Wits University. Picture: SUPPLIED.
Wits University. Picture: SUPPLIED.

The University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) has appointed gender activist Nomboniso Gasa to probe the university's handling of rape allegations.

"I have appointed Ms Nomboniso Gasa to investigate whether or not there were any lapses on the part of the University’s structures and officials in their responses to the rape complaint," said Wits vice-chancellor Adam Habib in a statement on Saturday.

Last week the university which has been the hotbed of Fees Must Fall protests was once again thrust under the spotlight, this time for an alleged rape which happened three weeks ago at the Wits Junction Residence.

The university trended on social media as members of the public and students vented about the university protecting the man accused of the rape.

Gasa who is also a researcher and analyst on politics, culture and leadership will report to Habib on her findings in the next 72 hours.

Her probe will look into the university's response, management and the processes followed in the matter including the role played by Student Affairs, the Gender Equity Office, the Office of Residence Life.

Wits staff conduct in the matter is also something Gasa has been tasked with investigating.

She will recommend a course of action the university's structures need to take to respond to the needs and concerns of survivors of rape, sexual harassment and gender based harm.

Gasa's probe is separate from the investigation the university launched on Thursday, for which the timeline will be announced next week.

Wits roped her in following an interview with the complainant where she spoke about her experience with staff members when she disclosed the alleged rape.

Meanwhile Habib urged that the media and social media users engage with the matter in a truthful, measured and engaged manner while the investigations are under way.

On Friday the African National Congress Women's League (ANCWL) issued a statement on condemning the rape culture at Wits and other SA universities.

"The increasing rate of sexual violence cases in institutions of higher learning is concerning. The University of Stellenbsoch has about nine reported cases over the past five years and Rhodes University with thirteen reported cases between 2011 and 2015," read the statement.

The Portfolio Committee on higher education and training also weighed in on the matter saying that the alleged perpetrator should be brought to book and the law should take precedence over the university's disciplinary process.

The committee's chairwoman Connie September said she would write a letter to Habib and higher education minister Blade Nzimande, for the matter to be investigated speedily.

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