‘MY STAR IS NO MORE’

Mom re­calls the 23 years she spent with Khen­sani

The Star Early Edition - - FRONT PAGE - SI­PHUMELELE KHU­MALO

THE TEAR­FUL mother of Khen­sani Maseko, the Rhodes Uni­ver­sity stu­dent who com­mit­ted sui­cide last week fol­low­ing an al­leged rape or­deal, gave her daugh­ter a heart­break­ing fi­nal send-off yes­ter­day.

While mil­lions were com­mem­o­rat­ing Women’s Day across the coun­try, Thembi Tho­bile Maseko was try­ing to come to terms with the loss of her daugh­ter when hun­dreds gath­ered at her fu­neral ser­vice in Al­ber­ton, Ekurhu­leni. She was buried at Nas­rec Memo­rial Park.

The dis­traught mother’s fi­nal trib­ute and mes­sage to her late daugh­ter was read by a rel­a­tive, San­diso Maseko

She said Khen­sani, 23, was a star who ex­celled in her short­lived life. She fur­ther likened her to a star, like her se­cond name, Nkanyezi.

“When I took you for your Grade 1 as­sess­ment test, your score far ex­ceeded the set bench­mark... When I watched you run a 100m sprint or re­lay, you dashed like a star. When you went for your ma­tric dance, you wanted a sparkling dress. In your own words, you said you wanted to sparkle like a chan­de­lier. When you pro­ceeded to uni­ver­sity you con­tin­ued to shine like a star... en­trenched in con­struc­tive and mean­ing­ful stu­dent ac­tiv­i­ties,” her mes­sage said.

The mother said she was grate­ful for the 23 years she shared with Khen­sani and didn’t know how she would carry on without her daugh­ter.

Khen­sani, a third-year stu­dent, was in the EFF Stu­dent Com­mand lead­er­ship.

She went through a bout of de­pres­sion fol­low­ing an al­leged rape at the hands of her boyfriend in May.

A child­hood friend, who iden­ti­fied him­self only as Sibu, said Khen­sani was a pas­sion­ate per­son, full of strength and love.

“All I have now is our pic­tures and mem­o­ries. I am deeply shat­tered that I could not be there for you in your dark­est hour. We shared birth­days, ma­tric dances, so­cial gath­er­ings and ca­reer choices. I can’t even be­gin to de­scribe how much I am go­ing to miss you,” he said.

“I thought the time would help... at what point does this feel real? At what point does it make sense? You are al­ways and eter­nally loved,” Sibu said.

EFF Gaut­eng chair­per­son Man­disa Mashego called on the govern­ment to set up satel­lite po­lice sta­tions at uni­ver­si­ties.

“Our hearts are bro­ken and this should not have hap­pened. South Africa in its en­tirety is a crime scene. Women con­stantly get raped. Do­mes­tic work­ers are raped by their male bosses, in the cor­po­rate and govern­ment world this hap­pens too. Chil­dren are also raped in their homes, uni­ver­si­ties and at taxi ranks,” Mashego said.

The EFF leader ac­cused Rhodes Uni­ver­sity of hypocrisy, claim­ing that when stu­dents re­ported be­ing sex­u­ally as­saulted, the in­sti­tu­tion re­fused to open cases.

In 2016, the uni­ver­sity was brought to a stand­still when stu­dents protested over the Rhodes Uni­ver­sity Ref­er­ence List (#RURef­er­enceList), which named sus­pected male stu­dent rapists on cam­pus.

The names were also pub­lished on a Rhodes stu­dent Face­book group. Protest­ing stu­dents wanted the sus­pects ar­rested. But their de­mands came to naught be­cause an in­ter­nal probe did not find any of them guilty of any sex­ual mis­con­duct.

Mashego said the only way Khen­sani would be the last vic­tim to com­mit sui­cide was if the po­lice stopped their cor­rup­tion.

“The state does not see us as black women. They ha­rass us but are trip­ping all over the place to help whites.

“Spe­cial courts need to be set up for such mat­ters, and we will no longer tol­er­ate this. The cur­rent use­less poli­cies are not help­ing our chil­dren in any way.

“There need to be satel­lite po­lice sta­tions in ev­ery uni­ver­sity,” she said.

EFF Stu­dent Com­mand pres­i­dent Peter Keetse said coun­selling cen­tres at uni­ver­si­ties were of­ten hid­den and not eas­ily iden­ti­fi­able.

Rhodes Uni­ver­sity vice-chan­cel­lor Sizwe Mabizela said: “Khen­sani’s death has once again raised our na­tion’s anger and frus­tra­tion. Her death must force us to pause and re­flect deeply on the kind of so­ci­ety we have be­come.

“There are a num­ber of im­por­tant lessons for us. Among oth­ers, we must pay at­ten­tion to how we raise and so­cialise a boy child into man­hood. They need to be taught to in­ter­act with other peo­ple, women in par­tic­u­lar, in a lov­ing and car­ing way.”

Mabizela said the so­ci­ety needed to re­frain from telling women how to dress or be­have in or­der to pro­tect them­selves.

“We also need to recog­nise that the ma­jor­ity of sex­ual of­fend­ers are the peo­ple who pro­fess to love and care. We also need to iden­tify and chal­lenge be­hav­iours that lead to sex­ual abuse and con­front toxic mas­culin­ity,” he said.

He added that the scourge of gen­der-based vi­o­lence should first be fought from home.

“Each time we turn and look away when some­one is de­meaned, de­hu­man­ised and vi­o­lated, we be­come com­plicit in that act, and we dis­hon­our the mem­ory of Khen­sani and thou­sands of other women who have suf­fered the in­dig­nity of hav­ing their per­son vi­o­lated,” Mabizela said.

You al­ways wanted to shine like a chan­de­lier

PIC­TURE: MATTHEWS BALOYI/AFRICAN NEWS AGENCY

FI­NAL JOUR­NEY: Khen­sani Maseko’s mother Thembi cries at her daugh­ter’s fu­neral yes­ter­day. Khen­sani was laid to rest at Nas­rec Memo­rial Park.

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