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Rhodes University suspends classes for rest of the week

The university has set up a task team to investigate the allegations of rape on campus.

FILE: Rhodes University students activists stand outside the magistrate court after the arrest of the five students during the anti-rape protests on 20 April 2016. Picture: Govan Whittles/EWN.

GRAHAMSTOWN - Rhodes University has suspended classes for the remainder of the week as student protests against rape on campus are set to continue.

The university says it has suspended classes for the rest of this week due to the protests which are being led by activists against gender-based violence and the Rhodes Student Representative Council (SRC).

It follows the release of a so-called reference list with the names of eleven people accused of raping other students.

The university management has now set up a task team to investigate the allegations.

It says the decision is in recognition of the trauma and strain that all students and staff have experienced over the past two days.

In a short statement, it says academic activity will only resume on Monday, but libraries and specific science labs will remain open.

The students say they won't end the protest until action is taken against the people mentioned on the list.

The university has secured an interdict preventing the demonstration and police have appealed to victims of police brutality to come forward.

The students want the university to take against the men they accuse of being rapists.

They also say the police's use of rubber bullets pepper spray and stun grenades was uncalled for yesterday.

Grahamstown police spokesperson Mali Govender said, "We also appeal to anyone who felt that they had been violated in any way, they can make reports to us which would be investigated internally. Should it be found that the actions officers weren't within the confines of the law, action will then be taken."

One student says she has first-hand experience with the university's sexual violence policies, which are very frustrating.

"I've recently put through a sexual harassment charge and just seeing how much of a mission it was to actually do something about it. He is the one in the wrong and I'm the one who has to go through a lot of effort to do something about it."

VICE-CHANCELLOR JEERED

Yesterday, Rhodes University Vice-Chancellor Sizwe Mabizela said he was disgusted by the arrest of five students during a protest against rape at the institution's Grahamstown campus, but believes women who've been raped must report their ordeal if they expect the university to act against the perpetrators.

The university says it will be reviewing its policy on how sexual violence is reported, saying it wants to make it more confidential and supportive.

Mabizela was jeered by a large group of students who have been protesting against what they say is a culture of rape at the Grahamstown institution.

He said while the university is prepared to amend its policies to allow victims of rape more accessible access to justice, it all depends on whether the crime was reported.

The vice chancellor says he was disgusted by the police's decision to open fire with rubber bullets on students who were peacefully protesting outside the institution yesterday.

He said the arrests have also raised tensions at the university.

"Unfortunately this is a public road, that is their argument, but they have to use minimum force. The students were very peaceful."

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