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Wits staffers on leave pending sex pest inquest

Published Jun 20, 2013

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Johannesburg - The four Wits University staff members who were placed on special leave following allegations of sexual harassment have been officially charged by the institution.

University spokeswoman Shirona Patel said the decision to charge the four was made following the completion of the first stages of investigations against them.

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Patel said that following the university’s policy, the four were placed on special leave - meaning they had to leave the campus immediately after being directed to do so - as soon as the sexual harassment allegations were reported to the institutions. This was to ensure the accused didn’t hamper investigations.

Even though two of the four staffers were known, Patel said the institution wouldn’t reveal their names until the investigations had concluded that the allegations against them were true.

In March, senior drama lecturer Tsepo wa Mamatu was placed on leave after allegations of rape and sexual abuse were levelled against him.

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A month later, Professor Rupert Taylor was also placed on special leave after it was reported that he had made sexual advances to students through SMSes and messages on social networks.

The allegation against Taylor initially emerged last year, prompting him to resign as head of the political studies department. He continued teaching until he was served with a suspension order later that month.

When more evidence against other leading academics surfaced, the university appointed law firm Bowman Gilfillan to conduct the investigations against the four staff members.

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Patel said: “It has taken longer than expected for the investigators to gather the evidence. However, the evidence has been gathered, the charges have been put to the four accused and the cases are all currently under way.”

She said the cases were expected to continue into next month and that the probe’s chairperson would reveal the outcome of the investigations several weeks thereafter.

“The university would like to see these disciplinary matters wrapped up as soon as possible, subject to all parties receiving a fair hearing.

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“This is an independent inquiry, with an independent presiding officer, and the university thus has no control over the duration of the disciplinary processes,” Patel added.

Another investigation, an internal campus-wide inquiry looking into sexual harassment at the university, being led by the head of the Centre for Applied Legal Studies, Professor Bonita Meyersfeld, was also under way.

The inquiry is set for completion in August.

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