South Africa 13.9.2017 01:46 pm

Unizulu students ask courts to stop lecturer’s alleged sexual harassment

University of Zululand (UniZulu)

University of Zululand (UniZulu)

In an email communication in August, vice-chancellor Dr Xoliswa Mtose informed the lecturer he had been cleared of all charges.

University of Zululand (Unizulu) nursing lecturer Dr Respect Mondli Miya – who previously faced myriad sexual harassment charges – has been ordered by the Mtunzini Magistrate’s Court to cease communication with affected students.

The Sunday Times previously reported how Miya allegedly invited students to his house and sent sexually explicit WhatsApp messages to them. In one of the messages Miya is allegedly wearing a woman’s nursing uniform. The same picture is understood to have been sent to another employee, who distributed it to Unizulu academic staff in a WhatsApp group.

In July, Miya appeared before a disciplinary hearing following complaints from a fellow colleague and a fourth-year student. Of the seven charges he faced, six related to sexual harassment of male students and male staff members.

A colleague accused Miya of fondling his genitals and dragging him into the men’s toilet on the pretext that he needed his “urine checked”. The complainants told Prof Thokozani Mhlongo, the head of department of nursing, that the continued harassment meted out by Miya “traumatised” them, and asked for his intervention to stop Miya.

In an incident in February, a departmental secretary was dragged into the matter when Miya slapped the student’s buttocks in her full view – a situation that resulted in her appearing as a witness during the disciplinary hearing.

READ MORE: Unizulu vice-chancellor charged with corruption and maladministration

The Citizen is in possession of an “outcome of disciplinary process” communique dated 11 August and signed by the vice-chancellor, Prof Xoliswa Mtose, on 18 August. Miya is informed he has been acquitted of all charges.

“Kindly be advised that on conclusion of your disciplinary hearing you were found not guilty on all allegations of misconduct levelled against you. The chairperson of the hearing, subsequent to considering all evidence presented before him, decided to dismiss all the charges brought against you,” Mtose wrote.

The Citizen has learnt that, feeling aggrieved, the students approached the Mtunzini Magistrate’s Court and successfully obtained a protection order against the lecturer on 12 September.

The students (whose names are withheld) accuse Miya of using his position of power as a senior lecturer in the department to beat them into submitting to his sexual advances, and that failure to do so resulted in verbal abuse and victimisation.

“Because I refused to fulfil the need for visit … he flooded me by bitter and insulting words, starting (sic) that ‘I have given you my attention and kindness and you throw it back in my face’…he said ‘I am your lecturer again even if you never love you’ll have to’ during the first day of lecturers,” one student detailed in the court order application.

Mtunzini magistrate court grants court order against Dr Miya

The students asked the court to instruct Miya to “stop using unprofessional words” to harass them and that he be barred from contacting them. They expressly asked the court to instruct him to stop inviting them to his house as this was “unprofessional” conduct from a lecturer towards students.

In court documents, the departmental secretary applied for a variation of a protection order, indicating she previously obtained one. She said she felt “intimidated by the respondent (Miya)” and didn’t “want any contact with him”. She also requested “him (Miya) to submit work through Prof (head of department) in order to reach my office”.

When contacted earlier today, Miya said “I don’t want to talk to the media, it is against the university procedure.”

When reminded the disciplinary hearing against him had been concluded in his favour, Miya insisted that The Citizen must talk to Unizulu as he was not allowed to comment on the matter. When asked if he was a sex pest, he dropped the call.

Prof Mtose and the university’s spokesperson were unreachable. Both were sent a list of questions, including who chaired the disciplinary hearing that acquitted Miya. Their responses will be published as soon as they are received.

The staff member, speaking anonymously to The Citizen on a previous occasion, said the whole incident affected him psychologically and had since formally asked to be transferred to another institution to avoid a mental breakdown, as “memories of [being] molested at a young age came flooding back each time Miya tried fondling me”.

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