If you have been keeping your eye on social media, specifically Twitter over the past 24-hours, you would have noticed the hashtag #RhodesWar and wondered what it means, who is at war and why.
By: Lufuno Ramadwa and Palesa Kgasane
In essence, the hashtag represents the response to the University currently known as Rhodes’ decision to exclude student leaders who were prominent in the sexual violence protests, a decision that has many women outraged and disappointed.
This is what you need to know:
1. Rhodes university expelled two students for the rest of their lives, over their involvement in the rape culture protests that took place in 2016. The protests were sparked by the #RUReferenceList; a list of alleged rapists that circulated on campus. This list highlighted the lack of protection and security for female students against rape and assault. Things such as res rules being different for male and female residents, where male residences almost “encouraged” sexual behaviour by not having visiting hours. In a report filed by the SABC, one student said “The culture of patriarchy is instilled in us in our first years during what we call serenades, where male and female residences interact for the first time. The female residents often perform sexually explicit songs for male residents and it is something that is uncomfortable and speaks to the culture at Rhodes”
2. The men accused of rape only got a 10-year expulsion from the university. This means that the accused can continue their studies, whilst the women who were the victims will not. This verdict, which was allegedly ruled in court also means that the university has withheld transcripts of the students, even those with just two months left to graduate.
3. Rhodes expelled the women, not for protesting, but for “leading a vigilante mob into buildings, rounding up men identified on the circulated rape list, assaulting them and holding them hostage”. Something that has been hugely attested on social media.
4. The above events lead to a massive outcry on social media, sparking the interests of local celebrities like Cassper Nyovest, who retweeted(shared) the tweets. One of the affected student leaders Naledi Chirwa, asked the public for assistance in taking legal action:
OMG💔😭Guys we need help. We need legal help. Political help. Rhodes must be taken to court. Can't post what is happening in detail because Black Womxn are being held at ransom. We need help. Please. 0766475312 please RT. Rhodes University is doing the most. We need help💔💔💔
— Babes Womzabalazo (@NalediChirwa) December 11, 2017
And this is what people had to say:
So this is what is happening at Rhodes University
1.Women are being raped
2.They protest about rape
3.They get expelled
This is inhumane💔
— Brandon Ntuli (@ntulibrandon) December 11, 2017
— Gladiator (@Khanyi_T_) December 12, 2017
Rhodes University hates women. It especially hates black, vocal, activist women. It hates the disruption of white and male power #RhodesWar
— Sid. (@ABGqomo) December 11, 2017
Rhodes University is so wild that they expelled a rapist for 10 yrs & expelled 2 students who participated in rape culture protests for life🙃
— Third Force (@NalediMashishi) December 11, 2017
5. Despite the public outcry and in a radio interview with SAfm, Rhodes University supports the decision that it will not condone ‘unlawful conduct’. Dr Mabizela, the vice-chancellor of the university is yet to respond.
[LISTEN]@Rhodes_Uni maintains that it will not condone 'unlawful conduct'.
— #AMLive 104-107fm 📻 (@amliveonsafm) December 13, 2017
The #RhodesWar hashtag speaks to a deeper societal issue that we face on our hands. We at ELLE would like to extend our sympathy to those triggered and affected by the ongoing crises of rape culture and sexual assault against women and children in this country. 16 Days Of Activism is not enough to educate and facilitate conversations around these acts and we believe that we all ought to feel protected by the law and the institutions we attend.