New round in UKZN battle

2008-04-14 00:00

Kanthan Pillay, the controversial financial head of the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), who was dismissed after a sexual harassment and corruption scandal over a year ago, has promised to air more of the institution’s dirty washing in a bid to clear his name.

Pillay was dismissed after a protracted disciplinary hearing on the grounds that his relationship with UKZN’s vice chancellor, Professor Malegapuru Makgoba, had broken down completely. This follows allegations by senior academic Professor Pumela Msweli-Mbanga that Makgoba and the chairman of the executive, Dr Vincent Maphai, had sexually harassed her.

It later emerged that Msweli-Mbanga, with whom Pillay was allegedly having an affair, had overlooked a number of irregularities when it came to Pillay’s Masters degree, which she was supervising. The degree was subsequently withdrawn and both Msweli-Mbanga and Pillay were dismissed. Both fought back and their cases eventually went to arbitration.

However, while the CCMA found in favour of Msweli-Mbanga (she had retracted her resignation prior to the scandal, but the university failed to recognise this), it upheld UKZN’s position to dismiss Pillay.

In a press statement, Pillay said: “I have maintained from the very beginning that this was a conspiracy and that I have been the victim of an orchestrated campaign initiated by the vice chancellor. I will now break my silence with regards to the real reason that I was dismissed. I will first inform the [Education minister] and thereafter call a press conference to share with the public the details of what has become a national disgrace.”

He said the issues that could be presented to the CCMA were limited to matters of procedure and misconduct. “Yet the commissioner did not follow procedure, totally ignoring our procedural points and evidence and chose to act as a reviewer rather than hear the case de novu which is the established practice. It goes without saying that my legal remedies have not been exhausted and I will be referring the matter to the Labour Court for review.”

UKZN’s acting vice chancellor, Professor Fikile Mazibuko, said that the university reserves its right to comment fully on the matter in due course.

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