EFF student leader’s expulsion lifted, rape charge withdrawn

EFF Students’ Command Eastern Cape chairperson Mvelo Abenta’s expulsion from the Walter Sisulu University has been overturned, while a fellow student who accused him of rape has withdrawn the charges against him.

EFF Students’ Command Eastern Cape chairperson Mvelo Abenta’s expulsion from the Walter Sisulu University has been overturned, while a fellow student who accused him of rape has withdrawn the charges against him.

Published Feb 25, 2024


The EFF Students’ Command Eastern Cape provincial chairperson Mvelo Abenta, whose rape charge has been withdrawn, has had his expulsion from Walter Sisulu University (WSU) set aside in court.

Eastern Cape High Court Judge Nomathamsanqa Beshe reviewed and set aside Abenta’s expulsion following the university’s refusal to postpone the disciplinary proceedings against him, pending the outcome of the criminal case that had been opened with the police.

The refusal by WSU’s internal appeals body to overturn Abenta’s bid to postpone the disciplinary hearing pending the outcome of the criminal matter was also reviewed and set aside by Judge Beshe in East London, according to the judgment handed down on February 8.

Abenta, a third-year analytical chemistry student, was charged with allegedly raping another student in 2021, and later that year he was served with a charge sheet and hauled before a disciplinary hearing for breaching the university’s student disciplinary code of conduct.

He was charged with wrongfully, intentionally and unlawfully having sexual intercourse with the female student without her consent.

When the disciplinary proceedings were finalised in February 2022, Abenta was found guilty, charged, and expelled from the university, based on allegations of a “very serious criminal offence” and would not be readmitted.

The WSU student disciplinary code of conduct allows expelled students to appeal their sanction through the student disciplinary appeal committee.

However, during the disciplinary proceedings, Abenta refused to either state his defence or call witnesses due to the criminal case that had been reported to the police and was pending at the time.

His representative maintained that giving evidence before the disciplinary proceedings would have a negative effect on him when he would eventually testify before court, and he took a conscious decision to exercise his right to remain silent.

Judge Beshe found that the concern raised by Abenta was valid.

”The presiding officer (in the disciplinary proceedings) should have heeded it rather than be concerned only with applicant’s (Abenta’s) stance not to testify in his defence, based on a valid concern in my view,” the judge explained.

She said Abenta was deprived of a reasonable opportunity to present his defence.

According to Judge Beshe, the decision to proceed with the hearing amid Abenta’s revelation that a criminal charge had been laid against him and how testifying during the disciplinary hearing might prejudice him at a later stage was unjust and fell to be reviewed and set aside.

Abenta’s lawyer, Mawande Magaleni, told the “Sunday Independent” that his client was back at the institution after the matter was withdrawn by the complainant.

But WSU spokesperson Yonela Tukwayo said Abenta was not a registered student in the 2024 academic year as of Wednesday, February 21.

WSU registrations close on Thursday, February 29, according to Tukwayo.

”Registration is the primary source of confirmation whether a student is on campus or not. If there is no active registration, there is no primary identification if the student is on campus or not – and this is the case with Abenta,” she explained.

When asked if WSU intended to appeal Judge Beshe’s ruling, Tukwayo said the university is currently studying the judgment.

She also stated that WSU takes gender-based violence (GBV) cases very seriously and started an academic project to help curtail this pandemic.

”Under the leadership of Prof. Rushiella Songca, vice-chancellor and principal, WSU has partnered with Juta and Company to publish a groundbreaking series of academic books that provide an Afro-centric, multi-disciplinary perspective on GBV. The first book will be launched before the end of this semester,” Tukwayo added.

She indicated that over and above security personnel doing regular rounds on campuses and residences, WSU has just completed the installation of 500 CCTV cameras at its Mthatha campus to bolster crime prevention efforts.

Tukwayo said the project will also see the institution increasing the number of cameras on other campuses in East London, iBika and Komani.

In 2022, Higher Education, Science and Technology Minister Dr Blade Nzimande, citing a Medical Research Council report, expressed his sadness that 10% of all reported rape cases in the country originate from young women in the higher education sector.