/ 12 December 2017

Life expulsion from Rhodes for ‘conduct beyond lawful boundaries’

A Rhodes University student blows a whistle during a protest against sexual violence in the institution.
A Rhodes University student blows a whistle during a protest against sexual violence in the institution.

Two unnamed student activists have been expelled for life from Rhodes University, reportedly for their “conduct beyond lawful boundaries” while protesting against rape culture at the university.

The protests, which saw the university being shut down in April last year, were sparked when a list of the names of the alleged sexual abuse offenders, known as the #RUReferenceList, was circulated on social media. The list was forwarded to Rhodes management demanding the expulsion of the accused.

The shutdown was led by women protesters — students and staff — some of whom were topless.

The University applied for the interdict at the Grahamstown High Court, and included people “engaging in unlawful activities” as well as those “associating themselves” with such activities. The interdict also named three students in particular: Yolanda Dyantyi, Simamkele Heleni and Sian Ferguson.

READ MORE: Interdict brought against Rhodes students

The interdict prevented these students from interfering with other students, academic activities, academic or administrative staff at the university, as well as disrupting the Rhodes residence system. It also explicitly prohibited “Kidnapping, assaulting, threatening, intimidating or otherwise interfering with the free movement” of members of the university community.

READ MORE: #RUReferenceList: A violent response to a violent act

The aforementioned students, represented by the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (Seri) have been involved in a lengthy dispute with the university over the interdict, since they were accused of unlawful conduct — including the alleged kidnapping and assault of three male who were accused in the #RUReferenceList.

On November 7 this year the Constitutional Court set aside two judgments passed by the High Court in Grahamstown, ordering that Dyantyi, Heleni and Ferguson pay the legal costs of Rhodes University in their application for leave to appeal an earlier court judgment.

The decision to expel the two, as yet unnamed, students for life has incited outcry on social media, mostly calling out the university’s swift response in condemning protesters and its apparent passivity towards addressing violence against women.

Rhodes University has issued a statement condemning the “gross misrepresentations of the facts and cynical attempts of manipulating public opinion”.

In a media statement, Seri said that the University’s treatment of Dyantyi is “disproportionate, unfair and unlawful”. The group plans to launch a review at the High Court to appeal her “disciplinary proceedings”.