Professor Jackie Dugard encourages staff and students to report any incidents of sexual harassment to her office. Photo: Wits University.
Inappropriate gestures, sexually-charged comments and even jokes of a sexual nature are still fairly common at Wits University despite last year’s high profile dismissals for sexual harassment.
Regarded as “minor” infringements, these incidents are just as serious and need to be reported, says Professor Jackie Dugard, director of the Wits sexual harassment office (SHO).
Dugard spoke to Wits Vuvuzela earlier this week about the less obvious forms of sexual harassment that occur between lecturers, staff members and students.
She emphasised that “unwanted attention, unwanted gestures, touching and comments,” by lecturers to students as well as staff to staff could fall under the “category” of sexual harassment.
“Minor” infringements are “just as important to report as major infringements” because both are “serious offenses that must be taken seriously.”She said the determination of the seriousness of an infringement depends on circumstance and context.
“If we’re talking about the more clear-cut scenario where the attention is unwanted, then anything of a sexist or sexual nature is unacceptable.”
“Sexual harassment is sexual harassment no matter how big or small the allegation,” she said.
Dugard says that all reports of sexual harassment regardless of their nature, are recorded by her team. “We report it all and take it all very seriously so that if there are repeat transgressions we have a historical record that might collectively add up to something much more ‘serious’.”
The newly-formed SHO has already recorded a variety of issues which include “sexist” material being shown by a professor in a staff meeting and incessant commenting about a student’s appearance by a tutor.
Student on student harassment is also an issue that Dugard and the sexual harassment team hope to tackle. As examples of the problem Dugard says earlier this year a case of student on student rape at a party was reported to the SHO. Another case involved the intimidation of a female student by her ex-boyfriend.
Lecturer to Student Contact
Despite the differentiation between offences, Dugard said she is “not sure how helpful it is to categorise or try to delineate too rigidly between serious and minor” infringements because “according to Wits policy, if you violate the Wits code of conduct or any related policies such as sexual harassment… you can be subjected to a disciplinary inquiry and sanctioned accordingly”.
“Anything that falls outside of a professional relationship is not acceptable. In addition anything that falls outside of professional mentoring is not okay, unless it is wanted and reciprocated.”
Dugard said that at the moment there “isn’t an outright ban at Wits on student-staff relationships,” but it is something “being considered” by the university.
“Some universities have such policies in order to eliminate a lot of grey areas.”
REPORT SEXUAL HARASSMENT
Incidents of sexual harassment can be reported to the Sexual Harassment Office on the 6th Floor of University Corner. Call: 011-717-9790. Visit the website of the Wits sexual harassment office
Wits Vuvuzela: Former Witsie is new sexual harassment office head, February 6, 2014
Wits Vuvuzela: Wits academic resigns amid sexual harassment investigations, October 31, 2013
Wits Vuvuzela: Wits sexual harassment inquiry complete, September 4, 2013
Things are not always what they seem. Cliché I know. But if we look critically at society, we can see that people are programmed to listen to and believe what is socially acceptable. This is not necessarily anyone’s fault nor is it a shame to admit that sometimes you do not think beyond what is presented to you in the media and the people around you.
With the stirring reports of sexual harassment on our campus over the last few months and the massive problem of rape in South Africa, I started to think maybe there is more to the situation than we force ourselves to believe.
After watching the Carte Blanche television interview on Sunday night with Zwelinzima Vavi, I was surprised to hear his reaction to the rape accusations made against him. He was shockingly forth coming about his endeavours with this woman who made these accusations. He admitted to having an affair with her and apologised for his actions. He also recognised his mistake and took full responsibility for this.
I watched this interview fives inches away from the television screen. I watched for those uncertain twitches, those wandering eye balls and guilty hand gestures; however to my disappointment I did not see them. Vavi was shockingly composed and sincere.
Among the many things he said, one important line stood out to me: people who are in powerful positions often get sexual advances from women in their work space because of their authoritative stance. It’s the whole idea of power relations between people.
I remember a woman who made a significant impression on me. She once said: “There is no force equal to a woman determined to rise.”
I believe that sometimes women are more intelligent, more devious and more strategic than we as a population give them credit for. In this constantly changing and erratic world we live in, people are money and career driven. Women have a particular power which few men can withstand – the power of seduction.
The Victorian era is an example. For those who are not literary enthusiasts, in this era women used their beauty and seduction to gain the highest advantage over men. Beauty was seen as the definition of character and in a day where women were slaves to men, aesthetics was the one thing women used to get their way.
As much as women are the general victims of sexual harassment, sometimes and I emphasise sometimes, it is not only one sided. Women can offer men something they desire in order to get what the woman wants. It may be financial support, career-jumping opportunities or whatever else they need in their personal lives in return for sexual favours.
During my research for all the harassment stories we covered in Wits Vuvuzela, I was repeatedly made aware of this by readers of the paper. Harassment on campus is not just between lecturers and students but also between students and students. I cannot help but think that a university campus is the perfect breeding ground for harassment because of the need to succeed and push forward in life. Here, more than anywhere else, I think it is important to consider that women can and will take advantage of what is presented to them.
By the same token, though, it is still the responsibility of any lecturer – as the person who holds the power in the relationship – to resist any attempts to manipulate them.
A real revolution would be a revolution of consciousness in society.
By Prelene Singh and Emelia Motsai
DR LAST Moyo and Tsepo wa Mamatu, who have been dismissed for sexual harassment, have spoken out about their sackings.
According to a statement issued on Wednesday by Wits Vice Chancellor Prof Adam Habib, two staff members were dismissed. Habib’s statement did not name the two staff members.
Habib apologised to all students who had been victimised by these lecturers and added that the university would not tolerate any future incidents of sexual harassment.
However, Wits Vuvuzela independently confirmed that Moyo and wa Mamatu are the two dismissed staff members.
[pullquote]“I resigned and if the university says that I have been fired, this is the university trying to claim moral authority,”[/pullquote]
When Wits Vuvuzela first contacted them, both Moyo and wa Mamatu said they were unaware that they had been dismissed. Wa Mamatu said he had already resigned and the university was attempting to claim “moral authority” by firing him.
“I resigned and if the university says that I have been fired, this is the university trying to claim moral authority,” wa Mamatu said.
Wa Mamatu said he resigned in May and was working until the end of July as part of his resignation. Wits drama department head Kennedy Chinyowa said he knew nothing about wa Mamatu’s resignation.
Wa Mamatu’s attorney David Mogaswa told Wits Vuvuzela that on Thursday morning he received an email from the university about the dismissal which went straight to junk mail. He still cannot read the contents of the email.
On Thursday morning, Moyo confirmed to Wits Vuvuzela that he had received news that he was dismissed and was disappointed by the outcome.
Moyo said that he didn’t expect any fairness from the hearings, and “institutions are like machines and I think the major thing at the moment for Wits is its reputation and all of its institutional energy is focused on that.”
“The idea behind legal justice is that punishment must correlate with offence, but I am not sure this applies in my case,” said Moyo.
[pullquote align=”right”]“I received the harshest punishment that one won’t get even in hell I think.”[/pullquote]
“I received the harshest punishment that one won’t get even in hell I think.”
Moyo said that while he was unhappy with the outcome, he still loves Wits, the School of Language and Literature Studies and the Faculty of Humanities. He is happy that he was able to give his side of the story during the hearings.
“What matters to me is that I got a chance to tell the truth at the hearing. Once I did that, I found relief and could sleep peacefully knowing that between me and my creator everything is sorted,” Moyo said.
Moyo speculated about whether the students who testified against him would also have peace and said they had been “unjust”.
“These things have a way of coming back to you if you treat a fellow human being unjustly, even at old age,” Moyo said.
[pullquote]”My promotion to associate professor could have been through in April, but instead in March I was accused of harassing students. That’s life.”[/pullquote]
Moyo said that he had been expecting a promotion that had been derailed by the sexual harassment allegations made against him.
“My promotion to associate professor could have been through in April, but instead in March I was accused of harassing students. That’s life.” Moyo said he did not know most of the women who levelled accusations against him.
Wits Vuvuzela first reported the accusations against Moyo in March, resulting in the investigation. Moyo said most of the women in the article did not participate in the hearings.
He also said he had nothing against Wits Vuvuzela and its articles on sexual harassment on campus. “You did a great job in some stories, but certainly not in all cases.”
Wits Vuvuzela spoke to some of the women who made complaints against Moyo. Refilwe Kumalo, who testified against Moyo, let out a big sigh when she heard about the dismissal from Wits Vuvuzela.
[pullquote align=”right”]“I am happy we won, I was able to stand up and protect my rights.”[/pullquote]
“I am happy we won, I was able to stand up and protect my rights.”
She said facing Moyo in the hearing was “disgusting and horrible”. Another student who also testified against Moyo said justice had been served: “Hopefully lecturers will learn how to conduct themselves.”
Moyo and wa Mamatu were two of four staff members under investigation for sexual harassment. The outcomes of those hearings are to be announced in the coming weeks.
Wits Vuvuzela. BREAKING: Fired sex pests named. July 31, 2013.
Wits Vuvuzela. ‘Sex pest’ hearings concluding. July 26, 2013.
Wits Vuvuzela. Kruger talks sexual harassment. July 12, 2013.
Wits Vuvuzela. EXCLUSIVE: Tsepo wa Mamatu speaks. May 31, 2013.
Fired! Dr Last Moyo pictured at a Wits event last year. Photo: Dinesh Balliah.
by SHANDUKANI MULAUDZI and PRELENE SINGH
Two of the four Wits University lecturers accused of sexual harassment have been dismissed.
Although the statement did not name the lecturers, Wits Vuvuzela has learned that the dismissed lecturers are Tsepo wa Mamatu and Last Moyo.
According to a statement released today by Wits vice chancellor, Prof Adam Habib, “the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, has just dismissed two employees who have been found guilty of sexual harassment.”
Habib declined to name the individuals.
Habib said that the hearing was conducted and chaired by independent senior counsel who submitted the guilty verdict to Wits University.
Both of these lecturers were found to be in breach of the University’s Sexual Harassment Policy, Relationship Guidelines and the University’s Code of Conduct.
“The staff members have been found guilty of sexual harassment and misconduct, and one of them has also been found guilty of sexual/indecent assault,” said Habib.
Habib apologised to all students who had been victimised by theses lecturers and added that the university would not tolerate any future incidents of sexual harassment.
The cases of the remaining two suspended lecturers are ongoing and these outcomes will be announced over the next couple of weeks.
Tsepo wa Mamatu, a lecturer in Drama has also been fired from Wits for sexual harassment.
As previously reported by Wits Vuvuzela, the university was conducting two inquiries and it is said that the campus-wide inquiry “is expected to be completed in the next two weeks”.
This inquiry is being led by the Head of the Centre of Applied Legal Studies, Professor Bonita Meyersfeld and Joe Mothibi from Norton Rose Fulbright.
Read more in the Wits Vuvuzela print edition or online this Friday.