UKZN prof won’t back down

2008-11-24 00:00

LOCAL UKZN physics professor Nithaya Chetty has refused to sign a settlement agreement, which would result in disciplinary action against him being dropped, and is still “considering his options”.

This contradicts in part a vice-chancellor’s communique, sent to staff at the weekend, which stated that the matter involving Chetty and his colleague, associate professor of mathematics John van den Berg, has been “resolved”.

Van den Berg signed the agreement late on Friday. This will allow him to keep his job and bring disciplinary proceedings and the potential for further legal action to an end.

Chetty told colleagues yesterday at a meeting called by staff union Ntesu (National Tertiary Education Staff Union) that in principle he faces two options: either to resign or to face disciplinary proceedings on his own.

“There’s a fair amount of pressure on me, but I have made no decision”, he told the gathering of about 70 staff members who met to discuss a range of staff-related issues, including the union’s plans to contest through the CCMA the university’s use of trained lawyers in internal disciplinary cases.

At yesterday’s Ntesu meeting, spokesman Dr Wilhelm Meyer said the “apology” signed by Van den Berg does not accord with the union’s “interpretation of the facts” concerning the case.

Van den Berg and Chetty were due to appear before a disciplinary hearing chaired by advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza SC, starting on December 8. They were charged earlier this year with failing to take due care in communicating with the media, breaching senate confidentiality, and dishonesty and/or gross negligence in alleging that UKZN vice-chancellor Malegapuru Makgoba had no right to omit a faculty of science and agriculture document on academic freedom from the senate agenda.

The matter, which has drawn concerned statements from the Freedom of Expression Institute and the South African Editors’ Forum, has over the past few days attracted concern from international academics based in countries such as Canada and the UK who have addressed letters on the issue to university council chairman Mac Mia. These have been posted on the university’s online discussion forum.

Ntesu meetings were also held yesterday at Howard College and Westville campuses. A source at Howard College said there is a strong sense that members should pursue the action with the CCMA. Further meetings are scheduled for the remaining UKZN campuses tomorrow.

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