Former Wits University lecturer Tsepo Mamatu. Photo: Chris Collingridge

Cape Town - Playwrite Tsepo wa Mamatu says he will not heed calls to stop doing theatre work.

A group of about 50 people adopted a resolution in Cape Town that said wa Mamatu must suspend his participation in theatre-related work until the industry has adopted a code on how to deal with someone found guilty of sexual harassment or other serious offences.

This followed a debate on Monday at the Artscape on whether calls to withdraw the production By My Grave from the Cape Town Fringe festival were justified or amounted to “persecution” of wa Mamatu.

The play deals with a man accused of sexual harassment. Wa Mamatu plays the main character.

He was dismissed from the University of the Witwatersrand last year after he was found guilty – in an internal investigation - of sexual harassment. He was a drama lecturer at Wits.

Wa Mamatu has denied he was guilty of sexual harassment, but admits he had relationships with students. He had posted an apology on Facebook.

On Tuesday he told the Cape Times the resolution that he should not work for up to four months was “problematic”.

Wa Mamatu had first agreed to take part in the debate this week but pulled out a few hours before it took place.

He said he supported the creation of a code that gave guidelines on how the industry should interact with a person who was found guilty of serious offences, but that it should not apply to him.

“There was no code of conduct when I was fired from Wits and later applied to be part of the Cape Town Fringe. Therefore it cannot be applied to me retrospectively,” wa Mamatu said.

The debate was organised by Mike van Graan, chief executive of the African Arts Institute, who chaired the discussion. Van Graan said the industry was caught on the back foot by wa Mamatu’s case.

He posted the final resolution on Facebook. It read:

* the code may determine under what conditions an artist found guilty of offences (from minor to serious), may continue to work within the sector, if at all.

* the code must spell out the nature of offences and recommend sanctions relative to the offences.

* when the code is adopted at least by major organisations wa Mamatu’s case must be heard and dealt with by an independent panel.

* A whistle-blowing mechanism must be established for the creative sector.

Van Graan said he hopes the industry will adopt a code by December 31.

He said at the moment the industry did not have the “moral authority” to impose sanctions on wa Mamatu.

“Until we adopt a code it is up to theatres, festivals and people now to decide whether they want to work with wa Mamatu or not,” Van Graan said.

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Cape Times