THE Wits manager accused of racially abusing contract workers has resigned, just weeks before his disciplinary hearing.
The resignation of former property management head, Ian Armitage, whose hearing was scheduled for June 13, closed an investigation into the truthfulness of the alleged racism.
“The accusations were never tested in a formal hearing,” said deputy vice-chancellor of finance, Professor Patrick Fitzgerald, stating that management had “taken no formal position on the matter” as a result.
Those who worked with Armitage were not so neutral.
“He was terrible. You’d go do an inspection with him and he would carry on, swearing at you. That was Armitage’s downfall; he was not a people’s person,” said a former colleague who worked with him during his two-year tenure at Wits.
The colleague also expressed doubts about Armitage’s innocence, saying, “We’ve got very fair [labour relations] procedure in South Africa; a very good Constitution [and] the CCMA. Why would you resign days before they fire you if you are not guilty? If he was sure he was not racist, why would he resign?”
An employee of one of the university’s contractors, who did not want to be named, said: “He was always a hard arse; always on everyone’s case. I think he was on a power trip.”
The resignation has been welcomed by the Workers Solidarity Committee, which on the day of his resignation posted “The Wits employee charged with racism HAS RESIGNED!! AMANDLA!!” on its Facebook page.
Nhlakanipho Gumede, a gardener and member of the Solidarity Workers’ Committee, said: “We were happy that he resigned. [His resignation] meant that for the first time since I’ve been here someone in a high position is challenged for the wrong things they do. That was an achievement for the workers”.
However, the ‘victory’ is bitter-sweet.
“He’s gone, but it’s like we didn’t do anything,” said Gumede, referring to the changes that were implemented during Armitage’s time that affected contractors.
“There’s still a lot more that needs to be done.”
The report from an investigation into the allegations, which workers have been picketing to get access to, has not been released.
Armitage declined to comment when contacted by Vuvuzela. “I have no comment at all. Thank you very much.”