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Media Statement
08 June 2020
For Immediate Release

In the last few days, there have been reports in the media related to the appointment of Prof Peter Mbati as Vice-Chancellor of SMU. The reports were largely triggered by the announcement by Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Technology (HEST) of its decision to institute an inquiry into Prof Peter Mbati’s fitness to hold the highest office of the Vice-Chancellor at SMU. Although no formal correspondence was received from Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on HEST regarding the Inquiry by the University, it could be gleaned from the public statement released by Parliament that the Inquiry came about as a result of the Committee’s engagement with the Commission on Gender Equality (CGE)’s Report, which amongst others alleges that the Council of the University of Venda did not conclusively deal with the remedial actions of the CGE, including subjecting Prof Mbati to a disciplinary process in line with the University of Venda’s own sexual harassment Policy. This remains a matter for the Council of the University of Venda and Prof Mbati to answer in an appropriate forum.

To that end, the University welcomes Parliamentary Committee on HEST’s envisaged Inquiry as announced on 3 June 2020 statement. The University will cooperate fully with the Portfolio Committee on HEST during the Inquiry. This Inquiry will also afford the University, if called upon, the opportunity to submit information at its disposal, and clarify to the Inquiry Panel or Committee on any of the matters they may need to get to the bottom of the matter. Similarly, Prof Mbati, both as a citizen and SMU Vice-Chancellor is also eager and ready to cooperate with the Parliamentary Committee on HEST’s Inquiry, and will provide the requisite documentation and if so required, appear in person, before the Panel, to answer any questions they might have for him.

“Throughout the media reportage of this matter flowing from my appointment as Vice-Chancellor of SMU, I have chosen to remain silent except to provide information when asked to do so by a number of media houses. I am glad that Parliament (an important arm of the State with oversight responsibility) has chosen to institute the Inquiry, as it will afford me the opportunity to put my side of the story to the Panel or Committee appointed to conduct this envisaged Inquiry. After all is said and done, I hope the Inquiry will help to surface the real and deep-seated truth behind these vexatious allegations against me. It is indeed in the best interest of the University community I now lead, the South African public, the local and global Higher Education Community, for me to clear my name, once again. As a person who believes in the letter and spirit of our Constitution, at the apex of which, alongside Parliament and the National Executive, is the Judiciary with its authority vested in the courts which are independent and subject only to the Constitution and the law, it is very important for these allegations, which have already been tested and found to have been without any foundation, to be subjected to other Constitutional bodies like Parliament, to retest them within the remit of their mandates in the public interest”. Prof Mbati said.

As the media reports flow thick and fast on this matter in the coming days, and as the matter is being reported often on the basis of soundbites and sensationalism, the University calls upon members of its community and public to give this Inquiry time and space to retest these allegations. As some amongst South Africans adopt a grandstanding posture for self-serving purposes, the public should be reminded that Prof Mbati remains innocent until proven otherwise, by a court of law. “As the veil is lifted around this matter, the truth will immediately take its rightful position, and the South Africans and the Higher Education community deserve to know the real truth. Notwithstanding these allegations, I remain committed to leading the SMU project, more than ever before.” Prof Mbati concluded.

Enquiries:    Dr Eric Pule, Director: Marketing and Communication
Cell:              082 3035850 or 063 5035587
Issued by:   Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University (SMU)