Move follows campus rape of a US exchange student

Mary Papayya

Mary Papayya

the University of KwaZulu-Natal is to beef up its security plan after an outcry from students and parents.

This follows the rape of an American exchange student at one of its student residences two weeks ago.

The US student was raped at the Mabel Palmer student residence while taking a bath.

Sowetan has learnt that at a closed meeting on Wednesday between students, academics and international student representatives plus the rape victim, the university management unveiled a bold plan to make the university a safer environment.

This came after investigations revealed that the alleged perpetrator is a former student who dropped out of campus a few months ago, but was still "squatting on campus".

The "squatter", according to students, had valid access to the residence through his old student card.

Students have welcomed efforts by the institution's management to beef up security at the campus and all its residences.

While the university is still to release its plan publicly, SRC spokesman Sanele Shabalala said the plan included the immediate scrapping of student access cards in the event of a student being removed from the campus and study programme.

"At the moment students can drop out of class, but their access card is valid for up to a year.

"Now the plan is to confiscate access cards when a student is removed from any study programme," said Shabalala.

He said other initiatives included the improvement in CCTV and cameras and entry measures on campus and elsewhere in the university.

"It is common knowledge that the CCTV cameras and electrical access gates were faulty.

"We want to assure our students and parents that they have nothing to fear as it is our task to monitor this plan and make sure the university remains a safe place for every student," Shabalala said.

University authorities have also appointed a review panel to investigate the incident.

"The purpose of the review is to consider the circumstances of the alleged rape, in particular, as well as criminal activity in general on campus and to make recommendations to achieve international best practice in the prevention of such criminal activity," said university spokesman Hilton Staniland.

The review panel will be led by Kenneth MacKay, an independent and professional expert in the field of policing and campus security, assisted by Tenjiwe Magwaza of the gender studies programme in the School of Anthropology, Gender and Historical Studies at UKZN.

Police say they are following several leads in the rape case.

"We had taken in one person for questioning, but he was released after investigations showed he was not involved.

"We are, however, following strong leads in the matter and will keep everyone informed once we make an arrest," said spokesman Vincent Mdunge.

Meanwhile, former SRC president Sammy Mashita said the latest action by the university to beef up security was akin to "racism".

He said previous crimes were ignored by the university because they happened to black students.

He said just because a foreign "white" student had been raped, the matter was being taken seriously by everyone.

"In my time as SRC president, I had more than five rape cases and I raised the issue of security in a more constructive measure, especially because most of them were not easily preventable," said Mashita.