Former Witsie is new sexual harassment office head

Professor Jackie Dugard has been appointed the Director of the Sexual Harassment Office at Wits. Photo: Wits University.

Professor Jackie Dugard has been appointed the Director of the Sexual Harassment Office at Wits. Photo: Wits University.

Wits University has appointed Professor Jackie Dugard as the head of the newly established sexual harassment office.

Dugard, an admitted advocate is also the co-founder of SERI (The Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa) and holds a PhD from the University of Cambridge.

In a statement announcing Dugard’s appointment, the university said: “Professor Dugard has been tasked with assessing the current structure to deal with sexual harassment on our campuses, and to adapt it as appropriate, in line with the University’s new approved policies and procedures. Her role will include working with relevant University departments to ensure that Wits has sufficient, trustworthy systems in place to ensure a safe environment on our campuses.”

Read the full statement released by the university.

The Sexual Harassment Office was established in line with the findings of the sexual harassment inquiry last year. The university hopes the office and Dugard will “establish a system that will ensure that the rights and dignity of our staff and students are never again violated on our campuses.”


Intimacy a must for student-staff relationships

“I’m not convinced that relationships between students and staff should be off bounds,” said speaker Eusebius McKaiser at a talk yesterday afternoon at the Wits Theatre Complex.

McKaiser was addressing the topic of  “student-staff intimacy: a requirement of effective teaching or a danger in a violent society?”

Eusebius Mckaiser tackling a burning issue during his talk on Thursday afternoon. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

Eusebius Mckaiser tackling a burning issue during his talk on Thursday afternoon. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

The notion of intimacy

As a point of departure, McKaiser let the audience know that the kind of intimacy he was going to talk about was a “non-sexual intimacy between students and staff.”

He stressed that in South Africa the knee-jerk understanding of intimacy is always associated with an erotic and sexual interpretation and this has come to defile the word.

Personal experiences with “intimate” teacher relations

“It takes one academic to have a profound, lifelong impact on a pupil,” said McKaiser. He went on to give examples of high school teachers who had impacted his life by taking a personal interest in him, one that went beyond a rigid teacher-student relationship.

The teachers that remain memorable to him are the ones who taught with a duty of care and not in an authoritative manner, said McKaiser.

He shared that the Rhodes University philosophy department understood the importance of personal contact with students. Lecturers in this particular department knew their students “beyond their student numbers”, said McKaiser.

The care with which this department handled him led to him dropping law, a department he described as being “cold and impersonal, with no emotional touch point.”

Intimacy is necessary

Intimacy was important in the sense that teachers need to take a deep and profound interest their students backgrounds.

“In South Africa this kind of intimacy which is not sexual but rather a sincere concern for the well-being of students is important. Many students do not speak English as a first language nor have enough social capital to excel in institutions,” McKaiser said.

Can’t avoid South African realities

McKaiser went on to say that while he promotes intimacy between students and staff, one cannot ignore the fact that there is violence on campus. Universities are not special spaces free from South Africa’s social ills.

He went on to say that, “monsters aren’t aliens,” they are the everyday people we interact with, as such even lecturers.”

Code of conduct also necessary

McKaiser said when he began lecturing Philosophy at Wits, he does not recall signing a code of conduct.

He recommended that the university should include mandatory codes of conduct regarding lecturer conduct in their contracts.

“A safety requirement is necessary in a place like South Africa,” he added.

Wits staff in sex harassment inquiry

Four cases of sexual harassment in Faculty of Humanities are among those that are the subject of an university-wide inquiry by the law firm of Bowman Gilfillan.

“There are a number of cases being investigated by Bowman, four cases in the Faculty of Humanities,” Prof Libby Meintjes, head of the School of Literature Language and Media.

The inquiry follows allegations of sexual harassment against Wits staff members including suspended senior drama lecturer Tsepo wa Mamatu, former head of the political studies department Prof Rupert Taylor and former head of the media studies department Dr Last Moyo.

Meintjes emphasised that Moyo was on “special leave” and not “suspension”. “Dr Moyo has been placed on special leave with no access to the campus pending the investigation,” she said. [pullquote align=”right”]“Students, feel free to speak out openly, without fear.”[/pullquote]

She said Moyo has not been suspended, as there have not been enough formal complaints made.

Director of employee relations Elaine Milton told Wits Vuvuzela it is better for a staff member who is the subject of an investigation to be off campus while such an investigation is taking place.

Milton said proceedings were at a “very delicate stage” and she could not disclose the names of staff members involved as this will prejudice the investigation.

She said that “special leave” is a leave of absence without the loss of benefits or remuneration in order for the university to be able to conduct an investigation in an “unfettered” and an unhindered” manner.
Milton added that Taylor, who stepped down as head of the political studies department last year following sexual harassment allegations, has not been formally placed on special leave.

Meintjes stressed that students should not fear to come forward with complaints about sexual harassment. “If they take [their complaints] to the correct sources, to the correct persons, there will be no backlash,” she said.“Students, feel free to speak out openly, without fear.”

Dr Mehita Iqani, acting head of the department of media studies, said: “There is a lack of trust in the institution. I don’t think anyone should HAVE TO work in an environment where there is a sense of fear…Students need to know that if they have a complaint against staff confidentiality will be absolutely protected.”

University Registrar Kirti Menon said the university is hoping to receive feedback from the Bowman Gilfillan attorneys by the end of next week.

Meintjes said: “We are hoping it will be concluded very soon.”
“I don’t think we’ve heard the end of this.”

While the investigation into the sexual harassment allegations is being conducted, a separate inquiry into the university’s procedures for the reporting of sexual harassment is also taking place.

The vice chancellor’s office has asked Norton Rose Attorneys and the Centre for Applied Legal Studies at the university to conduct the inquiry into the university’s policies and mechanisms dealing with sexual harassment. This inquiry is expected to be concluded by August.


WSOA alumni call for responsibility in sexual harassment drama

A group of School of Dramatic Arts alumni has written an open letter to Wits University to voice their opinion about the recent sexual harassment allegations against a senior lecturer in the school.

This is after the Sunday Times labeled drama lecturer, Tsepo wa Mamatu a “sex pest” and reported that he was accused of sexually assaulting some of his students.

In the letter the group of alumni expressed their dismay over “an apparent climate … within the University that condones and what’s more appears actively to facilitate such sexual transgressions.”

According to the letter which was sent via Adrian Galley, their outrage over the matter is due to their own experience of an environment which was tolerant of sexual misconduct 30 years ago and seems to still exist.

The group said that the campus-wide inquiry into sexual harassment is “too little, too late and offers slight comfort to survivors,” and they suspect the inquiry is driven by “a need to shore-up the University’s legal defenses,” rather than a “sincere desire for truth and justice”.

The group calls for authorities to “question why they have abandoned their quest for social justice and remind them the moral high ground they may once have claimed has long been overrun by corrupt and hostile forces”.

The groups wants lecturers in the drama department to “reflect on and take responsibility for their own complicity in the current chain of events” and they “challenge the University administration” to take steps towards “social justice”.

The alumni said that it is unfortunate that some groups see the “call for swift justice” as a plan to incite a “witch hunt and the institution of a kangaroo-court”.

But they believe “environment of social justice serves equally the interests of genuine complainants and the falsely accused”.

The former Witsies called upon the university administration to act decisively. They said they “wish to once again be associated with an institution that is universally recognised as a leading and credible voice on issues of social justice, making a positive contribution to the national and international debate on matters of sexual abuse and gender-based violence.”

Read the full text of the open letter here.

Drama students and parents meet over sexual harassment

The School of Arts is continuing to deal with the fallout over allegations of sexual assault and harassment in the drama department with a third discussion forum with drama students, their parents and alumni.

This follows a Sunday Times report that senior drama lecturer Tsepo wa Mamatu was suspended after being accused of sexually assaulting students.

The school held two forums last week with School of Arts students and staff. According to School of Arts head Prof Georges Pfruender, the first two forums were for the staff and students to identify core problems and suggest solutions for them. The third forum held on March 9 was to include parents and alumni in the discussion.

“We want to create a working space where both students and lecturers will feel safe and respected,” said Pfruender.

According to Pfruender, the first draft of sexual harassment guidelines will be made available to staff and students in the coming week. The guidelines include definitions of rehearsal space and practical classes. It also outlines how students and lecturers should define boundaries, especially during rehearsals.

Pfruender said that there will be two other workshops held in the coming two weeks.

“With such an important issue it will not be enough to have a once-off.”

Pfruender said that the guidelines will be put in effect immediately but policy changes need a bit more time.

It is anticipated that the investigation on wa Mamatu will be completed within the next two or three months “subject to no delays occurring and the number of witnesses coming forward,” said Pfruender.

A therapist has also been provided for Drama students affected by sexual harassment. They can book sessions at the Emthonjeni centre.

On Thursdays between noon and 2pm a therapist will be available to them without an appointment.

“This is a special arrangement for the drama students during this time [with allegations of drama students being sexually harassed],” said Nthabiseng Modikoane from the Emthonjeni centre.

SLLM announces sexual harassment committee

The School of Literature, Languages and Media (SLLM) have announced that a sexual harassment committee has been constituted in order to address concerns, and facilitate a discussion, about sexual harassment among students in the School.

This announcement comes in the wake of allegations against one of the School’s senior lecturers, Dr Last Moyo.

The Wits Vuvuzela last week broke the story of the allegations against Dr Moyo, which he strongly denies. According to the Head of the School, Dr Libby Meintjes, the committee consists of Prof Pumla Gqola (, Dr Colette Gordon (, Dr Mehita Iqani  ( and Prof Tommaso Milani (

Dr Meintjes has encouraged students to approach the committee who will be able to assist students with concerns around sexual harassment and will even assist in approaching the CCDU’s sexual harassment officer, Maria Wanyane. According to Dr Meintjes, members of the committee, “will be able to provide a safe space for students to articulate any concerns.”

Read the official statement from SLLM:

“The School of Literature, Language and Media would like to assure students and staff of the University that it has a policy of zero tolerance with regard to sexual harassment. The School has constituted a Sexual Harassment Committee. This Committee will be calling all students in the School to a meeting to discuss sexual harassment generally: what it is, how to cope with it and what processes are in place to assist students subjected to it. A person familiar with procedures in cases of suspected sexual harassment will be present at the meeting to clarify procedures and answer queries.

The Committee has also been briefed to meet with the Media students as a separate group. Dr Last Moyo has called for a formal investigation into the allegations, and, out of concern for the School’s reputation, has stepped aside as Head of Department and as Assistant Dean of Internationalisation and Partnerships until the findings of the investigation are made known.
The School will always remain centrally concerned with the safety, well-being and professional treatment of its students and staff.”