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It starts with ‘games’ and ends as rape at Rhodes

2018-08-13 00:00

Allegations have been made that male students would compete to ‘club’ first-year women

It starts with “games” and ends as rape

Sordid claims have emerged about how male students at Rhodes University have, over the years, competed with each other to score sex with young women students and then tell their tales of conquest.

Five former students at the university revealed that such “games” created fertile ground for rape and sexual assault, and they spoke about how their efforts on campus to stamp out these activities have had little effect.

The former students came forward after Rhodes University arts student Khensani Maseko committed suicide last Friday after reporting her rape to the university last month.

The university confirmed Maseko reported she was raped in May.

Maseko was buried last week in Johannesburg.

In a statement last Monday, the university said it had issued a notice to suspend the alleged perpetrator.

Former students this week spoke about years of abuse of female students by their male peers.

Around 2006, one said, students and staff were aware that male students would be encouraged to “score or hook up [have sex with] with a minga [a derogatory word for an ugly or unattractive woman student] and report to the male group on their conquest”.

“Guys would say things like ‘find me a minga’. Everyone was aware of this. Nonconsensual sex tapes were uploaded on a file-sharing platform on the university’s intranet, and men were challenging one another to distribute them.”

Another former student said that, when he arrived at the university in 2009, there was a game called “seal clubbing” that was played by returning male students.

“During orientation week for first years, after parents had left their children behind, returning male students would target first-year students. They would count among themselves how many girls they had slept with,” the man said.

“Sometimes it would be consensual sex, but there were incidents where girls apparently would get drunk and not know what had happened to them. They were taken advantage of because they were drunk.”

Another student who was at the university at the time said: “The returning male student would be the hunter and target first-year female students to club or f**k. The more seals you club, the more ‘legend’ you are.”

Past and present students said such “games” were still happening on campus, with some pointing to the Rhodes Confessions page on Facebook as a recent example of a platform where stories of sexual conquest, as well as rape and sexual violence, are posted.

A former student activist at the university in the late 2000s claimed that university management was to blame for failing to act.

The student claimed that current vice-chancellor Dr Sizwe Mabizela was, “at the height of our campaign, the deputy vice-chancellor for academics and student affairs”.

“He made commitments to change circumstances at the time. He has walked this path before.”

University spokesperson Luzuko Jacobs said this was a “very serious allegation” and that it was “unfair” not to afford Mabizela reasonable time to respond to such serious criticism because he was attending Maseko’s funeral on Wednesday morning, ahead of Thursday’s public holiday.

City Press sent questions to Mabizela at 3pm on Wednesday.

“Everyone has always known about sexual and gender-based violence at Rhodes and, indeed, all universities, schools, churches and the rest of society,” Jacobs said.

He said the alleged sexual “games” were not reported to the university, and that “no such games are allowed”.

Another former student said they had called for a “comprehensive policy” to deal with sexual violence and harassment in 2010.

Jacobs questioned how sexual violence and harassment was not addressed with what the university has “always had”. He said Rhodes had a sexual assault protocol and has “since appointed an experienced harassment officer”.

“This is part of the implementation of the recommendations of the sexual violence task team and transformation summit recommendation,” he said.

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November 18 2018