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The Stellenbosch University (SU) Student Representa­tive Council (SRC) has had three of its newly elected members accused of sexual assault on social media. As a result, an extraordi­nary sexual harassment adviso­ry panel has been created by the Equality Unit to deal with such allegations. The allegations are one of the reasons why the process of electing a SRC Chairperson or Vice-Chairperson has been halted.

At Student Parliament on Thursday, SRC member Wamahl­ubi Ngoma stood up to address the house, elaborating on reasons why an SRC Chairperson and Vice-Chairperson had not yet been elected. Prior to her address she apologised to the house for the delayed elections and spoke of the SRC wanting to be fully transpar­ent on the process of the elections.

“On 5 September we were in­formed that the election would be postponed as well as the entire student body due to unforeseen circumstances. One of such cir­cumstances being that the mili­tary academy captain, who serves on the SRC as well, had not been elected yet and it would be ideal to have them present. While awaiting the appointment of the captain, there were also allegations made on social media involving some of our own newly elected SRC mem­bers. In response to this, the Equal­ity Unit had now convened an extraordinary sexual harassment private panel which will await for­mal reports to be filed by [Friday] to the Equality Unit Anti-discrim­ination and Harassment coordina­tor,” Ngoma said.

One of the accused SRC mem­bers, Sifiso Zungu, took to Face­book on 5 September and in a since deleted post publicly admitted to the allegations against him and apologised for what he had done.

“What you call transparency, I call taking accountability for my actions. As a student leader tasked with the tremendous responsibil­ity of leading, accountability is non-negotiable,” Zungu said in response to a question on his sud­den transparency. No formal cases were made against any of the SRC members but Ngoma said in par­liament that regardless of whether a formal case is made or not, all the accused parties will be allowed the opportunity to present their case to the Equality Unit panel.

The Equality Unit is convening a panel which will focus specifi­cally on sexual harassment com­plaints that have been lodged, with their jurisdiction being the entirety of the SU campus includ­ing staff and students. They have set the provisional dates of 15 – 18 October for those affected to come forward and register their complaints.“They [the panel] will then write a report and make rec­ommendations communicated firstly, to the people involved in the process and then take what is necessary from the report to the relevant stakeholders of the uni­versity who can assist us moving forward regarding these very seri­ous allegations,” Jaco Greeff Brink, the Head of the Equality Unit, said at the student parliament sitting on Thursday. “The panel consists of four competent individuals who have sound knowledge of social justice, sexual harassment and dis­crimination.

The panel is mandated to con­duct preliminary investigations as well as providing SU Management with recommendations. Recom­mendations made by the panel will assist SU Management in making the best possible decision on the way forward to address the specific social media-based allega­tions and with the aim to eradicate sexual misconduct and harass­ment on campus.

The investigation is currently underway, and we cannot, at this stage, prematurely provide any additional details or comment,” Brink later told Die Matie.

Dr Choice Makhetha, Senior Director of Student Affairs, said SU Management and Student Af­fairs are “very committed to ad­dressing these allegations” and are in “continued meetings with the Anti-GBV Student Movement, SRC and TSR, to ensure thorough investigation, interventions and refined processes”.

According to Addendum A in the Unfair Discrimination and Harassment Policy, the recom­mendations from the Sexual Har­assment Advisory Panel of Inquiry will be submitted to the Vice-Rec­tor: Learning and Teaching, and Vice-Rector: Social Impact, Trans­formation and Personnel (joint owners of the policy) for their consideration and action within 20 working days from when the pan­el was activated.

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