Nelson Mandela University suspends student accused of raping girlfriend as victim withdraws charges

Students at Nelson Mandela University (NMU) in Port Elizabeth stayed away from classes on Monday in solidarity with a student who said she had been raped by her boyfriend at the weekend, GroundUp reported.

The incident was said to have happened in her room at the university. She later withdrew the charges.

In a statement, police spokesperson Colonel Priscilla Naidu said: "The 21-year old NMU student opened a case of rape on Saturday morning. Her boyfriend was arrested and detained. The complainant withdrew the case a few hours later. On Monday the complainant had a consultation with the prosecutor and the case remains closed."

A student who did not want to be named said the withdrawal of the case was a setback to the fight against gender-based violence.

"We sacrificed the entire day fighting for her cause but she just let her abuser walk free. Rape cases at this university are escalating. Rapists should be arrested and brought before the courts of law," said the student.

Hundreds of students gathered for the whole day at the entrance to the South and North campuses. They sang and held placards with messages that read: "I will not be a victim, I will stand and fight."

'Need for men to be taught how to treat women'

Student Onesipho Ndamase told GroundUp that university management should equip security guards with better equipment.

"There is a need for more security in female residences," she said.

Another student, Aviwe Jongwe, said men should not view women as objects of abuse but should always protect them.

"There is need to teach men how to treat women," said Jongwe.

"Men don't have the right to sleep with their girlfriends if there's no consent," said another student, Silithatile Koliti.

"The university should have more engagements with men on how to relate [to] women."

Students handed over a petition to vice-chancellor Sibongile Muthwa, demanding an immediate suspension from the institution of all those accused of rape, as well as the installation of panic buttons in women's rooms and the launch of an awareness campaign.

"We unequivocally reiterate our condemnation of acts of gender-based violence," the university said in a statement.

On Tuesday, NMU spokesperson Zandile Mbabela said classes had resumed after being suspended on Monday. The student accused of rape had been suspended.