Sonke welcomes the judgment by the Grahamstown High court that has granted Yolanda Dyantyi leave to appeal in her case against Rhodes University.

Ms Dyantyi was expelled from university for life by Rhodes University for her role in a protest against gender-based violence and rape on campus. Her transcripts were marked ‘’Unsatisfactory Conduct: Student found guilty of assault, kidnapping, insubordination and defamation’’.

Ms Dyantyi was in her final year and would have been the first person in her family to earn a university degree. The terms of her expulsion have made it practically impossible for her to enroll in any other higher education institution for the foreseeable future.

In April 2016, Ms Dyantyi and other students participated in the #RUReferenceList, a week-long protest against rape culture at Rhodes University. The spontaneous protest took place after a list was published on Facebook containing the names of 11 current and former male students accused of sexual assault or violence against womxn at Rhodes University.

One of the demands of the protest was for the university to amend its rape policy and for the definition of rape to be redefined, to be more inclusive and broader, and in line with South African laws and our Constitution. Almost a year after the protest, Rhodes University charged Ms. Dyantyi in March 2017.

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. After finding her guilty, the university denied Ms Dyantyi the right to the internal review made available in terms of the university’s disciplinary rules.

Ms. Dyantyi has sought to challenge her expulsion on the basis that she had an unfair hearing. On December 4, 2019, Dyantyi headed to court to challenge her expulsion from Rhodes University as a result of her participation in a protest. The matter was dismissed with a cost order against Ms Dyantyi.

On September 7, 2020, Dyantyi and her legal team from the Socio-Economic Rights Institute appealed this decision at the Grahamstown High Court.

South Africa has one of the highest rates of sexual violence in the world, and that number is possibly higher since South Africa is known for its high numbers of underreporting of gender-based violence or sexual assault.

It is a travesty that Rhodes, in this context has decided to disregard the frustration of womxn whose dignity have been violated but further perpetuate institutional secondary victimisation and silencing of gender-based violence, rape victims and survivors, and anti-GBV and rape activists.

Sonke stands with Ms Dyantyi and condemns the institutional secondary victimisation and silencing of gender-based violence and rape victims and survivors, and anti-GBV and rape activists. Ms Dyantyi must be afforded a fair process in presenting her case against the charges against her.

For more information, please contact:

  • Seadimo Tlale, PDA Fellow, 0659109433 or
  • Given Sigauqwe, Communications & Strategic Information Manager, 0739882870 or