Anger, shock and an academic shutdown at a university have ensued following student protests over the death of Rhodes University student Khensani Maseko. This comes months after the 23-year-old law student was allegedly raped at the university she attended.
Maseko was found dead in her family’s home in Johannesburg after a tragic final post was published on Instagram. The member of the student chapter of South Africa’s Economic Freedom Fighters (EFFSC-CSCT), in her final post, admitted that she had been raped.
Maseko posted a photo with her date of birth and last Friday’s date (when she died) and wrote, “No one deserves to be raped!!”
The third-year BA student’s demise has led to students’ demands for an opportunity to mourn Miss Maseko and demonstrate over their claims of a rape culture at the university. The Mail and The Guardian reported that, in recent years, Rhodes students have been protesting against gender-based violence, and in 2016 circulated a list of names of students accused of rape.
Rhodes had announced Miss Maseko’s death in an email, writing, “As the Rhodes University community, we would like to extend our sincerest condolences to her family, loved ones, and everyone that knew her.” The university has stated that it would suspend the student who allegedly raped Miss Maseko.
In a statement, Rhodes SRC’s Nhlakanipho Mahlangu said,
“We know the amount of promise she had to offer us all, I mean to offer the entire country. We’re very shaken, it’s a very difficult time for us as the SRC and we wish her family all the strength and support that we can.”
Maseko’s death comes as South Africa marks Women’s Month. The month recognises the 20,000 women who marched on August 9, 1956, in protest against the extension of Pass Laws to women, recognises efforts to improve the status of women, and also raises awareness about the barriers and dangers to women that still exist.
Maseko had been elected to Rhodes’ Student Representative Council (SRC), was voted Miss Varsity for the 2017-18 university year and was involved in a number of student activities. Her funeral is due to be held this Thursday, the National Women’s Day and the 62-year anniversary of the march.
Condolences have been pouring in for Maseko from various people across the world.