By JOY HINYIKIWILE
The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) has upheld with costs the case by former Rhodes student, Yolanda Dyantyi, to appeal Rhodes University’s disciplinary case against her.
Dyantyi was permanently excluded from the university with two exams left before completing her BA degree in November 2017. Along with Dominique McFall and Naledi Mashishi, she was accused of being involved in an incident in which three male students were held against their will during the 2016 #RUReferenceList protests.
The #RUReferenceList protests named students accused of sexual harassment and rape.
The university held a disciplinary inquiry on the matter. On 17 November 2017, it found Dyantyi guilty of kidnapping, insubordination and assault and permanently expelled her from the university with her academic scripts endorsed. The inquiry found McFall guilty of kidnapping and insubordination and also permanently expelled her from the university with her academic scripts endorsed, while Mashishi was expelled for ten years.
Dyantyi launched an application with the High Court in Makhanda to review and set aside the University’s decision. Rhodes University and Vice-Chancellor Sizwe Mabizela opposed the application.
Judge Nhlangulela DJP dismissed the application with costs, but granted Dyantyi leave to appeal the case with the Supreme Court of Appeal on limited grounds.
On 21 February 2022, the SCA heard Dyantyi’s case and ruled in her favour on Tuesday, 29 March, ordering the university to reconsider the disciplinary inquiry and that a different person chair further investigations into Dyantyi’s charges. The court has also ordered Rhodes University to pay Dyantyi’s legal fees and the fees of two counsels.
“The issue on appeal was whether procedural unfairness tainted the decisions of the proctor in respect of Ms Dyantyi,” the judgement stated.
The SCA ruled that the disciplinary process had been procedurally unfair after the proctor heading the process had denied her a postponement when her legal counsel had not been available to attend. The hearing had continued in her and her legal counsel’s absence.
“Ms Dyantyi had the right to procedural fairness encapsulated in section 3 of the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act 3 of 2000 (PAJA),” the statement said.
An official statement released by the Rhodes University Communications division “noted the judgement”.
“The matter has dragged on for too long. This has never been our wish. We will consider the guidance provided by the Court very carefully and determine a way forward accordingly,” the statement said.
“The University views any offence that involves sexual and/or gender-based violence in a very serious light and deals with such offences with urgency. The University also recognises and supports the right to peaceful protest. We will, however, not condone vigilantism and violent crimes in furtherance of such protest.”
“The necessary activism against gender-based violence cannot be used as a cover to operate outside of the Constitution and violate other citizens’ rights,” the statement said.
Upon receiving her judgement, Dyantyi took to social media to celebrate the ruling.
Various social media users also took to Twitter to celebrate with Dyantyi.