UKZN academics beat sex charges

Mary Papayya

Mary Papayya

Two of the most senior academics at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) have been cleared of sexual harassment charges.

But the chief financial officer of the university, Kanthan Pillay, has been fired.

UKZN ended speculation yesterday by confirming that vice-chancellor Malegapuru Makgoba and council chairman Vincent Maphai had been found not guilty of sexual harassment.

"The council wishes to express its strong and unanimous support for the chairman and vice chancellor," said acting UKZN chairman Mac Mia.

He said that the MCom degree awarded to Pillay would be withdrawn as the tribunal had agreed it was marred by irregularities.

The council appointed a tribunal early last month to investigate the sexual harassment charges and to investigate allegations of irregularities in the awarding of the MCom degree to Pillay.

The Magid Tribunal, headed by retired judge Alan Magid, found that the charges against Makgoba and Maphai were "without substance".

"The tribunal ruled that senior academic Pumela Msweli-Mbanga, who levelled the allegations against both men, was without credibility and that she was willing to change her evidence when it suited her," said Mia.

Msweli-Mbanga accused Makgoba and Maphai of sexual harassment, gender discrimination and victimisation. Both men stepped down from their positions for the duration of the investigations.

Msweli-Mbanga has refused to comment on the matter and Pillay was unavailable for comment.

The tribunal also found that Msweli-Mbanga and three other academics had failed to provide academic leadership when they awarded Pillay his master's degree.

Mia said the university resolved that disciplinary action be taken against the academics involved in awarding Pillay his degree. The academics, with the exception of Msweli-Mbanga, who has resigned, will remain on leave of absence until the matter is resolved.

"The council resolved that Professor Pillay be dismissed with immediate effect and that his post be filled as soon as possible," said Mia.

He said the university hoped to put the incident behind it.