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#RUReferenceList: Partial Academic Shutdown

Swarag Tadepally | Photos: Samuel Aviles

In the early hours of 19 April, students had re-grouped and rallied at the various barricade points that were set up on the previous night of the protests. At roughly 7am, Vice Chancellor Dr. Mabizela and other members of management  attempted to take down the barricades. An altercation between Dr. Mabizela and a female student was videoed and has been circulated on social media. Other members of staff, such as dining hall workers and food trucks were allowed access into campus.

The students grew in numbers, and by 8am had begun disrupting the various lectures, tutorials, practicals and tests. They were supposed by the Student Representative Council releasing a statement supporting the movement as well as calling for an official academic shutdown. As these protesters entered the various venues, a large portion of students joined in on the protests. There were also many other students who were confused as to whether or not lectures were still proceeding and did not know if they were meant to attend.

Students inside one of the lecture venues

The protesters grew even further in numbers throughout the day and soon they all had reconvened at Purple Fee Square to form “body barricades”. By this time there was an estimated crowd of 300 to 350 students. At this point in time, a group of students within the crowd began removing items of clothing to symbolise how their lack of clothing was still not a cause for unwanted sexual advances. Both male and female students participated in this sign of protest. At this point the crowd was confronted by South African Police Services officers, who threatened to arrest the demonstrators for public indecency.

Professor Enocent Msindo addresses students.

There were about 11 police vehicles present as time wore on since the situation became very tense at the Purple Fee Square, this was aggravated by a vehicle that forced its way onto campus by almost running over multiple students that were part of the human barricade. The police’s threat of taking action against those were “indecent” was not received well by the protesters and they unanimously voiced their disapproval. Dr Mabizela and the rest of management also attempted to stop the crowd and negotiate but it was to no avail. He then attempted to address the crowd at 7pm as was requested by the SRC, but the crowd were not interested in listening to Dr Mabizela.

After this occurred, another meeting was scheduled for 11pm at the Purple Fee Square on Tuesday, 19th April. The main agenda of this meeting being a shut down of campus once again Dr Mabizela’s address on Monday, 18th April, was deemed unsatisfactory. Student’s assembled at the Purple Fee Square and then proceeded to make their way up campus singing and chanting in unison and soon split into two groups, one group made their way to Piet Retief, again demanding to gain access inside to approach one of the alleged rapists, they were denied however. The other group made it’s way past Joe Slovo, Rosa Parks, Cullen Bowles and majority of the other residences on upper campus, looking for additional support.


Eventually majority of the students made their way back towards the Purple Fee Square, where they had assembled in order to observe a moment of silence for the student who had been found dead in her apartment on Sunday, 17th April, night at around 8pm. After the rest of the crowd had joined in. A meeting was held to discuss the next plan of action and it was established that the crowd would create barricades and man them throughout the night. They decided to work in shifts to ensure that no individual would get too tired, but it was also established that at 4am, everyone would then assemble at the various barricade points as they would require large number to ensure that no one gains access to the campus apart from CPU and the San.


An update of the events that followed is available here.

To keep updated on what’s happening at Rhodes University and #RUReferenceList, follow @ActivateOnline on Twitter.

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