Portfolio committee 'outraged' at appointment of alleged sex pest professor
Port Elizabeth – The parliamentary portfolio committee on higher education, science and technology says it is outraged at by the appointment of Professor Peter Mbati as Vice-Chancellor of Sefako Makgatho University despite allegations of sexual harassment still hanging over his head.
"During the committee's engagement with the Commission on Gender Equality (Gender Commission) yesterday, it became apparent that recommendations by the Gender Commission on its report dated 4 December 2014 regarding allegations of sexual harassment against Prof Mbati were never implemented by the University of Venda," the committee said in a statement.
While Vice-Chancellor of the University of Venda, Mbati was accused of sexually harassing Prof Thidziambi Tshivhase Phendla during 2008 and 2010.
Phendla submitted a complaint to the Commission on Gender Equality on 11 May 2012, which released a report on December 2014 that said the allegations were believable. It said the allegations were convincing and that the university's failure to discipline Mbati contravened university policy on sexual harassment, the statement said.
It called on the university to institute a formal disciplinary enquiry against Mbati, but he instead sought a review of the report and while he was not able to set aside the Gender Commission's recommendations, he did gag portions of it, the statement said.
The university appointed Lavery Modise to mediate the allegations in terms of its policy, but the committee alleged in its statement that Mbati hindered the process.
The statement alleges that during the proceedings, Mbati also tried to bribe him.
It said that Modise confirmed that “the Applicant (Mbati) conceded that he had a sexual relationship with the Second Respondent (Phendla) after I had confronted him with the telephone records detailing telephone calls to and from the Second Respondent, as well as the Second Respondent's graphic description of his body marks including the arrangement and setting of furniture in the Applicant's bedroom," it said.
In an affidavit, Modise says "it is noteworthy to state that the Applicant improperly sought to influence me to amend my report”.
“These are indeed serious allegations against Prof Mbati, something which calls into question his suitability to be appointed to the high office of a Vice-Chancellor of Sefako Makgatho University.
"From the information available to the committee, it’s quite clear that Mbati has employed a combination of stratagem, which included litigation and possible collusion with the University Council, to avoid being held to account for the serious allegation of sexual harassment,” portfolio committee chairperson Philly Mapulane, said.
The committee said that in light of this, it questioned Mbati's "fitness and suitability" to hold the office of Vice-Chancellor at Sefako Makgatho University.
"The question is whether the University Council, and all its structures which were responsible for his appointment, were aware of the allegations of sexual harassment before they decided to recommend his appointment.
"In view of all this vexing questions, the Portfolio Committee will conduct a preliminary inquiry into the fitness of Prof Mbati to be appointed and to hold the office of the Vice-Chancellor of Sefako Makgatho University."
African News Agency/ANA