With numerous highly active campaigns against the abuse of women and children in South Africa, one would expect a noticeable drop in these types of crimes but, that has not been the case. Times Live reported on yet another incident of sexual harassment this weekend. This time, the alleged abuser is 33 year old Tsepo wa Mamatu who holds a senior position in the Dramatic Arts faculty at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.
No less than ten women who were once students of Wa Mamatu made their stories public and four of them went as far as making sworn statements about the abuse. He is accused of raping one of the women at hotel in two years ago. The university was made aware of the incident but nothing came out of that investigation as there was ‘insufficient evidence’. The woman said that she had been a virgin up until that incident.
Another student recalled a bizarre rehearsal with the lecturer and a handful of other students. Tsepo wa Mamatu told the students a sexually-charged story during which he instructed them to touch themselves. It was during this rehearsal that he is accused of touching a 21 year old student inappropriately.
Until recently, many of the assaults by Wa Mamatu were unreported. In 2006, he lured another female student to his home under the pretext of preparing for an audition. It is alleged that after a meal and some wine, the lecturer asked her to masturbate while he watched.
The pattern seems that Tsepo wa Mamatu uses his position of seniority and authority to put his female students in vulnerable situations. In 2006, one of the complainants did not press charges against the lecturer but did want to have the matter noted on Wa Mamatu’s employment record. Other accusations include the lecturer passing vulgar remarks, brushing his private parts against students and making female students do strange exercises that expose the shape of their vaginas.
A male student came forward with more damaging information. He told a local newspaper that the lecturer often asked the young male student for contact details of other students.
When confronted with these serious allegations, Tsepo wa Mamatu denied any misconduct and even went as far as disputing reports that there has ever been any incidents that the university has been informed about. “I have never had sex with one of my students and definitely not raped anybody,” insisted wa Mamatu. He said the complainants are bitter because they were mediocre performers who had to audition twice for some roles in his plays.
Spokesperson for the University of the Witwatersrand, Shirona Patel confirmed that there was an ongoing disciplinary process but could not give further details. If there is uncertainty about what the truth is among management ranks in the university; that uncertainty is lacking in the student body. The students once wrote about an anonymous lecturer who was sending inappropriate, sexual text messages to students in an article in the student paper. A play was later produced and it is said to have driven students to vandalise the lecturer’s office door, leaving notes promising to expose him. This probably explains why students were quick to step forward when the university invited victims and others with information to help in this matter this past Friday.