UNISA main campus. Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency(ANA)

Pretoria -The University of South Africa (Unisa) has confirmed that a professor accused of sexual harassment by a student has been cleared in an internal disciplinary hearing. 

The Pretoria News reported that the 30-year-old woman had filed a damages lawsuit of R750 000 against the professor after he allegedly forced himself on her and gave her an STD. 

She is also asking for R200 000 in damages from Unisa, saying the institution did not protect her from the alleged sex pest.

In a statement released on Tuesday the university confirmed that it aware of the high court proceedings. 

"The university’s position is that matters before the court must be dealt with before that forum without a public interrogation based on incomplete facts."

"The court case emanates from a complaint lodged by a student, which resulted in an internal disciplinary hearing held by the university against the professor in question. Allegations of sexual harassment were levelled against him by the complainant.

"The disciplinary hearing found the professor not guilty of the alleged offense, and the complainant has brought an application in the high court to have the findings of the disciplinary hearing reviewed and set aside," said Unisa's senior media officer Edgar Rathelele. 

The university said it condemned all forms of harassment, including sexual harassment. 

"In equal measure, it condemns the issue of sexual harassment allegations to settle personal scores. It is also committed to its policies on harassment, including the sexual harassment policy; and any transgressions to university policies are dealt with harshly and line with such policy pronouncements.   

Rathelele added that the university’s position on gender-based violence and harassment would not be compromised by instances where there were no genuine complaints. 

"Equally, where there are genuine complaints, the university has acted strongly and will continue to act decisively and firmly without any fear or favour."

He added that the university equally respects and protects the rights of all employees to fair processes and to defend themselves against any allegations levelled against them.

"Once a decision has been made by an independent and objective process, the university respects such decisions; whilst it is also obliged to respect the rights of other parties to take any matter on review," concluded Rathelele.   

Pretoria News reported that the student, in her summons, said she had contacted Unisa in 2014 regarding a novel she had written, which was in draft form at the time. 

It was recommended to her that the professor should assist her in the structure and grammar of the draft.

She said she had met with the professor in his office and after discussing the book, it started to rain and he took her home. 

She said prior to getting into his car, he kissed her and made sexual advances towards her.

The woman said she asked him whether he had a condom as she was not going to have unprotected sex.

She said the professor assured her he was not going to have full-blown sex with her. But in the heat of the moment, he did penetrate her.

The recording of the disciplinary hearing still has to be transcribed.

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