The council of the University of South Africa on Wednesday accepted the resignation of its chairman, McCaps Motimele, and said Unisa would not pay for the settlement of a sexual harassment dispute between Motimele and a former staff member, Professor Margaret Orr.
Orr initially claimed R650 000 in damages from Motimele, but they settled out of court for an amount of R150 000. Johannesburg High Court Judge Ismail Hussain also ordered that Motimele pay the legal costs for both parties.
”The council decided it was a private matter,” representative Laurika Olwagen told Sapa on Wednesday.
Olwagen said Motimele had recused himself from the meeting while the matter of the costs was discussed.
Dr Brigalia Bam, who chaired the meeting in his absence, informed it that Motimele had indicated he would resign from the council with effect from the end of the year.
There was only one council meeting, in October, left for him to chair.
”The council accepted his resignation,” Olwagen said.
She said a three-person committee was appointed to look into the consequences of the council decision not to carry Motimele’s costs in the sexual harassment settlement.
Speaking to Sapa on Wednesday night, Motimele said the university was responsible for the costs of the hearing and the settlement of R150 000.
”The Unisa council told me that the sexual harassment dispute was a personal matter between two parties and it does not involve them.
”But I think the university is liable for all costs because if I had to run the matter I would have run the matter differently…
”But for the university to tell the lawyers to settle the matter and then change… on this issue… I intend taking advice…”
But he would not confirm whether he would seek legal advice.
Asked whether he would be paying out of his own pocket, Motimele said, ”I don’t have the money to pay.”
Speaking about his resignation, Motimele said he had already made his decision a while ago.
”With my term of office which was going to expire soon, I told the council in March that I would be leaving and they (the council) asked me to make myself available for a re-appointment.
”After reconsidering, I told the council that I would stay on one condition, being that when I decided to go on my time the council would respect my decision.”
Motimele said: ”With all that has happened… including the sexual harassment case… I thought that I would leave now because it would be much more graceful to let the university concentrate on its business without diverting on the chairman’s activities. So it’s time to put this matter to rest.”
Regarding the sexual harassment dispute, Motimele rejected the charges laid against him, saying: ”I understand the price one pays in leadership and for one’s views.”
Margaret Helen Orr said on Wednesday Motimele’s resignation was a victory for women, SABC television news reported.
An overwhelmed Orr said: ”It’s a victory for women. It’s a victory for people being heard. It’s also a great loss. It has cost Unisa and the people there two and a half years of moral strain, of financial strain.”
The South African Council of Churches, meanwhile, said it was pained ”by the unfortunate sex saga at the University of South Africa”.
The SACC also expressed the wish that a line be drawn ”between the sex scandal involving Advocate McCaps Motimele, Professor Margaret Orr and the university as an institution.
”While we have been pained by these events, the SACC will continue to hold Motimele in the highest esteem for his tenacious struggle in the transformation of Unisa,” SACC general secretary, Molefe Tsele, said in a statement to Sapa.
”We also support the courageous stand Motimele has taken by stepping down as the chairperson of the Unisa council, albeit under …unfortunate circumstances.
”Our hope and wish is that his decision will close this unfortunate chapter and that Unisa will be allowed to heal its wound and begin to focus on its core business and on issues of transformation,” Tsele said. – Sapa