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STATEMENT TO THE MEDIA

12 DECEMBER 2017

RHODES UNIVERSITY EXPELS TWO STUDENT ACTIVISTS FOR


LIFE OVER #RUREFERENCE LIST PROTESTS IN APRIL 2016.

The Socio-Economic Rights Institute (SERI) acts for Yolanda Dyantyi in a number of matters
concerning her participation in anti-rape protests on the Rhodes University campus during April 2016.
Our client has instructed us to issue this statement to the media in response to the recent online
campaign #RhodesWar.

Between 17 and 20 April 2016, a large number of Rhodes students participated in a campus-based
protest against what they saw as an entrenched culture of rape and sexual violence against women.
The protestors believed that the Universitys management and administration had enabled a culture
in which rape and sexual violence against women were both permitted and condoned. The protestors
also believed that the University enabled this culture by permitting a number of practices which
promoted gender-based violence.

One example of this culture was the fact that Universitys own website described first year women
students as seals that are ripe for clubbing (a euphemism for older male students aggressively
pursuing sexual contact with younger women). The University also promoted serenades in which
male students randomly select young women to take back to their dormitory rooms, in circumstances
where there is no doubt that sexual contact is expected and condoned.

The protestors also felt that the sanctions imposed by the Universitys disciplinary authorities for rape
and gender-based violence were insufficiently severe to protect women students and to deter
repetition of rape and sexual violence. The University itself has acknowledged in court papers that
rape and sexual violence are prevalent on its campus.

Ms. Dyantyi participated in the April 2016 protests. In response to the protests, the University sued
Ms. Dyantyi, two other female students, the Student Representative Council and a large number of
other people it identified as those engaging in or associating with unlawful activities on its campus.

The effect of the order the University claimed was to ban any campus-based protest at all. In
December 2016, relying on submissions advanced by SERI on Ms. Dyantyis behalf, the High Court
in Grahamstown dismissed the Universitys application for such an order.

The High Court did, however, grant a narrower interdict against Ms. Dyantyi and two other women
students, which restrained them from kidnapping, assaulting, intimidating any person on the University
campus, disrupting classes or destroying property.

Ms. Dyantyi and the two other students applied for leave to appeal against the interdict, on the basis
that it had not been established that they had in fact participated in any of the activities from which
they were restrained. Their application for leave to appeal was refused by the Supreme Court of
Appeal, and by the Constitutional Court. The Constitutional Court did not finally decide any of the
issues of fact raised by Ms. Dyantyi. It merely noted that it could not interfere with the findings of fact
made by the High Court.

Ms. Dyantyi maintains that those findings of fact are erroneous. The fact that the Constitutional Court
has declined to interfere with them does not amount to an endorsement of them, but reflects the
Courts long-established position that it will not, generally, resolve disputes of fact raised in lower
courts. The Court did, though, set aside costs orders made against Ms. Dyantyi on the basis that she
was litigating in good faith to vindicate her constitutional rights.

In March 2017, eleven months after the April 2016 protests concluded, the University instituted
disciplinary proceedings against Ms. Dyantyi. When the time came for the disciplinary inquiry to hear
Ms. Dyantyis evidence, the Chairperson of the proceedings postponed the inquiry to a date on which
he knew none of Ms. Dyantyis legal representatives could attend the inquiry, because they had
competing commitments in court. SERI made every effort to persuade the Chairperson to continue
the proceedings on a date that Ms. Dyantyi could give evidence with the assistance of her legal
representatives. The Chairperson refused to accede to SERIs request that the date of the inquiry be
changed. In the event, Ms. Dyantyi did not attend the inquiry because she could not do so with the
assistance of her representatives. SERI has advised Ms. Dyantyi that the failure to hold the inquiry
on a date that Ms. Dyantyis legal representatives were able to appear constitutes an irregularity in
the proceedings, rendering them fatally unfair and unlawful.

Ms. Dyantyi was convicted in her absence, and permanently excluded from the University. All of her
most recent examinations were invalidated. Her transcript was endorsed with the words
Unsatisfactory Conduct: Student found guilty of assault, kidnapping, insubordination and
defamation.

As far as SERI has been able to ascertain, this is the harshest penalty the University has imposed for
ten years for any offence whatsoever, including rape and sexual violence on campus. The
endorsement on Ms. Dyantyis transcript is unusual. Ordinarily, a students transcript does not record
disciplinary offences of which she has been convicted. In setting out the offences of which Ms. Dyantyi
has been found guilty, the transcript will effectively prevent Ms. Dyantyi from registering elsewhere.
SERI has advised Ms. Dyantyi that this sanction is wholly unreasonable and unlawful.

Ms. Dyantyi has attempted to launch an internal review of the proceedings and sanction to the
Universitys internal review committee. The University refused to accept that review application,
because, so it claimed, the review application was launched too late. SERI has advised Ms. Dyantyi
that the review application was in fact launched on time in terms of the rules, and that the Universitys
refusal to accept the review is unlawful. We have furthermore advised Ms. Dyantyi that, in any event,
the Universitys failure to exercise its discretion to entertain the review, even if submitted late, is
likewise unreasonable and unlawful in the circumstances.

SERI has been instructed to launch an application to the High Court to review and set aside the
disciplinary proceedings brought against Ms. Dyantyi. SERI believes that the Universitys treatment
of Ms. Dyantyi has been disproportionate, unfair and unlawful.

Contact details:
Nomzamo Zondo, SERI director of litigation: 071 301 9676 / 011 356 5868 / nomzamo@seri-sa.org