4 Apr


Many years back I made the choice that I would use my public persona and brand to bring awareness of women and children rights issues and laws. In order to make a difference, I needed to understand all the fundamentals around abuse. Unfortunately I had been beaten by a boyfriend when I was at University, so the emotional, physical and psychological aspect already ran through my veins. I needed to continue in an ethical manner, I needed to understand the fundamental principles around abuse, and understand societies attitudes towards abuse and why there is such a huge stigma attached to those who are abuse and speak out. I approached POWA and did my training through the NGO as I knew I had to heal my wounds but when the situation arose, I might have to try and help others.
Since that day I have spoken on many platforms and aligned with many campaigns. So it was no surprise to me when I received an email from a young activist, sharing her story and asking for assistance. Last week Yolandi Dyanti, contacted me regarding the #Rhodeswar campaign. The campaign was launched in 2016 and I was living in Uganda at the time , so I was not that entrenched in the followings and outcome of it all. For those of you who do not know about it, here you go:
In essence, the hashtag #RhodesWar 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.
According to journalists Lufuno Ramadwa and Palesa Kgaswane, this is what one needs to know regarding #Rhodeswar

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.

Taken from their manifesto:

#RhodesWar is an ongoing political campaign which speaks against the systematic exclusion of Anti-rape activists at the University currently known as Rhodes. The very same activists who played an active role in fighting rape culture and sexual violence at the university. Instead of the university heeding the call to eradicate rape culture and protect the students on their campus, they have chosen to expel those who stood up and exposed the university for being complicit while students are raped and assaulted on campus. This is clearly a move to silence anti-rape activism at Rhodes which in turn silences victims and survivors of Rape. We know that such structural issues are not exclusive to Rhodes and the #RhodesWar campaign, but rather a depiction of a much broader societal issue that plagues the South African.
Ever since the #RUREFERENCELIST protests started in 2016 Rhodes University has shown to us students and the broader public that they protect rapists and not the victims of sexual assault. This we have seen in them barely meeting any of the demands of #RUReferenceList, excluding female activists students fighting against rape culture, and silencing student leaders by forcibly making them sign a form during registration that states that students may not partake in any protest action or embark on anything that may bring the University’s name in disrepute.

The 2018 call to action:
The 2nd anniversary of the #RUReferenceList protests will be marked this year on the 17th of April. With the on going political campaign under the hashtag #RhodesWar – which essentially speaks against the criminalisation and victimisation of female students at the University still known as Rhodes for protesting against rape culture and GBV on the campus – the Combat Days of Action are aiming at mobilising various student leaders from different campuses across the country in order to participate in the conversation of holding HED institutions accountable for not taking seriously the issue of GBV.
By including everyone who’s pledged their solidarity towards the campaign and have embarked on a series of demonstrations on their campuses in attempt to highlight the scourge of rape and the persistent culture, this shows that #RhodesWar is beyond just a Rhodes issue but rather a national issue with students saying “We are not safe!”.
All our campuses have a history of GBV where in many cases with the survivors being mostly womxn, have been met with countless disappoint in attempt to reporting their cases. Either there’s not enough resources at the time of emergency or the institutions that do exist on the campuses are ineffective as the policies they are mandated by are unreformed and do not speak to putting the needs of the survivors first, and above those of the perpetrator. This also speaks to the general issue in society at large where the constitution that guides the criminal offences law (specifically rape) remains unreformed in not understanding what ‘consent’ is and the various types of ‘rape’.
The Combat Days of Action then want to hold these conversations whereby we draft a mandated way forward demanding commitment from our institutions to being leaders in reforming the existing policies, or lack thereof, around the issues of Gender Based Violence and rape culture.
Universities that are on board (so far):
– University of Cape Town
– Cape Peninsula University of Technology
– Witwatersrand University
– University of Pretoria
– Nelson Mandela University
– Vaal University of Technology
University of Limpopo

So in essence, this blog is call to action for corporates, government to assist. Not only to the highlight the fact that rape and sexual assaults are happening on our campuses nationwide but that many of these institutions continue to run under a strong patriarchal rule.

Watch the short film titled: Disrupt. It is a documentary illustrating what happened on the ground.

For more information on how you can assist please contact Yolanda Dyanti:
Email: samanthadyantyi@gmail.com
WhatsApp: +27 79 213 4760

One Response to “#RHODESWAR”


  1. Reading list: #Chapter212, #RUReferencelist and #RhodesWar | gorata chengeta - September 17, 2020

    […] #RHODESWAR – Blog by Rosie Motene, April 2018 […]

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