EFF will leave Wits’ Senate House ‘when recognised’

NOTE: Article first appeared in The Citizen newspaper on April 4, 2014. 

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Students of the Wits EFF branch occupy the 11th floor Senate Room, Wits University yesterday. The students are demanding recognition as an official university club. Picture: Tracy Lee Stark.

Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) Wits entered their second day of occupation on the 11th floor of the Senate House building at Wits University in Johannesburg yesterday. 

The student branch of the EFF on Wednesday occupied vice-chancellor Adam Habib’s office in protest against its lack of recognition by the university as a society.

Security moved the EFF members from the office the following morning, which is when they relocated to the Senate House, with a constant security presence.

Habib said the security measures were put in place as “a precaution to ensure that the occupation doesn’t get out of hand”.

Vuyani Pambo, EFF Wits chairperson, said the occupation would only come to an end once the EFF’s Wits group was recognised as a university society on campus.

“”Every day that passes frustrates our political programme,” he said.

The EFF had followed all the right channels and had interacted with both the SRC and the dean of student affiars, Pamela Dube, on various occasions, yet their application was still rejected, he said.

Reports have indicated that the EFF was not registered because they submitted their application late to the SRC.

“These are lies. This is a tactic,” said Pambo.

He said that the group went into action when they discovered that their application would have to wait until next year.

Habib said the university intended to launch an investigation into the matter, which would be completed today.

On the indefinite period of the occupation, Habib said that students are “free to occupy any public space, as long as they obey the rules”.

However, he added that the EFF group were being unreasonable” as their gripe was with the SRC, and not him.

Habib was away in Pretoria when the students took over his office. He initially engaged with them publically during their occupation of his office live on twitter. Their hashtag #EFFoccupation has gained traction on the social media site.

Pambo said that their “soft radical action” would escalate if the university didn’t engage them today or at latest on Monday.

 

 

No answers on Coopoo

By Nokuthula Manyathi and Pheladi Sethusa

As Dean of Students Prem Coopoo spends her sixth week on special leave, the rumour mill churns out speculation and the university remains silent about the reason.

Week to week Wits Vuvuzela has been given the run around when trying to find out more about the situation.

Initially staff and students had been informed Coopoo’s absence would only last for a week.

Wits spokesperson Shirona Patel told Wits Vuvuzela last month that Coopoo was placed on special leave pending investigations but would not specify the nature of the investigation.

This week director of special projects, Oliver Seale, said Lamese Abrahams had been appointed the acting dean of students.

He went on to say: “University management is currently in negotiations with Ms P Coopoo on this matter.

We will notify the entire university community on this matter as soon as the negotiations are concluded.”

Some of the rumours Wits Vuvuzela has heard include that the university has plans to change the position of the dean of students, taking away the title of dean. Seale responded to this by saying that was not the case: “Please note that the negotiations with the current incumbent and (sic) not on the job title.”

Wits Vuvuzela contacted six members in executive management, including Vice Chancellor Adam Habib, but could not obtain further comment.

BREAKING: Third “sex pest” sacked

Prof Rupert Taylor of the Political Studies department. Pic: Facebook.
Prof Rupert Taylor of the Political Studies department. Pic: Facebook.

By Nokuthula Manyathi and Pheladi Sethusa

Prof Rupert Taylor has become the third Wits lecturer to be fired following a university investigation into allegations of sexual harassment.

Political studies department head Prof Daryl Glaser confirmed to Wits Vuvuzela that Taylor, formerly a senior lecturer, has been dismissed after a four-month inquiry.

“I am relieved that the process has come to a conclusion,” said Glaser.

Glaser said he had just been told of Taylor’s dismissal on Thursday afternoon. He said would comment further when he had more information.

Taylor was forced to step down as head of the political studies department last year following a report in Wits Vuvuzela of sexual harassment allegations made against him by students.

In March of this year, Taylor was put on special leave and made to leave university premises.

Taylor had denied the allegations at the time, telling Wits Vuvuzela: “I am deeply upset and concerned about the damaging allegations that have been published against me.”

Taylor is the third lecturer to be dismissed after allegations of sexual harassment were lodged against him. Former head of the media studies department Dr Last Moyo and former senior drama lecturer Tsepo wa Mamatu were fired in August following investigations.

In a statement regarding the most recent dismissal, Vice Chancellor Prof Adam Habib said the university had adopted a “zero tolerance” policy towards sexual harassment.

“We hope that the swift action taken by the university in these three cases, sets a clear example that sexual harassment will not be tolerated in any form on our campuses,” Habib said. Wits Vuvuzela has so far been unable to contact Taylor for comment on his dismissal.

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Wits sexual harassment inquiry complete

Prof Bonita Meyersfield outlines some of the key findings from the report. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa
Prof Bonita Meyersfield outlines some of the key findings from the report. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

By Caro Malherbe and Shandukani Mulaudzi

Wits has pledged to undertake a multidimensional approach to issues of sexual harassment on campus by formulating a special task team initiated by the vice chancellor’s office. These measures and others were announced today at a press conference called to make the findings of an independent inquiry into issues of sexual harassment at Wits University.

Vice chancellor Prof Adam Habib said he takes full responsibility for the abuses that happened at Wits and that the report highlights the failure of the university’s system to address rumours and allegations decisively.

Habib added that the university welcomes the recommendations and will form a Senior Executive Team to start a plan of action on how the issue of sexual harassment will be dealt with, in line with the culture of the institution.

Special Task Team 

The special task team will originate from the VC’s office and comprise various experts from within the university including gender specialists, the transformation office, sexual harassment advisors, legal expertise and student representatives.

Habib said student representatives will not be solely from the SRC but from various sectors of the student body.

Prof Adam Habib, Kirti Menon and Prof Andrew Crouch field questions from the media. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa
Prof Adam Habib, Kirti Menon and Prof Andrew Crouch field questions from the media. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

 Difficulties of investigation


Prof Bonita Meyersfeld, the director of the Centre of Applied Legal Studies at Wits was part of the team who compiled the report together with lawyers from law firm Norton Rose. She said this was one of the most difficult inquiries to undertake.

“The inquiry was one of the most difficult tasks for the whole team to undertake because we were dealing with our own university. But it was important and totally worth it.”

Meyersfeld said students and members of staff were initially reluctant to speak to them but in the last two months of the inquiry they were more willing to come forward.

“The emotion involved in both students and staff alike is evident throughout the university and administration. Students felt they were not listened to and not taken seriously.”

Meyersfeld said the students were also worried about following the legal process as they were worried about being re-traumatised by speaking to various entities about the same incident.

Members of staff, although they shared the same sentiments also worried about the threat posed to their careers if they came forward.

Continuing investigation 

Two cases have already been dealt with and the accused persons have been dismissed. Habib said there are two other cases that are on-going.

“Two have been dismissed and another who began investigations will hopefully be released to me tomorrow. The fourth is yet to begin.”

SRC President, Sibulele Mgudlwa answers a question from the audience. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa
SRC President, Sibulele Mgudlwa answers a question from the audience. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

The on-going investigation is that of Prof Rupert Taylor, while the one that has not yet begun is that of Dr Lord Mawuko. This was confirmed by a reliable source who did not want to be named.

Meyersfeld said while there were other perpetrators discovered during the inquiry. However cases were dealt with on a confidential basis and unless students asked for their accusations to be pursued, they were not.

Habib added: “We pursued various other avenues to get to the bottom of it [new cases]. But in those instances our findings yielded no further investigation.”

Habib thanked the media for blowing the whistle on issues of sexual harassment as this forced the university to take immediate action.

 

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