Dear students and colleagues
This campus announcement aims to inform members of the University of Cape Town (UCT) community about the legalities involving the identification of students allegedly involved in cases of sexual assault, sexual misconduct and sexual abuse.
UCT recognises that violence against women and children is an endemic problem in South Africa which requires urgent and concerted action to be resolved. Sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) has left many women feeling unheard and unsafe.
The tragic murder of our student Uyinene Mrwetyana has highlighted the urgency of taking action to address SGBV within the university and in broader South African society. It has also provided the impetus for advocacy for accelerated action from all concerned.
The university is aware that a list has been compiled and circulated on various social media platforms identifying UCT students and staff alleged to have committed various acts of sexual misconduct, sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexual abuse and other forms of violence against women. This list is not an official document of the university, nor does the university endorse it.
As has been communicated previously (Read the VC Desk), the university is committed to investigating all reports and complaints of SGBV. We want to urge students and staff to make use of the existing and new channels the university has created for reporting, investigating and adjudicating such cases expeditiously, fairly and in accordance with the established university rules and procedures, the Constitution and other laws of South Africa. Only such a fair process can ensure that justice is served for both survivors and accused persons.
The publication of the list of alleged perpetrators of SGBV presents the danger that the names of survivors of SGBV could be made publicly known, exposing them to the risk of further victimisation and marginalisation. It also has potential to undermine the integrity of the university’s disciplinary process, and to violate the presumption of innocence and due process rights which the university is constitutionally bound to respect. Furthermore, the publication of the list undermines the legal principle of the individuation of punishment in that it equates different degrees of SGBV in the same way. There is also a huge risk of legal exposure to defamation suits if the allegations cannot be substantiated. Such risk will not arise if formal channels of reporting and investigation are followed.
The university is committed to providing an institutional environment where all may pursue their studies, careers, duties and activities free from sexual abuse, sexual harassment and sexual assault. SGBV, including rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment, constitutes serious misconduct that is punishable by the laws of South Africa and actionable as a disciplinary offence as per page 142 under the university’s General Rules and Policies.
Communication and Marketing Department
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The University of Cape Town mourns the tragic death of our student Uyinene Mrwetyana, fondly known as Nene. The fact that a young female student has died in this horrific manner is devastating, and it has shocked us to our core. It is incomprehensible that a young life, with so much potential, has been stolen from her family and our community. It is even more distressing that this horrible incident is one of many where women – young and old, and even girls – are ripped from our communities in such a violent manner.