Crowds gathered on UCT’s Lower Campus to escort an alleged sexual offender, who was a member of the SRC, to Mowbray police station on the 29th of June after curfew.
By Ernst Calitz (Staff writer)
On the 29th of June, Main Road and the Lower Campus of the University of Cape Town (UCT) filled up with approximately 200 students chanting and demanding justice. Their actions were motivated after an ex-member of the UCT Student Representative Council (SRC) was accused of sexual assault. The students braved the cold of the night and the dangers that come with breaking curfew to escort the alleged perpetrator from their residence to the Mowbray police station.
“I was tired, and a lot of other people were tired. Then when you got there, you were filled up with this energy from all the other people,” recalls Rose Wesley*, a member at the protest that night.
Rose further recalls that the presence of a police van arriving on the scene made a great deal of students uncomfortable. Adding further to the tense and suspenseful atmosphere of the night, she added that many of the people present were individuals involved in activism and that they were used to dealing with these kinds of circumstances.
She commented on the behavior of the alleged offender, stating that during the night, they were seen “laughing and talking to people in a very casual manner”. This was upsetting to not only her, but other members present that night as well.
When the group escorting the alleged perpetrator arrived at the Mowbray police station, he was moved towards the front of the crowd and shielded in front of the glass windows at the police station. This was to ensure that no harm was to come to him from the crowd as people were becoming aggressive.
Other members of the SRC were also seen comforting and protecting the survivor during the entire ordeal, trying to ensure their safety and comfort after the trauma. Rose added: “There were a lot of people standing with the survivor to make sure that she was comforted and that her story would be heard.”
One student boldly stated: “It’s not only her story, it’s my friends who I also know. It’s me, I’ve been affected by Gender-Based-Violence (GBV); it’s literally every femme-body person I know that has a story of GBV. So, when it’s somebody who is supposed to be our leader, and who should be looking after the students, and we find out that they hurt students, it hurts us greatly. That’s why a lot of people were very involved in the protest.”
When asked, many students added that the 2019 #AmINext GBV protests at UCT and around South Africa helped to pave the way for current students to take up action against alleged perpetrators. They further added that current students are supposed to have a zero-tolerance approach towards GBV and alleged perpetrators.
*Names were changed to ensure anonymity.