Rhodes University continues its war against Yolanda Dyantyi, a former student who took part in the anti-rape protests on the University campus in April 2016. In November 2017, the University permanently expelled Ms. Dyantyi after she was convicted of “kidnapping”, “assault”, “defamation” and “insubordination” by a disciplinary inquiry instituted by the University. She was convicted by a disciplinary inquiry, which was procedurally flawed. The punishment meted out was grossly prejudicial. The terms of her expulsion have made it practically impossible for her to enrol in any other higher education institution for the foreseeable future.
Rhodes University charged Ms. Dyantyi in March 2017, almost a year after the protest. The disciplinary inquiry sat between June and October 2017, however, the University’s appointed Proctor postponed the portion of the inquiry pertaining to Ms. Dyantyi’s case to a date on which her legal representatives were unable to attend, making it impossible for Ms. Dyantyi to present her case or to continue participating in the proceedings. Ms. Dyantyi was ultimately convicted and sanctioned in her absence.
Ms. Dyantyi has sought to challenge her expulsion on the basis that she was denied the assistance of counsel and consequently of any reasonable opportunity to present her case. The Proctor who presided over the inquiry was reasonably suspected of bias and after finding Ms. Dyantyi guilty based on weak evidence, the University unlawfully denied her the right to an internal review, made available to her in terms of the University’s disciplinary rules.
Ms. Dyantyi, who was 19-years old at the time, took part in a protest that sought to address a crisis that had affected the University for years and continues to affect all women in South Africa. The spontaneous protest and movement became known as the “#RUReferenceList” and took place after a list was anonymously published on Facebook containing the names of 11 current and former male students accused of sexual assault or violence against women at Rhodes University.
Hundreds of students took part in the protest that lasted a week. The students demanded that the University amend its rape policy, and suspend and investigate the students accused of sexual assault. Numerous other protests against gender-based violence took place at Rhodes, making similar demands. It was, however, only after the “#RUReferenceList” protest that Rhodes University eventually took steps to address the students’ concerns. The University established a “Sexual Violence Task Team”.
Rhodes University has, at the same time, taken credit for making the changes demanded by the protest, and used its institutional might to bully and punish Ms. Dyantyi for taking part in the protest.
Since Ms. Dyantyi’s expulsion, Rhodes University has remained unrelentingly determined to prevent her from challenging the outcome of the disciplinary inquiry. It has committed its resources and its power to singling out Ms. Dyantyi and attacking her character, describing her as “insidious”, arguing that she tells “outright lies” and that she is “mischievous and dishonest”. Disappointingly, this is the basis on which the University has denied her right to a procedurally just disciplinary process, at which Ms. Dyantyi would be afforded the opportunity to tell her side of the story.
Yolanda Dyantyi has said: “I’m fighting for my right to a fair trial. The University, through the Vice Chancellor's orders, has done all they can to silence me and hold me accountable for acts I was not given the opportunity to contest. Much like the accused rapists who were given an opportunity to testify as witnesses on behalf of the University, I should be given that opportunity too."
In December 2019, Ms. Dyantyi approached the Grahamstown High Court to set aside the outcome of the disciplinary hearing in a review application. In March 2020 the Grahamstown High Court dismissed Yolanda’s review application and ordered her to pay the University’s costs. In April 2020, SERI filed Ms. Dyantyi’s application for leave to appeal, primarily submitting that the Court erred in failing to consider Ms. Dyantyi’s argument that the postponement of her disciplinary hearing to a date when her legal representatives were not available had resulted in an unfair disciplinary process. Rhodes University has opposed the application and it is due to be argued on 7 September 2020.
Download the full statement here.
On Tuesday 25th August 2020, employees of the Red Ant Security Relocation & Eviction Services once again descended on a block of flats in Fleurhof, illegally evicting dozens of residents from their homes, leaving them homeless and destitute. This ruthless campaign has culminated in the eviction of thousands of residents since the beginning of August. No court order has been granted for any of the multiple evictions on the residents’ homes. These evictions violate the Constitution, which mandates that a court order considering all relevant circumstances must be granted before an eviction can be executed, as well as the regulations in terms of the Disaster Management Act.
On 1 July 2020, the South Gauteng High Court granted Calgro M3, a developer that has a co-operation agreement with the City of Joburg to deliver housing in Fleurhof, an interdict protecting the housing development from occupation. In issuing this interdict, the Court made it abundantly clear that this specific order “does not constitute an application for eviction”. Despite this admonition from the Court, Calgro M3 is now using this interdict to evict residents from homes which they have been in possession of for over three years. More worrisome is the collusion of the South African Police Services (SAPS), the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD) and the Sheriff to carry out these illegal evictions. By their participation in these evictions they have not only failed to uphold their constitutional obligation to protect members of the public but have actively facilitated illegal activities.
During these evictions, residents were forced out of their homes while the Red Ants removed their belongings. In the process, crucial documents and learning materials for school children were lost, and residents’ furniture and appliances were broken. These attacks happen despite a moratorium on evictions and expose people to the COVID-19 pandemic. A home is the first line of defence against infection, it is essential to enabling people to protect themselves from contracting COVID-19.
SERI calls for an immediate halt on these illegal evictions and the reinstatement of residents to their homes. We further call for the establishment of law and order in Fleurhof and for due process to be followed.
Read the full statement here.
On 26 August 2020, Nathaniel Julius died in hospital after he was allegedly shot and wounded by police officials at Eldorado Park. Nathaniel was a 16-year-old boy living with disability. According to Nathaniel’s family, he failed to respond to questions from the police officials because of his disability and was consequently shot. The community of Eldorado Park have taken to the streets to demand justice. The police have responded with violence, further escalating tensions.
Nathaniel’s death is one too many. Since 2012, police in South Africa have killed a person each day on average. This is a direct consequence of the State’s failure to rein in the misuse and excessive use of force by the police. On 16 August 2020, we commemorated the 8th anniversary of the Marikana massacre in which police killed 37 miners. Each year since Marikana, victims, their families and our broader society have paid the cost in more deaths caused by police action, in millions of Rands paid in civil proceedings against the state, and with a police force that continues to act with impunity.
During the COVID-19 lockdown, we have witnessed violence from all security force actors. The South African Police Service, metropolitan police departments, the South African National Defence Force, private security actors and other law enforcement agencies have demonstrated a propensity for violence even in a public health crisis: a crisis that has disproportionately impacted poor and marginalised communities and a moment which has highlighted the inadequacies of policing across the world. This excessive use of force has demonstrated the lack of critical skills in communication and de-escalation which are essential for policing that is rooted by the tenets of our Constitution.
The continued use of inappropriate and deadly force by police officials since the Marikana massacre has also highlighted the police officials’ consistent blatant disrespect for the law and their lack of will to uphold their constitutional obligation to protect members of the public.
We call on the government to urgently address the continued police brutality in South Africa and to begin by holding responsible officers accountable. Failure to do so will continue to breed mistrust amongst members of the public and will continue to erode the legitimacy of officials and government more broadly.
We extend our deepest condolences to the Julius family, the community of Eldorado and all victims police violence. We demand that government address this crisis as a matter of urgency.
On 26 August 2020, Daily Maverick published an op-ed by SERI candidate attorney Khuselwa Dyantyi and SERI researcher Thato Masiangoako about the how the narrative of Marikana and the striking mineworkers has continued to have a damaging impact on justice and healing for the victims and their families.
In the op-ed, entitled "Marikana massacre: The devastating impact of the narrative painted by business, police and the state", Dyantyi and Masiangoako argue that the characterisation of the striking mineworkers as irrational, violent and unreasonable delegitimised their strike in 2012 but that this narrative has continued to shape how the deadly force used by the police to end the strike is understood and (un)accounted for.
They go on to argue that this narrative of Marikana has allowed the state to never fully account for Marikana and that this has allowed police violence to continue unabated. According to Viewfinder analysis of IPID data, since 2012 the police have killed a person a day, on average, and have been reported for more than 1,000 torture complaints and more than 26,000 complaints of assault.
August 2020 marks the 8th anniversary of the Marikana massacre. To commemorate the anniversary SERI hosted a webinar, in partnership with the Anti-repression Working Group of the C-19 People’s Coalition, to reflect on the continued lack of accountability for Marikana as well as the continuation of police brutality since the massacre. The webinar took place on 13 August - the date that the striking mineworkers experienced police violence in the days prior to the 16th of August.
The panel included Nowili Palesa Nungu and Sebolai Liau. Nungu is the daughter of the late Jackson Lehupa and Liau is the son of the late Janeveke Raphael Liau. Mr Lehupa and Mr Liau were both killed on the 16th of August 2012. The panel also included Nomsa Montsha, the life partner of Collins Khosa.
Ms Nungu and Mr Liau shared their experiences of losing their parents at a young age and the impact that a lack of justice and recognition has had on their families. Ms Montsha discussed her struggle for justice and accountability for what happened to Mr Khosa and how that struggle has affected her ability to mourn. Mr Khosa died from injuries sustained from an assault by members of the South African National Defence Force who were accompanied by members of the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department. SERI's Zamantungwa Mbeki chaired the panel discussion.
Other members of the panel were S’bu Zikode, founder and president of Abahlali baseMjondolo; Axolile Nyotwala, general secretary at the Social Justice Coalition in Cape Town; and Adele Kirsten, a former member of the Marikana Panel of Experts on Policing and Crowd Management and the Anti-repression Working Group of the C-19 People’s Coalition. Mr Zikode shared Abahlali's experience of state violence in eThekwini’ since their formation in 2005. Mr Notywala reflected on the evictions he has monitored during the lockdown and the role of the Anti-Land Invasion Unit and law enforcement in Cape Town. Ms Kirsten spoke about the Minister of Police's failure to publicly release the report and reflected on some of the unlearned lessons from Marikana including the misuse of less-lethal weapons, accountability and leadership issues.
Remembering the forgotten Marikana women
On 13 August 2020, SERI candidate attorney Khuselwa Dyantyi spoke at a Marikana commemorative event entitled "Remembering the forgotten Marikana women" hosted by the South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU).
In her inputs, Dyantyi spoke about the experiences of the families of the mineworkers following the massacre and reflected on the families’ participation in the Commission of Inquiry. Dyantyi spoke specifically noted how the families were initially excluded from the process and were not given the opportunity to share how they felt. The families wanted to participate in the Commission of Inquiry because they wanted to see justice. They had travelled from places like Lesotho, the Eastern Cape, Mafikeng and other the surrounding areas in the North West in order to hear for themselves what happened to their loved ones.
Dyantyi also discussed the continued lack of accountability as well as the way forward for the families in terms of litigation. Two short documentary clips from SERI entitled "Imbokodo: The widows of Marikana" and "Bringing the truth home" were also played for the participants.
The massacre that didn't change policing
On 18 August 2020, SERI Executive Director Nomzamo Zondo participated in a webinar entitled "The massacre that didn't change policing". The webinar was hosted by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) and the African Policing Civilian Oversight Forum (APCOF). Nomzamo Zondo was joined by Judge Ian Farlam who chaired the Farlam Commission of Inquiry, and Themba Masuku from APCOF chaired the discussion. In her inputs, Zondo reflected on the experience of the families and the extent to which the Commission of Inquiry addressed their needs for truth and justice.
Zondo also discussed the lack of police reform since Marikana and how that has contributed to repeating patterns of police brutality especially in the contexts of protest action and evictions. She argued that police conduct during the national lockdown has evidenced that policing in South Africa is done through violence. She argued that the disproportionate use of force by police was a consequence of failing to learn from the Marikana massacre and failure to rein in police violence.
The panel discussed the significance of Expert panel report on public order policing and crowd management which was completed and submitted in 2018 but is yet to be made public by the Minister of Police. The panel was established in line with one of the recommendations from the Farlam Commission of Inquiry.