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Expelled student takes the fight to NWU in bid to stay in school

In his High Court application, Tlale sought to have NWU and Tyobeka declared in contempt of court. Picture: Supplied

In his High Court application, Tlale sought to have NWU and Tyobeka declared in contempt of court. Picture: Supplied

Published May 15, 2023


The North West University (NWU) could still pursue its former student representative council leader, Thabang Tlale who the institution expelled allegations of sexual misconduct but later reinstated following a lengthy legal battle.

The incident is said to have happened in January 2019.

Tlale then hauled the institution and its vice-chancellor Dr Bismarck Tyobeka to the North West High Court in a bid to overturn the decision to expel him from this year.

In its decision, the disciplinary committee against Tlale ruled that he would only be allowed access to the campus for academic purposes until the end of the 2022 academic year.

In its sanction, the committee suspended Tlale’s expulsion for the period of his studies, but on condition that he does not commit similar misconduct during the period of suspension.

He was also expelled from NWU residence and barred from holding any office in the institution’s structures. In addition, Tlale’s academic record was also endorsed.

In his High Court application, he sought to have NWU and Tyobeka declared in contempt of court for failing to comply with the August 2022 ruling by Judge Samkelo Gura and be interdicted from imposing/implementing the disciplinary committee’s sanction and be allowed to register for the 2023 academic year, pending the finalisation of his (Tlale’s) application to review the sanction.

Judge Gura ruled in Tlale’s favour and declared the sanction unlawful and set it aside.

The judge ordered Tyobeka to impose the sanction de novo (afresh) and declared unlawful and set aside Tlale’s disqualification from participating and contesting the 2022/23 SCC elections.

Additionally, NWU was interdicted from allowing voting in the elections for the 2022/23 SCC of the Mahikeng campus until the sanction has been passed afresh, and if Tlale takes his case on review or appeal after sentence then after a judgment or ruling has been handed down in his review/appeal.

Tyobeka later imposed the same sanction afresh, but Tlale lodged an internal appeal.

In December, NWU’s appeals committee for student matters ruled in favour of the institution, finding no procedural unfairness in the manner the hearing was conducted and that the disciplinary measure/sanction was appropriate to the transgression.

Tlale’s latest urgent bid to remain a student was filed in early February this year and he argued that his 2022 academic performance was at best mediocre and that attaining academic excellence and successfully completing his qualification was made difficult by the disciplinary hearing he faced.

He filed the application after Professor Sonia Swanepoel, deputy vice-chancellor at the Mahikeng campus, questioned his presence on its premises and security was instructed to escort him off campus and prevent him from entering.

On April 20, Tlale succeeded after Acting Judge Andrew Reddy interdicted the institution and Tyobeka from implementing the sanction imposed on him in August 2022, pending the finalisation of his high court review.

Their decision to bar him from registering as a student in 2023 was also overturned.

”… The first and second respondents (NWU and Tyobeka) are ordered to enrol the applicant (Tlale) for the 2023 academic year pending the finalisation of the review application,” reads Acting Judge Reddy’s ruling.

NWU spokesperson Louis Jacobs told the Sunday Independent that the institution had already opposed the pending review application, which is in process, and which will be heard on a date later this year.

”The outcome of the review application will determine the further steps the NWU will take against Tlale,” he said.

According to Jacobs, it is important to remember that this order handed down by Acting Judge Reddy was interlocutory/interim relief pending the high court review application and it is therefore not appealable in terms of South African law, which means the pending review application must first be heard.

Tlale's lawyer Bongani Zisiwe said his client was indeed enrolled for the 2023 academic year.