CATHARINA VAN DER MESCHT
The Anti-GBV Student Movement of Stellenbosch started the new term by hosting a #TimeIsUp march during which a memorandum addressing men’s and mixed residences was handed over to the respective residences on campus. This was part of a week-long Anti-GBV campaign following the recent outcry and protests over gender-based violence across South Africa.
On Monday 16 September at 20:00 students and supporters of the Movement met at the Listen, Live & Learn (LLL) Village and marched to the various men’s residences, chanting as they went. At each residence a volunteer from the crowd read the memorandum out loud to the House Committee (HK) representatives present, who in turn signed in acknowledgement of receipt of the memorandum.
The men’s and mixed residences visited by the protestors were Dagbreek, Huis Visser, Huis Marais, Goldfields, Simonsberg, Helshoogte, Eendrag, Majuba, Metanoia, Huis Neethling and Wilgenhof, in that order.
According to the memorandum these residences were addressed because they “[are] the entities and structures, that have knowingly and unknowingly perpetuated patriarchy, rape culture and misogynistic tendencies that have resulted in womxn, the LGBTQ+ community and disabled individuals being victims of gender-based violence in our country.” The three-page memorandum requires that residences respond and sign in agreement with the demands made. It states that, if signed, the residences will “…acknowledge that men’s residences have played a detrimental role in endorsing, perpetuating and supporting a sexist, patriarchal culture that undermines womxn at Stellenbosch University.”
The memorandum also called for the residences to ban all traditions that dehumanise, oppress or discriminate against women, the LGBTQ+ community, or individuals with disabilities. At 22:30 the protestors gathered in front of Metanoia to hand over the memorandum and were met by HK members and the Resident Head of Metanoia, Gareth Cornelissen. An individual in the crowd asked Cornelissen, “Since you, Gareth, told the students you would respond to them by Friday, why were you not at the Friday protest?”. Cornelissen answered that he had met with management that Wednesday evening and that a response was sent out that Friday morning via email and by address from senior management in the afternoon. “I never said I’d address you,” he said. This led to an outcry from the crowd where several members called him a liar. Tshegofatso Matsha, a 3rd year BA (Humanities) student and Metanoia alumnus, addressed Cornelissen saying, “I’ve said it to eNCA and I will say it to your face, you are a coward!”
When asked why she said this, Matsha said Cornelissen lied to the members of the anti-GBV movement.“He lied by saying he didn’t say that he would meet with and address us, the students and members of the anti-GBV movement, on Friday 4 September despite students having heard him say so at the student engagement at the AmaMaties Hub engagement. I called him a coward because that is what I feel he is. Throughout my stay at Meta as well as over the past few weeks all I’ve heard is diversion from him and seeing him try his best to remove himself from the equation, especially with regards to situations he was either aware of, enabling, or simply ignorant towards. I think he’s trying to minimize his role in the culture of complacency and victim-blaming that exists in Metanoia,” Matsha said. The protest moved on from Metanoia Residence and ended at 23:35 after the men’s residences had received the memorandum.
On Wednesday 18 September at 13:00 during the #AmINext engagement talk on the Rooiplein, the memorandum was read out loud again and handed over to the relevant residences and Private Student Organizations (PSOs). All residences were asked to release their official responses to the memorandum before today (25 September) at 20:00. The relevant PSOs must give their responses by 27 September, before 20:00.
Die Matie contacted representatives from Huis Visser and Dagbreek, who declined to comment before the official responses are released. At the time of print two residences had replied to the memorandum. Both Goldfields and Metanoia had read, signed and acknowledged the demands made in the memorandum.