The death of 23-year-old Rhodes University student Khensani Maseko has sent shock waves through the nation and sparked dialogue about rape culture within the institution.
“Khensani was such a strong person, even when she got a lot of criticism when she ran the Rhodes SRC she never backed down, so this comes as a surprise,” third-year BCom student Neo Chele told News24.
Maseko sought help prior to her death by reaching out to Kerry Perumal from Nkosi-Fassie, an organisation dealing with various issues including sexual assault on campus.
“Khensani reached out to me at the end of July regarding her sexual assault case. I took her through the necessary channels and her parents were contacted. When they arrived, they decided to take her home,” chairperson of Nkosi-Fassie and Rhodes student Kerry Perumal told News24.
Perumal also clarified that Maseko had reported her sexual assault case within the institution and she insisted that she would return to deal with it.
“She told me that she was going to come back to campus, I had no idea that she was in a suicidal state,” Perumal said.
Rhodes University observed an academic shutdown on Monday and students confirm that it was a dark day on campus as angry students engaged with management.
“It is not fair that someone had to lose their life in order for management to step up. Rape culture exists at Rhodes, you report an incident and you still have to sit in class with your rapist,” Chele said.
Tributes and condolences continue to pour in for Maseko who is expected to be buried this week. The family has not confirmed a memorial service yet.
At an imbizo at the Tshwane North College Mamelodi campus, Department of Higher Education and Training Deputy Minister Buti Manamela said the alleged events surrounding the recent death of Maseko are a typical example of what happens when a man believes he is “entitled” to a woman’s body.
The imbizo at the college was part of a national movement to start addressing and finding alternative solutions to the challenge of the safety of students in institutions of higher learning.
It aims to reach out to all 26 universities in the country and 50 technical and vocational education and training colleges, driven by the education department and its Health, Wellness Development Centre (HEAIDS).
Maseko’s death came just days after #TotalShutdown marches where women across the country, including Rhodes University students, called for an end to violence against women.