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Statement from Professor Habib pertaining to rape case at Wits Junction residence complex

- Wits University

The rape complaint at the Wits Junction Residence has made national headlines in the last few days.

There have been many allegations and counter allegations made in the media and particularly on social media. It has also been suggested that University structures and managers did not respond timeously and sensitively to the complainant’s concerns.

The University has already released a statement informing the University community and the broader public that this matter is under investigation. Yesterday, I had a lengthy conversation with the complainant and her mother to hear about the incident and how the University’s official structures responded to her complaint. I particularly enquired about her experience of the Office of Residence Life, Student Affairs and the Gender Equity Office regarding her complaint. She explained that some individuals engaged with her more effectively than others, and while some were extremely helpful and sensitive to her needs, others had not been equally responsive to her situation. This suggests that it may be that particular processes and procedures of the University have not been fully complied with by certain individuals in these circumstances. 

The complainant further indicated that she is thankful for the outpouring of support from students, activists, and others. She particularly feels that a considered conversation about issues related to rape, sexual harassment and gender based harm in residences is urgently needed in all universities and in society as a whole. However, she also felt that the heated debate has been emotionally draining especially when matters are deliberately misrepresented in the mainstream and social media.

The complainant has confirmed that she is prepared for the University to fully investigate the incident of 30 October 2016. This investigation will be instituted immediately and will be concluded timeously. A time line will be communicated to the University community early next week. 

In addition, 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. Ms Gasa is well-known for her work in the areas of gender, politics and culture, and she has agreed to conduct an independent investigation into the matter on the University's behalf.

Ms Gasa’s remit is to: 

  1. Investigate the University’s response and management of the matter and the processes followed. She will also assess the role played by the Office of Residence Life, Student Affairs, the Gender Equity Office and other relevant Wits structures.
  2. Investigate whether certain staff members of the University may have conducted themselves in a manner which does not comply with the University’s policies and is inconsistent with the University’s ethos.
  3. Advise on any measures which are not yet in place and  which  can better enable  the University  to hold considered conversations around these critical issues while remaining mindful of the  personal circumstances of the parties involved.
  4. Recommend any action that should be undertaken to ensure that the University’s structures are responsive to the needs and concerns of victims of rape, sexual harassment and gender based harm.

Ms Gasa will provide a report to me personally within the next 72 hours. 

I request all students and staff to cooperate with Ms Gasa in respect of this investigation, to make themselves available and to provide any information that she may require to properly conduct this investigation. Staff and students are reminded not to attempt to communicate with the parties involved during this time and to respect their privacy.

I recognise that this is a matter of national concern and that it will be the subject of debate and deliberation in the social and mainstream media. However, I urge all people who are reporting on this matter or engaging with it on social media to do so in a way that is truthful, measured and engaged, and in a way that does not contribute to the distress of the complainant and her family. We must be protective and sensitive of her personal circumstances at all times.

I will report on the outcome of this investigation early next week.

Thank you

Professor Adam Habib
Vice-Chancellor and Principal
University of the Witwatersrand