The Witwatersrand University has been criticised for its handling of an alleged rape incident, in a report by analyst and gender activist Nomboniso Gasa, who was appointed by Vice-Chancellor Adam Habib to probe the incident at one of its residences.
The university said the report was not about the actual rape incident, but how management handled the matter when it was reported. Habib said he was not in a position to distribute the report as it mentioned several individuals who had a right of reply.
“It is their right to do so. I understand that some people may be unhappy about this decision, but we do live in a constitutional democracy and the legal rights of all must be upheld, respected and protected,” Habib said on Friday.
Gasa found that while one official at the residence was supportive and empathetic towards the victim, other officials did not demonstrate the requisite care and support. The university had failed the female student allegedly raped by a male student by not providing a safe environment for her, the report found.
According to media reports, the alleged offender was allowed to continue living in the same block with the traumatised victim, who later attempted to commit suicide.
Gasa recommended that “such lapses” by the university should never be repeated.
“The university ought to have intervened to avoid the state of affairs where the complainant and the person against whom she had lodged a complaint resided in the same residential block, while at the same time respecting the legal rights of all. The report particularly recommends that measures be immediately implemented within residences to ensure that these lapses are not repeated.”
The report recommended that Wits considers sanctioning any official who failed to abide by university processes and therefor failed the female student.
Gasa further recognised the university’s Gender Equity Office (GEO), established as an institutional innovation after sexual harassment cases were reported and addressed in 2013.
The GEO made progress in bringing counselling, prosecuting services and advocacy functions into a single office, although Gasa recommended an improvement in the management of the services within the GEO.
Habib said the rape case investigation would be concluded in a week, adding that the university would deal with the weaknesses Gasa highlighted in her report.
“In 2013, Wits went through enormous institutional trauma around a number of cases of sexual harassment. We addressed these firmly and developed institutional innovations to learn from the weaknesses in our structural processes.
“As a university community, we will once again deal firmly with the weaknesses that have been exposed and we will work towards the goal of building a non-racial, gender-sensitive, inclusive University community that is truly capable of addressing all the scourges that afflict our society.”
The rape incident reportedly happened on October 30.
– African News Agency