NUMSA Statement on rape and violence at Rhodes University

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa strongly condemns the strong-arm and violent police response to the peaceful student campaign against the rising rape culture at Rhodes University in Grahamstown.
While we have no doubt that the Rhodes University administration does not support rape and all forms of sexual violence, we are not impressed with the weak and ineffectual response to the reported incidents of rape.
We urge the administration to act swiftly, effectively, and take all necessary measures to root out of the University the emerging dangerous rape culture.
On the 11th of April 2016 an awareness campaign consisting of posters opposed to rape culture was launched by the students at the University.
This galvanised students and led to a series of actions by students to highlight the scourge of rape and to demand that the university take serious and effective action to support survivors and ensure the prosecution of offenders.
A large number of students take the view that the response of the university was inadequate. Last night barricades were erected on the campus in an attempt to force the management to take the students’ concerns more seriously. This morning protests continued and the campus was shutdown with barricades at various entrances.
This was a non-violent protest by unarmed students. The police arrived fully armed and stood guard as the barricades were dismantled. During this process the police also attacked students who were subject to assault, teargas, pepper spray, stun grenades and rubber bullets. Several students were arrested.
It has been reported that the police have issued serious threats against any further attempts to erect or hold barricades and against any student protesting off campus. It has been reported that they have stated that they have orders from higher up to take decisive action against student activism.
The police have no place to determine how a peaceful and unarmed assembly of people must conduct themselves in post-1994 South Africa. The right to peacefully assemble, demonstrate and protest was underwritten by blood in this country. The police must focus on providing the most conducive peaceful environment for the students and communities in Grahamstown to demonstrate and protest against the savagery of rape in their communities.
We call upon all the working class formations in Grahamstown, including NEHAWU and SAMWU, to work with the students to root out the evil of rape, in the town and university.
NUMSA will be carefully and closely monitoring the goings on in Grahamstown, and we will not hesitate to offer concrete practical support to the students, should the need arise.
Irvin Jim,
Numsa General Secretary,
20th April, 2016.
073 157 6384