Unisa VC under fire for failing to discipline senior executive for racist rant

2019-08-27 01:20

Unisa principal and vice-chancellor Mandla Makhanya has been accused of failing to discipline a senior executive for her racist rant against coloured and Indian colleagues.

City Press learnt from sources that the conduct of Marcia Socikwa, vice-principal for operations and facilities, was investigated by advocate Lehutjo Mello late last year.

She was found guilty of making racist comments.

City Press understands that Mello’s scathing report on Socikwa’s conduct was finalised and handed over to Makhanya on January 16.

Unisa appointed Mello to conduct an investigation after four managers in the print production department – Carl Pretorius, Peter Stander, Patrick Doyle and Trudy Forbay – laid a grievance charge last year relating to racism, alleging that Socikwa had indicated at a meeting on June 26 2017 that she had a mandate to get rid of coloureds and Indians.

The meeting followed an anonymous email sent on June 20 2017 to Socikwa and others, which seemed to have angered her because it contained derogatory remarks about her.

Marcia Socikwa

At a study material, production and delivery strategic meeting in November 2017 Socikwa said she did not trust Pretorius and Doyle and in May last year she labelled Doyle, Forbey, Stander and another colleague as fraudsters, claiming that it was them who had sent the anonymous email.

In her defence during the Mello hearing, Socikwa indicated that she had been told by someone else that she had to get rid of coloureds and Indians.

Socikwa shot back, saying: “The unfounded accusations are part of a pushback strategy by people who have allegedly defrauded the university millions of rands, which I was able to unearth. Their intention is to smear and discredit me through a trial by media. Fortunately, the matter is before the courts and we must allow that process to run its course.”

A source said Makhanya was “dragging his feet” in dealing with Socikwa for racism, victimisation and bullying following her remarks.

“While the VC [Makhanya] commissioned an independent investigation, and even though he received the report in January, to date he has done nothing to institute any of the recommendations from the report,” said one source.

Unisa spokesperson Martin Ramotshela denied that Makhanya had not acted against Socikwa.

“At the outset it is important to indicate to you that the allegations and/or information that the principal and vice-chancellor has not acted on the recommendations of advocate Mello are devoid of all truth.

“The VC and the relevant functionaries in the university acted upon these recommendations and within the time frames set out in the Mello report. The process involved was a grievance procedure in terms of the university grievance policy,” Ramotshela said.

City Press has seen the Mello report, which recommended Makhanya take action against Socikwa for her misconduct.

“The recommended disciplinary action must commence with immediate effect and the respondent [Socikwa] will have a chance to proof [sic] her innocence at the disciplinary hearing,” the report said.

Socikwa is still at Unisa and is also now a board member of the embattled SABC.

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September 15 2019