Rhodes University Students Shut Down Their Institution To Mourn the Death of Khensani Maseko
The third-year law student died of suicide Friday, months after she was allegedly raped by her then-boyfriend in May.
Students at Rhodes University called for an academic boycott Monday to mourn the death of third year law student Khensani Maseko.
It is alleged Maseko died of suicide Friday and was found dead at her home in Johannesburg, Mail & Guardianreports. She was 23.
Rhodes' Student Representative Council (SRC) believes her alleged rape by her then-boyfriend in May is what led to her shocking death. Maseko's family has yet to comment on her death or what led to it.
"Her last post on social media is a haunting suggestion of the woeful circumstanced she faced while she was alive: that is, that her tragic passing is related to her having been a survivor of sexual assault," the SRC says in a statement announcing the shut down. "The news of her passing has been received with great shock and sadness by the entire student body. As such, the student body is experiencing deep levels of grief and anger. We are extremely saddened to have witnessed, on social media, the end of a life filled with so much potential."
Maseko indeed had a bright future ahead, as she was elected to be on the SRC and was voted Miss Varsity for the 2017-2018 year. She also sat on the Rhodes Independent Electoral Board and was involved in the Economic Freedom Fighters Student Command (EFFSC).
The Daily Vox covered the gathering, where students gathered at Rhodes' Purple Square Monday morning to march to the main administration building, singing protest songs.
"We've just had a meeting with the deans and other leaders of this institution and we've taken a decision to mourn the tragedy that has befallen this institution," Sizwe Mabizela, vice chancellor, says addressing the students. "All academic activities today will be suspended."
Classes have also been cancelled for Tuesday, as an alternative curriculum to combat rape culture will take place. The program will include a march, rape culture discussions and an anti-rape activism talk.
Mabizela also notes that the alleged perpetrator, who is a Rhodes student, has been served with a letter indicating suspension. The university also plans to request the South African Police Service and the National Prosecuting Authority to initiate an inquest into Maseko's death, The Daily Vox reports.
Maseko's funeral will hold this Thursday—the same day as Women's Day in South Africa.
Students have been protesting and pushing Rhodes University to take action in its complicity to rape culture on campus, beginning with 2016's #RUReferenceList. Disappointment spread a year later in 2017 when the university expelled two student activists who protested rape culture for life, while only one of the convicted rapists was banned for only 10 years.
As news of Maseko's death spread through the weekend, South Africans took to social media to mourn and to express frustration as to why this issue persists.