Lupane University Vice Chancellor off the hook

Lupane State University

LUPANE State University (LSU) Vice Chancellor Pardon Kuipa has escaped censure over allegations of sexually harassing a female staffer, it was established.

A female staff member in 2021 accused Kuipa of sexually harassing her at work after she allegedly turned down his proposal, prompting the Zimbabwe Gender Commission (ZGC) to investigate.

In an interview on Wednesday, ZGC chief executive officer, Virginia Muwanigwa said they have completed investigations and the final report will be tabled before Parliament.

"The processes were concluded and a report was adopted by the full Commission on its 38th seating on February 28, 2023,” Muwanigwa said.

"The investigation was carried out utilising the inquisitorial manner to ascertain whether the alleged acts actually transpired.

“In terms of the particulars of her complaint, the Complainant was alleging that the Respondent committed sexual harassment by commenting on her private life on the constitution of her family and proposing to donate another child to her.

“The complainant had every reason to suspect that this was a subtle way of initiating intimate sexual relations."

She said the complainant accused the VC of making direct sexual advances in return for job-related favours.

Muwanigwa said investigations showed that there was animosity between the VC and the female staffer with the former alleging that opinion leaders from Matabeleland were also sponsoring the smear campaign to have him fired.

"He also attributed it to tension emanating from him not being the preferred candidate by some opinion leaders in the region,” she said.

According to the ZGC CEO, there was no witness to the sexual harassment.

"Amongst all the witnesses interviewed, no one was a direct witness of the sexual advances, sexual comments and the physical act of trying to hug the complainant,” she said.

“In fact, almost all of the witnesses claimed to have heard of the allegations through social media.

“This can however also be attributed to the fact that by its nature sexual harassment is usually done in secrecy as most perpetrators of sexual violations prey on their victims when they are alone, another fact being that the case involved immense power relations."

Muwanigwa  said there was no concrete evidence to convict Kuipa.

"As such, the Commission gave the respondent the benefit of doubt,” she said.

“With no substantial evidence or corroboration, it is difficult for any tribunal to arrive at a decision to convict the alleged perpetrator on the allegations raised by the complainant.

“The standard of proof in ascertaining such allegations is proof on a balance of probabilities and it was the view of the Commission that the Complainant did not fully dispense with her burden of proof.

"Regardless of  the fact that there was no evidence incriminating the respondent, the Commission however recommended that Kuipa be reprimanded for leading a management which presided over a laissez-faire system towards implementation of gender related policies. Allegations of existence of so-called consensual love affairs amongst staff members were raised during the investigations."

She said the Commission has recommended that the ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development maintain a tighter oversight role in the implementation of robust policies on sexual harassment.

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