, grey weather reflected the mood of the marchers who wound their way up to the Settlers Monument singing songs of mourning.

The Monument is where Maseko would have graduated at the end of her degree had she not died so tragically.

The 23-year-old student leader, who was also an active member of the EFF Student Command (EFFSC), was described as a fighter.

Rhodes vice-chancellor Sizwe Mabizela said that society had failed Maseko and many like her.

“Khensani did not deserve to die under the circumstances she did,” said Mabizela.

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, said Mabizela.

“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.”

A student advisor identified only as Mrs K sobbed softly as she spoke about Maseko.

“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 (more carefully) to you.”

The university shut down all academic activities on Monday and Tuesday to allow students to come to terms with Maseko’s death and to run an alternative education and awareness programme on sexual and gender based violence.

Mabizela announced this week that the university had set in motion the process to suspend Maseko’s alleged rapist.

Just a few days into Women's Month, tragedy hit South Africa after it emerged that student Khensani Maseko took her own life on August 3 2018 after allegedly being raped. Here’s how South Africa reacted.