SUSANNA ANBU, KAYLA THOMAS AND SAM MUKWAMU
On 2 September students began protesting outside Apartments on William (AOW), calling for an alleged sexual assault perpetrator to be arrested. The protest spread to Studios@Burnett on 3 September, where the protesters intended to confront a different alleged perpetrator, who was later taken into custody. At both locations, the students chanted the names of the alleged sexual assault perpetrators but no contact was made between students and the alleged perpetrators. The protests followed outrage on Twitter after the confirmed rape and murder of UCT student Uyinene Mrwetyana prompted students to share their experiences of sexual assault and name suspected perpetrators on Twitter.
The release of the statement confirming the apprehension of a 41-year old man responsible for Mrwetyana’s rape and murder became the impetus for the manhunt on the streets of Hatfield. The release of the statement was then followed by a series of tweets that were used to call out alleged sexual assault perpetrators amidst UP students. Using the tweets as basis, students set out on a manhunt in search of the alleged perpetrators. Multiple accounts gained a following from posting the names and pictures of alleged sexual assault perpetrators.
When students protested outside Studios@ Burnett, the alleged perpetrator was not on the scene. However, Lwethu Mgqaliso, who is studying Industrial Engineering at UP and is a resident of Studios@Burnett, claimed that “security showed up to his [the alleged perpetrator] room and escorted him out”. While seated at one of the cubicles at reception, Mgqaliso stated that he saw security personnel escort the alleged perpetrator past the turnstiles and through the door that led to the basement parking. Sando Mkhwanazi, a student who was locked inside the building when the glass door shut at reception, also witnessed the suspect being escorted to the parking area by security personnel and the house mother.
The protesting students were said to have arrived in front of Studios@Burnett around 00:00 on 3 September. Speaking about the protection that Studios@Burnett gave the alleged perpetrator, an anonymous source who also stays at Studios@ Burnett told PDBY that “they wanted [him] to come out but for various reasons he couldn’t come out, Studios@Burnett has to protect him. The police officers took him eventually”.
In order for theSouth African Police Service (SAPS) to take the alleged perpetrator into custody, an open case was necessary. According to the statement released by Captain Colette Weilbach, media liaison officer from Brooklyn Police Station, a case was opened; that the victim was allegedly raped in September 2018 by a friend who was staying in the same building. Kwazikwenkosi Biyela spoke to PDBY and confirmed that she opened a case against one of the alleged perpetrators and that a suspect was taken into custody. Biyela tweeted about her alleged encounter at 21:07 on 2 September which sparked a flurry of responses from other students on Twitter. Biyela cites Mrwetyana’s rape and murder as what triggered her to share her experience. According to Biyela, she went to the Brooklyn Police station at 19:00 and stayed there until 21:30, after which she was taken to Steve Biko Hospital. Biyela arrived at the scene of the students protesting at approximately 1:30. Upon her arrival, Biyela claims to have had a group of girls approach her claiming to have had similar experiences.
Following the opening of the case, investigations are underway and the alleged perpetrator appeared in Pretoria’s Magistrate Court on 4 September. Captain Weilbach confirmed that the case has been postponed until late October. Despite the successful apprehension of the alleged perpetrator, Captain Weilbach urges victims “not to report crimes on social media platform alone without reporting it to the SAPS”.
Due to the volatile situation on the streets of Hatfield, the University of Pretoria issued a statement condemning the gender-based violence that has plagued the nation. In a statement issued by Rikus Delport, Director of University Relations, he states that the university “supports students’ efforts in creating awareness of the unacceptable violence against women”. The statement also confirmed that a postgraduate student was arrested on the night of 2 September at a private residence in connection with an alleged rape that took place in 2018. Delport confirmed that the University has deployed additional security guards at female residences and that there are disciplinary cases underway that relate to the sexual assault cases that were reported to the police. Delport also mentioned that “depending on the nature of the incident, the accused will be suspended immediately pending an investigation”. Following the aftermath of the protest staged by students, the University of Pretoria has deployed an unidentified former police sergeant who has 16 years of experience in sexual assault cases tasked with assisting students and staff on campus by working with the Transformation office to support victims in the process.
On 3 September, a vigil was held at the Amphitheatre on Hatfield Campus to address xenophobic violence, as well as issues on sexual and gender-based violence. At a vigil, SRC President David Kabwa said that “the SRC was not directly involved in the protest action that transpired across Hatfield,” and that the SRC discourages “any and all forms of harm being inflicted from one student to another student [and] any and all incitement of violence from one student to another student.” In response to the backlash the SRC received from some students at the vigil, Kabwa expressed that students “would not be raising the issues if the issues were not valid,” which speaks to the need for the SRC to note criticism and acknowledge students’ issues “whether or not it is within [the] scope and parameters” of what the SRC can control. “We don’t agree with any perpetrators being allowed to get off scot-free,” said Kabwa on behalf of the SRC, encouraging students to create an environment in which students feel safe to come forward in the pursuit of justice.
After the vigil, students continued with their protests, this time outside Du South, where one of the alleged sexual assault perpetrators was alleged to have been. The group of protesters identified themselves as the #OneRapistOneBullet movement and demanded that the alleged perpetrator be taken into custody, however, the police could not do so as no victim had come forward to open a case. Further protests took place that evening, with students marching outside various student accommodations in Hatfield. On 5 September, students, led by the SRC, marched across campus, disrupting classes, in an attempt to have the university cancel classes for 5 and 6 September, so that students would have time to grieve. As a result of the disruptions, the university cancelled classes for 5 and 6 September.
Speaking to PDBY, a representative of the #OneRapistOneBullet said, “One of our biggest support structures within the university has been the department of student affairs, Dr Madiba has been really helpful in the process by coming to SAPS with us to deliver the memorandums.” The Movement maintains that Dr Madiba helped bring an element of seriousness in the investigative path of the cases.
In response to the demands submitted by the #OneRapistOneBullet to the police, Captain Weilbach confirmed that the station has undertaken a variety of measures to meet the demands. A suggestion box as requested by the protesters was put up in front of the police station. Numerous awareness campaigns and self-defence classes have been conducted at various residences. The Brooklyn SAPS accepted the movement’s invitation to be part of movements that denounced the culture of toxic masculinity. The station commander of Brooklyn SAPS, Brigadier Kushie Pietersen, students and the station management conducted a dialogue on gender-based violence on 9 September at Elim Church. The response to the movement’s memorandum ascertained that this will be the first of many possible joint initiatives in the future. The Brooklyn SAPS’s response to the memorandum further highlighted that they would intensify police visibility according to the criminal tendencies in Hatfield. In order to address the demand of effective and consistent patrols, the Brooklyn SAPS have collaborated with other stakeholders such as Hatfield Community Improvement District (CID) and Tshwane Metro Police Department. The Brooklyn SAPS recommend that students take part in community patrolling projects and police station. Numerous awareness campaigns and self-defence classes have been conducted at various residences. The Brooklyn SAPs accepted the movement’s invitation to be part of movements that denounced the culture of toxic masculinity. The station commander of Brooklyn SAPS, Brigadier Kushie Pietersen, students and the station management conducted a dialogue on gender-based violence on 9 September at Elim Church. The response to the movement’s memorandum ascertained that this will be the first of many possible joint initiatives in the future.
The Brooklyn SAPS’s response to the memorandum further highlighted that they would intensify police visibility according to the criminal tendencies in Hatfield. In order to address the demand of effective and consistent patrols, the Brooklyn SAPS have collaborated with other stakeholders such as Hatfield Community Improvement District (CID) and Tshwane Metro Police Department. The Brooklyn SAPS recommend that students take part in community patrolling projects and recognize Community in Blue as a structured community safety initiative.
Furthermore, the Brooklyn SAPS inform that in some cases, immediate prosecution cannot follow and a formal charge will not be brought immediately, but that they will investigate such a case and submit the police docket to the public prosecutor for a decision. The Brooklyn SAPS maintains that the demand to move the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences (FCS) unit to Hatfield is beyond their control but have confirmed they have forwarded the request to a higher office.