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Statement by the Unisa Council on racism, harassment, victimisation and bullying in the university

The Council of the University of South Africa (Unisa) has noted with serious concern consistent reporting of allegations and counter-allegations of racism, harassment, victimisation and bullying in the university.

Council strictly condemns all forms of harassment in the workplace, in particular sexual harassment; and takes the considered view that where allegations against employees are proven true, it stands fully behind executive management for taking appropriate steps against the perpetrators.

Council equally takes a dim view of any form of racism and racial discrimination; and urges all staff and students to report treatment of this nature through the appropriate and formal channels.  

To this end, Council has also noted that management of the university is currently in the process of addressing the instances of harassment, victimisation and bullying that have been reported in accordance with university policies and procedures; and has directed management to ensure a speedy, but thorough finalisation of all outstanding cases.

Council has also noted and fully supports the process currently underway in the university and conducted by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), whose aim is to investigate issues of racism, victimisation, harassment and bullying. It further commits to ensuring that recommendations emerging from this process are fully implemented.

Notwithstanding this, Council has further directed executive management to urgently kick start a process of reviewing and, where necessary and as encapsulated in the Transformation Plan of 2018; amending all appropriate policies, structures and procedures necessary to create a safe environment for staff and students; including the requisite platforms to report their experiences and grievances.

“As Council, we have disturbingly observed that in many instances, these incidents of harassment, victimisation and bullying assume a racial posture; and we want to send a very strong message that such conduct will not be tolerated as it is not only divisive, but is also inconsistent with the values of our university. We have directed university management to deal decisively and harshly with those who perpetrate such acts”, said Mr Sakhi Simelane, the Chairperson of the Unisa Council. 

Mr Simelane further reiterated that the university community should uphold the Council-approved values as reflected in the Transformation Charter – of openness, warmth, compassion, inclusiveness and community.