One of the three complainants at the centre of a sexual harassment disciplinary hearing which resulted in the dismissal of a senior academic at Wits University has spoken out.
A complainant in the sexual harassment case against the deputy head of the Wits Law School, Professor Mtendeweka Mhango, has spoken out about her ordeal which she says, started in 2014.
Mhango was dismissed this week after he was found guilty on three counts of sexual harassment.
The complainant, who declined to be named, told Wits Vuvuzela Mhango voluntarily went on special leave in late August last year, after he was reported for sexual harassment.
The three complainants, all co-workers, came forward after discovering that each had been experiencing the same harassment from the professor.
“All three of us discovered each other in August 2016. We kept quiet over the respective periods thinking we were alone. We would just shut it down and deal with it, and also around the awkwardness of his wife being a colleague,” the complainant said.
“Each of us unknowingly made the same decision to keep quiet, thinking we were the only ones, [because] we thought the harm was minimal then. We didn’t realise he actually has predatory behaviour, and that this is actually a problem,” she added.
The matter was reported to the complainant’s superior and then the Wits Gender Equity Office (GEO), which has been handling the matter till now.
The complainant said she was very disappointed that the university chose not to name the individual, however, she felt that it was her responsibility to speak out and ensure that the information was in the public domain.
“Our primary objective in coming out was not only in getting justice for ourselves, it was actually to expose the behaviour in hopes to get other women and students to speak out. If he’s exposed it minimises the opportunity to do it again,” she said.
In a statement released after the sentencing hearing on Tuesday, Wits Vice-Chancellor, Professor Adam Habib, said that “the staff member was found guilty of misconduct on the grounds of sexual harassment in respect of three complainants”, but did not reveal the identity of the individual. The VC also said, “I have informed the individual concerned that he has been dismissed.”
According to the complainant, Mhango did not attend his sentencing. She said he used the “racial conspiracy theory” as a defence against his dismissal.
“He said he was dismissed because of a racial plot by the white cabal in the school – that the whites wanted him out, which the panel thankfully did not accept,” she said.
The complainant said university management needs to be more transparent about such cases.
“The silence on the part of management actually fuels the scandalous nature around sexual harassment cases. People need to be more forthcoming and open about it.”