VICE-CHAN­CEL­LOR ‘SAB­O­TAG­ING’ RAPE CASE

CityPress - - News - MSINDISI FENGU msindisi.fengu@city­press.co.za

Akey wit­ness who claims he was forced to re­sign at the Uni­ver­sity of Zu­l­u­land (UniZulu) af­ter wit­ness­ing a stu­dent al­legedly be­ing raped by a se­nior aca­demic is ac­cus­ing the in­sti­tu­tion of de­fam­ing his name with al­le­ga­tions that he was fired for pla­gia­rism. The wit­ness, who can­not be named to pro­tect the iden­tity of the stu­dent who was al­legedly raped on cam­pus by her pro­fes­sor, said he had in­stead resigned to pro­tect his fam­ily, who were be­ing threat­ened.

Mean­while, the stu­dent’s fam­ily has de­nied that they begged the uni­ver­sity to drop the probe as claimed by the uni­ver­sity to City Press in June when it broke the story.

A fam­ily mem­ber dis­puted the uni­ver­sity’s ver­sion of events, which was re­peated in ad­verts placed in a Sun­day news­pa­per, that the fam­ily had asked UniZulu vice-chan­cel­lor Pro­fes­sor Xoliswa Mtose not to pur­sue the probe any fur­ther.

“We were the ones that told her (the stu­dent) to re­port to the uni­ver­sity as a start. Why tell her to re­port it if we don’t want this un­rav­elled or in­ves­ti­gated? It just doesn’t make sense,” the fam­ily said.

It has emerged that af­ter the stu­dent had laid charges of rape against him, the se­nior aca­demic ac­cused the wit­ness of pla­gia­rism and gross dis­hon­esty, lead­ing to dis­ci­plinary ac­tion against him.

The wit­ness told City Press he was ag­grieved that vicechan­cel­lor Mtose had stated the al­le­ga­tions against him as fact in news­pa­per ad­verts pub­lished on June 18 and 25. He said this was defama­tion of char­ac­ter.

The al­leged vic­tim’s fam­ily said the uni­ver­sity seemed to be “in­di­rectly try­ing to sab­o­tage” their quest for jus­tice by “at­tack­ing the wit­ness whose only of­fence was to walk into that of­fice, which saved our daugh­ter from his col­league who was vi­o­lat­ing her”.

The fam­ily said it would con­sider other le­gal op­tions should Mtose con­tinue block­ing their ef­forts.

Adrian Mood­ley of Derik Jaftha At­tor­neys, rep­re­sent­ing the wit­ness, said their client resigned from the uni­ver­sity in March and re­ceived a cer­tifi­cate of ser­vice from the in­sti­tu­tion stat­ing res­ig­na­tion as the rea­son for the end of his ser­vice.

“This con­trasts the mis­in­for­ma­tion [Mtose] now feeds the pub­lic. Know­ing that the vice-chan­cel­lor nor­mally signs and is­sues dis­missal let­ters her­self, it is within her knowl­edge that our client was not [dis­missed un­der such con­di­tions]. “Mtose also does not have in her pos­ses­sion any record­ings of any dis­ci­plinary hear­ing in which a dis­missal con­clu­sion was reached, much less to claim that our client was dis­missed af­ter due le­gal process. The only rea­son­able con­clu­sion is that this dis­hon­esty is a de­lib­er­ate act to un­der­mine the rape case,” Mood­ley said.

He said their client was forced to re­sign as he and his fam­ily were fac­ing in­tim­i­da­tion over the rape case. The wit­ness’ fam­ily was con­fronted by men at their home in an ef­fort to strike fear into them, Mood­ley said.

“There­fore, the rea­sons for our client’s res­ig­na­tion had noth­ing to do with the al­le­ga­tion of pla­gia­rism. In­stead of pro­tect­ing our client, im­me­di­ately af­ter the al­leged rape case was brought to their at­ten­tion the uni­ver­sity al­lowed the ac­cused pro­fes­sor to lay a false pla­gia­rism charge against our client a few weeks af­ter he had al­legedly raped a stu­dent, which our client was a wit­ness to,” he said.

He said the uni­ver­sity then ap­pointed the same pro­fes­sor to rep­re­sent it in the pla­gia­rism tri­bunal against their client.

“Our client was tor­tured psy­cho­log­i­cally and emo­tion­ally with this false charge for over six months. How­ever, the uni­ver­sity aban­doned the charge abruptly as our client was prov­ing his case on 24 March 2017,” he said, adding that the pla­gia­rism charge against his client was a false charge. In­stead, he said, the wit­ness had co-au­thored pa­pers and a book with a PhD stu­dent he was su­per­vis­ing at the time, and there was ev­i­dence of con­tracts and email cor­re­spon­dence. “The doc­u­ments were avail­able for any­one to see, yet the uni­ver­sity at­tempted to tag it pla­gia­rism,” he said.

Mood­ley said the uni­ver­sity acted in bad faith to bring a wit­ness of an al­leged rape on UniZulu cam­pus to phys­i­cal dan­ger, dis­re­pute and prob­a­bly un­der­mine the rape case it­self”.

On be­half of their client, he said they would pro­ceed with the defama­tion case and re­port the false al­le­ga­tions to the depart­ment of higher ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing, the Coun­cil on Higher Ed­u­ca­tion, the Com­mis­sion for Gen­der Equal­ity and the SA Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion.

UniZulu spokesper­son Gcina Nh­leko-Md­luli in­sisted that the wit­ness was found guilty by the uni­ver­sity’s pla­gia­rism com­mit­tee and that the wit­ness left the em­ploy of the uni­ver­sity af­ter due le­gal process was fol­lowed. “His case was in no way linked to the al­le­ga­tions that form part of your [al­leged rape] story and, in­stead, con­cerned charges of pla­gia­rism and gross dis­hon­esty.

Af­ter be­ing for­mally charged with mis­con­duct for pla­gia­rism, he stated that he was re­sign­ing with im­me­di­ate ef­fect. He was ad­vised that, in terms of his con­tract of em­ploy­ment, he was ex­pected to serve a month’s no­tice and that, there­fore, the dis­ci­plinary hear­ing would pro­ceed. Un­for­tu­nately, de­lays on his part meant that the dis­ci­plinary process could not be con­cluded be­fore the re­quired 30-day no­tice pe­riod lapsed.”

Nh­leko-Md­luli said Mtose wel­comed con­fir­ma­tion from the Em­pan­geni fam­ily vi­o­lence, child pro­tec­tion and sex­ual of­fences unit that a rape case had been opened at the Mtun­zini Po­lice Sta­tion in March this year.

The spokesper­son said the uni­ver­sity had ap­pointed an ex­ter­nal foren­sic firm to probe the al­le­ga­tions. How­ever, the stu­dent and her fam­ily did not re­spond to the firm’s “ex­ten­sive cor­re­spon­dence via email and tele­phone”.

“The uni­ver­sity was com­pelled to pause its in­ves­ti­ga­tion as it had no cred­i­ble ev­i­dence to pur­sue the mat­ter. In the ab­sence of the com­plainant and or ev­i­dence im­pli­cat­ing the two aca­demics, the uni­ver­sity did not have le­gal grounds to take the mat­ter fur­ther,” she said.

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HOT SEAT Vicechan­cel­lor Xoliswa Mtose

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