Public Protector candidate quizzed about academic misconduct

Public Protector website logo.
Public Protector website logo.

Cape Town - A Public Protector candidate with an extensive academic background was on Thursday grilled about a university's claim of misconduct.

Narnia Bohler-Muller, who became a full professor at 32, was the fourth candidate to be interviewed by a committee tasked with finding a replacement for Thuli Madonsela.

"The Nelson Mandela Metro University has written to us to say you have been found guilty on several counts of misconduct which impacts directly to your fitness and properness to hold this position," said committee member Thomas Bongo.

She replied that there was a disciplinary hearing because she submitted a medical certificate to the wrong person. This led to a verbal warning.

"I do question the university contacting this committee when this was taken off my record three years ago."

Bongo said she had not clarified how she was a fit and proper person for the job.

Committee chair Makhosi Khoza said it appeared she was watering down the seriousness of the matter.

The university had mentioned charges of disclosing confidential information and failure to report to a head of department.

'No idea what the university is referring to'

FOLLOW LIVE Updates on Public Protector hearings here

"I think it is important for you to come clean on this," Khoza warned.

Bohler-Muller said there were tensions between herself and her supervisor and alluded to a "form of intimidation".

The allegation of disclosing confidential information did not make sense to her.

She told the committee she agreed to edit a doctoral student's work but then told him she had changed her mind because it might be seen as unethical.

"Because he wasn't doing well, he went to the faculty and reported that I assisted him to pass his doctorate by editing it. As for the disclosure of personal information, I have no idea what the university is referring to quite honestly."

Even though she was found guilty and given a verbal warning, a report indicated that this did not affect her integrity, she said.

Asked about amending the Bill of Rights, she said she would not change a "single word" of the bill.

On a proposal to expropriate land without compensation, she preferred to see a compromise system and a fast-tracked process of land claims.

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