No ovation for ‘sex pest’ apology

An “overdue” apology by dismissed senior lecturer Tsepo wa Mamatu has received a lukewarm response from staff and students at Wits.

The apology comes after months of denials following his dismissal for sexual harassment last year. Some staff members expressed mixed feelings in response to it.

“It’s an overdue apology for me, but again the truth of the matter is that he himself should have been allowed to take his time,” said wa Mamatu’s former friend and Wits dramatic arts graduate Zabalaza Mchunu.

Wa Mamatu released the apology following the removal of his play, By My Grave, from the Cape Town Fringe Festival. Festival participants had requested its removal which wa Mamatu said was his life story and incorporated issues of sexual harassment.

A Facebook apology 

In the apology, published on his Facebook account, wa Mamatu expressed contrition on for his “lack of judgement” and admitted he had abused his power over students.

“I apologise to my community, my society and every woman for failing them,” wa Mamatu said in the message posted on Facebook.

“I will not be mute in my shame. I AM SORRY,” said wa Mamatu.

Mchunu suggested wa Mamatu’s apology was an act of self-defence, which came minutes before a panel discussion in Cape Town about the withdrawal of his play from the festival.

Mchunu said wa Mamatu was faced with appearing on a podium at the panel discussion: “So before he did, he had to be put in a space of defending himself … that’s why he went and did it.”

In an e-mail he sent to the panel conveners, wa Mamatu said he pulled out the debate because it was being repositioned into a “war cry” which had “mangled the opportunity to engage fairly, productively and constructively.”

“People like the idea of someone being down and out.”

“I refuse to participate in an environment that is not conducive to freedom of speech, that is intolerant of voices that are oppositional to others and that refuse to listen,” said wa Mamatu.

He added that he will continue the “processes of rehabilitation” and talk about the need for men to negotiate themselves against sexual relations.

“I will continue to share with others my own lessons, so that we as men, especially black men, learn to negotiate and respect women-hood in all its various and varying forms,” wa Mamatu said.

Mchunu, however, expressed skepticism about wa Mamatu’s absence at the panel discussion and compared it to the former lecturer’s absence at the initial hearings of the sexual harassment proceedings.

Head of division in dramatic arts, Dr Haseenah Ebrahim, said she welcomed the public apology by wa Mamatu, confirming that he had previously e-mailed an apology addressed specifically to the department.

Unforgiving students 

“It’s not for me to forgive him, it’s only for his victims to forgive him. I’m not sure how plausible or believable he is,” said performance and visual arts student, Kelly Eksteen.

Eksteen, who is a former student of wa Mamatu’s, went on to describe the former lecturer as “a very sick man”.

Jacqueline Titus, a performing arts student, said that “speaking about Tsepo wa Mamatu is a very sensitive topic around here”, referring to the Wits School of Arts.

In response to the scepticism around his public apology, wa Mamatu told Wits Vuvuzela “an apology is not an end, it is the beginning”. He said there would be “other projects”, drawing on workshops he said he is actively involved in to draw attention to issues of sexual harassment and violence against women.

When asked about the rejection of his apology by his former colleagues, wa Mamatu said:“People like the idea of someone being down and out.” He said he hopes that the controversy would soon be over.

“I am worn out.”

Wa Mamatu apologises after a year of denial

PUBLIC APOLOGY: Dismissed Wits lecturer, Tseo wa Mamatu, has taken to Facebook to apologise for his actions. Image: Facebook.

PUBLIC APOLOGY: Dismissed Wits lecturer, Tsepo wa Mamatu, has taken to Facebook to apologise for his actions. Image: Facebook.

Former Wits University senior lecturer Tsepo wa Mamatu has publicly apologised for the first time since his dismissal last year for sexual harassment.

“I apologise to my community, my society and every woman for failing them,” wa Mamatu said in the message posted on his Facebook account.

“I will not be mute in my shame. I AM SORRY”, said wa Mamatu.

Wa Mamatu wrote that after his dismissal from the university he “went into a journey of exile, into a space where I asked of myself difficult and hard questions”.

Wa Mamatu apologised for his “lack of judgement” and admitted that he had abused his power over students.

“I apologise for abusing my power, vested on me by the university, to fail to be consistent with principles and values of best practice,” he said.

In addition to his former students, wa Mamatu also offered apologies to his friends and family as well as “my community, my society and every woman for failing them.”

Wa Mamatu signed off his Facebook apology with the words: “I am at your feet”.

Wa Mamatu’s apology comes after months of denying that he had sexually harassed students.

In a series of articles reported by Wits Vuvuzela last year, Wa Mamatu maintained that he had not sexually harassed anyone but rather had relationships with them.

Wa Mamatu was due to be a panelist at The African Arts Institute debate on Monday evening but appeared to have cancelled his appearance. The debate follows the removal of his play, By My Grave, from the Cape Town Fringe festival.


“Sex pest” claims new play is not about sexual harassment

Tsepo wa Mamatu, a lecturer in Drama has also been fired from Wits for sexual harassment.  Photo: Provided

UNDER FIRE: Dismissed “sex pest” Tsepo wa Mamatu says his controversial new play is not about sexual harassment.
Photo: Provided

A controversial new play by former Wits University lecturer, Tsepo wa Mamatu,  was withdrawn from Cape Town Fringe (CTF) festival last week despite claims from the actor/director that the play does not deal with the issue of sexual harassment.

“People do not know what they are talking about. It would be incorrect to say it [the play] was about sexual harassment,” said wa  Mamatu.

Speaking to Wits Vuvuzela, wa Mamatu said the play is an autobiographical account of his journey that is based on his memoir called Even Still – Lessons Tsepo Learned.

He said the issue of sexual harassment does come up in the play because “it was one of the most disappointing chapters of my stay there (at Wits).”

Wa Mamatu, who previously taught in the Wits School of Arts (WSOA), was found guilty of sexual harassment at Wits through an internal disciplinary process last year and subsequently fired.

Following the removal of the play, By My Grave, from the (CTF) programme owing to protests by other participants, The African Arts Institute is hosting a panel discussion on the controversy tomorrow evening in Cape Town which includes wa Mamatu.

The debate itself has left the arts community divided.

Wits Drama for Life released a statement on its Facebook page opposing the public debate saying the organisation “does not support an initiative of this nature that implicitly validates the experience of the perpetrator and that reinforces the traumatic experience associated with sexual violence”.

According to the founder and director of Drama for Life Warren Nebe, allowing wa Mamatu to engage in a debate encourages a “normalisation” of his acts of sexual harrassment.

“He is being given a platform to validate his position in a way that we think he does not deserve”, said Nebe.

“For us this reopens wounds in many ways…trauma cannot speak back to denial”.

Brett Pyper, WSOA head, says he believes debates around the play will “advance the interest of the various parties who have a stake in the conversation”.

“As a school we believe profoundly in the capacity of art to advance dialogue, redress and restorative social relationships”, said Pyper.

Nebe confirms that the play was withdrawn due to the tensions around wa Mamatu’s history of sexual harrasment and was motivated by the withdrawal of The Mothertongue Project from the festival who were also performing a play on sexual violence called Walk: South Africa.

Artistic director of  The Mothertongue Project, Sara Matchett, says, “Even without knowing what Tsepo wa Mamatu’s work was about, we did not feel comfortable sharing a platform with someone who was found guilty of sexual harassment”.

Matchett says wa Mamatu is “unremorseful”, which is why she believes “there should not be any space on public platforms to be sharing this sentiment”.

“For us there is no debate”, said Matchett.

Nebe says the controversy over wa Mamatu’s new play “reopens wounds in many ways … trauma cannot speak back to denial”.