An engineering lecturer has been suspended pending an investigation into allegations of racism against him.

A Wits engineering lecturer has been suspended and is currently under investigation by the institution after multiple complaints of racism were made against him. Dieter Hartmann, a lecturer in the School of Mechanical, Industrial & Aeronautical Engineering, came under fire for comments he made in an email last Thursday, January 25, in which he referred to striking university workers as “monkeys”.

“Oh no. They’re singing outside my window now. Urgh. Monkeys. Biggest. Jungle. Connect the dots,” Hartmann says in the email.

The university confirmed Hartmann’s suspension in a statement released earlier today. “The lecturer will not be allowed onto the University’s campuses whilst the matter is being dealt with by the University’s Transformation and Employee Relations Offices, in line with the University’s rules, policies and procedures. The University does not tolerate any form of prejudice and will ensure that the matter is addressed expeditiously.” Wits’ director of Transformation and Employment Equity, Dr Lindiwe Manyika, told Wits Vuvuzela that an investigation was opened by the Transformation Office after it received multiple complaints against the lecturer over the weekend.

Another email circulating on social media appears to show Hartmann apologising for his comments. “I completely concede that this wasn’t funny, and you have my apology. Unreserved. I crossed the line,” he said. He said that he hoped they could “see beyond the words to appreciate that there was no hurtful intent. That is not my nature. In context, words always mean something different.”

Hartmann is expected to meet with Employee Relations by the end of today.