This week, Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT) took its efforts to raise awareness on Gender-Based Violence (GBV) a step further. The University hosted the Higher Health GBV and First Things First Assemblies, led by Buti Manamela, Deputy Minister at the Department of Higher Education, Science and Innovation on 30 August 2022 at Bozzolli Hall.
Manamela explained that his department decided that they were not going to have these assemblies only on women’s month because GBV is the daily experience for women and members of the LGBTQI community. The event, he added, was an attempt to begin to find solutions to GBV and for students to be part of finding a solution.
The assembly came at a time when MUT is still mourning the loss of one of its students Xolimbe Mbatha to GBV.
“The senseless killing of Xolile raises a number of questions about the kind of society that we are, and also about us men who continue to terrorise women in our universities, and at home and everywhere else,” said Manamela. “At what point do we as men realise that we are the problem?”
He added that it was important for men to understand that they are not entitled to the bodies of women as and when they need. Men, explained Manamela, needed to re-evaluate what it means to be a men, along with practices that are demeaning to women.
“Be proud of being indoda (a man), but being indoda does not mean that as and when you feel and think about it that your role would be and should be to abuse, rape and kill women,” said Manamela. “Some of the practices that we regard as cultural, religious and traditional are actually taking us backwards.”
Dr Manyane Makua, Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Teaching and Learning, commended Manamela for his efforts in fighting GBV and raising awareness of the scourge of GBV.
“This is something that we don’t often associate with people who do the work that you do because we always expect you to be focusing on other things except the things that affect our community and our students directly,” said Dr Makua “I believe that this gives the push to fight the scourge of Gender-based violence another phase and impetus.”
Palesa Khambi, Executive Communications Manager at Higher Health, said that her organisation conducted a study which found that 62% of students felt unsafe on university campuses and feared that they were at risk of GBV. When it came to staff, 60% of service/support staff and 71% of academic staff did not feel safe on university campuses. She added that a gathering like the one at MUT was important in changing the narrative and ensuring that the voices of survivors are heard, and something is done about it.
Khambi, who is a GBV survivor herself, advised students not to tolerate and/or accept acts of GBV in their relationships.
“You don’t have to accept the situation that you are not happy with,” advised Khambi. “The only way you can change the environment that you live in is by participation.”
She said that the women who lost their lives to GBV and violence were a stark reminder that South Africa still needed to fight the scourge of GBV and violence.
Deputy President of the Student Representative Council at MUT, Nobuhle Nhlengethwa, appealed to fellow female students to leave abusive relationships and to report perpetrators. She encouraged her fellow students to actively fight GBV.
“If he beats you, there is no need to stay in that relationship. The reason we are where we are today is because we protect our boyfriends. This is our war. Let us stick together, let us unite as women. We can win this war. Let us talk. There are psychologists in this campus. There is support, it is on you to say what you need,” said Nhlengethwa.
Councillor Nkosenhle Madlala, Chairperson of the Human Resources Committee at eThekwini Municipality, said the event came at an opportune time when police statistics have identified Umlazi as the leading police station for murder cases.
MUT Council Chairperson, Sanelisiwe Mnyandu, commended Manamela and Higher Health for implementing a programme on dealing with GBV. Mnyandu said during her time at MUT, she felt safe because it was shunned to have men who thought they were entitled to women’s bodies.
“GBV is a pandemic that higher education is suffering under,” said Mnyandu.
Mnyandu applauded the Department of Student Affairs for producing leaders who do not conform to the norms that society wants to impose.
The session also included a panel discussion and GBV survivors sharing their stories.