13/12/2017 08:00 SAST | Updated 13/12/2017 08:00 SAST

Rhodes University Taken To Court Over Student Expulsions

There was outcry over the expulsion over student activists who protested over rape.

Eddie Keogh / Reuters

Rhodes University's decision to expel two students over their actions related to the anti-rape protests on campus in April 2016 will soon be tested in court. The expulsions, which sparked an outcry this week, are the "harshest penalty the university has imposed for 10 years for any offence whatsoever, including rape and sexual violence on campus", according to the Socio-Economic Rights Institute (SERI). SERI will represent one of the students, Yolanda Dyantyi, when she challenges her expulsion in court.

Dyantyi and another student were reportedly banned from the university for life, while a third student was expelled for five years, IOL reported.

They were found guilty of assault, kidnapping, insubordination and defamation, for being part of a vigilante mob who removed rape suspects, whose names were circulated publicly, from the residences, and beating them.

In a statement, SERI said the university's treatment of Dyantyi had been "disproportionate, unfair and unlawful". It said her disciplinary hearing had been procedurally unfair and that the High Court would be approached to review and set aside the disciplinary proceedings.

There was outrage on social media, amid accusations that Rhodes had expelled the students for protesting against rape, while taking no action against those accused of rape.

But Rhodes said it did not expel the students for protesting.

"It is related, instead to 'unlawful acts' which the courts found to have made serious inroads into the rights and liberties of others," the university said. The students were found guilty by an independent panel appointed by the university, it said.

According to IOL, the students were interdicted from harassing students during the protests, which was upheld by the High Court in Grahamstown and the Supreme Court of Appeal. The Constitutional Court dismissed their attempt to appeal the interdict there.

In an interview with HuffPostSA on Tuesday, Dyantyi said Rhodes was protecting perpetrators of rape.

"I didn't even testify and produce evidence (at the disciplinary hearing), I was not even afforded a trial. They [Rhodes] passed a judgement without my legal team being present. I was not available because my exams were taking place the same time they were holding the proceedings", said Dyanti.

When asked what she thought about the judgment and the handling of the trial by Rhodes University she said: "Rhodes University's stance is to protect perpetrators and it has always been clear. They do not care about us and by excluding someone without affording you a trial... I just don't know what to say, but our point has been proven [sic]".

"The university [Rhodes] does not care about female bodies, black bodies and rape. It just gets rid of the activists who have been fighting about rape for years".

Additional reporting by Nkosinathi Shazi.