Women students at the University of Fort Hare’s Alice campus are arming themselves with knives and pepper spray in what they believe is a fight for survival.

This drastic shift comes after a student said she was raped outside campus on Sunday – the fifth reported case of campus rape since last year.

A suspect was arrested on Monday.

Fearful women students told the Dispatch they were buying the notorious Okapi knives and they intended using them if they felt under attack.

Fear and anger was sparked by the apparent ease with which the attacker managed to chase his prey onto campus on Sunday night after the alleged rape – right under the noses of what the women say are ineffectual security guards.

Students said this proved the weakness of the security arrangements on campus.

“The security at the university is lax. We do not feel protected at all. We are not going to sit and wait to get raped or murdered, we are now fighting for our survival,” said a number of students interviewed by the Dispatch. A final-year agriculture student said after the incident on Sunday she called her parents and asked for money to buy a can of pepper spray and an Okapi knife.

“I don’t know how to use an Okapi, but I would definitely use it on someone who tried to rape or rob me. I would rather die fighting,” she said.

“I don’t know how to use an Okapi, but I would definitely use it on someone who tried to rape or rob me. I would rather die fighting,” she said.

UFH spokesman Khotso Moabi said it was unfortunate that students had to resort to such drastic protection tactics.

“There are security issues that are result of the infrastructure backlog,” he said.

According Moabi the woman said the rape occurred on Sunday afternoon at the Somadoda Monument located on the mountains a few kilometres from campus.

“It is alleged the incident occurred when two students, male and female, went for a walk on the mountains to the Somadoda Monument where an assailant accosted them, tied them up and raped the female,” said Moabi.

The victims managed to untie themselves and ran towards the university where the assailant gave chase and also entered the campus. By the time security gurads responded the suspect had already fled, Moabi added.

Moabi confirmed the incident was reported and a suspect was arrested on Monday.

“According to the police the suspect was still wearing the same clothes when he was apprehended by the police and was positively identified by the victims,” said Moabi.

The university has arranged counselling for the woman, who received treatment at the Victoria Hospital.

“As much as the incident happened outside the university premises, the student who was assaulted is our student,” said Moabi.

The Dispatch visited the campus on Monday and spoke to students heading to their lectures.

They said they were still shaken by the incident.

Yolisa Ndakisa, a first-year agriculture student, said women students were paralysed by fear, especially at night.

“The streetlights do not work and strangers can just walk into campus without being asked for identity.

“We are seen as prey by predators who come into campus and hunt us for their own satisfaction,” said Ndakisa.

Another student said she almost got raped on campus last year when she was on her way back from the library at night.

A group of men travelling in a vehicle stopped in front of her and tried to block her way.

“They cornered me and when I tried to move they blocked my way. As they were about to get out of the vehicle and approach me a student came out and lit his phone. That is when they drove away. To this day I am still scared,” she said.

Moabi said at least five cases of rape had been reported at the university this year.

Moabi said the university, together with the gender commission, were investigating and looking to review gender-based policies in the university.


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