Sex harassment case ends with settlement for professor

August 30, 2002

A case of sexual harassment at the open learning University of South Africa (Unisa), involving council chairman McCaps Motimele and former English professor Margaret Orr, has ended with the chairman's resignation and a R150,000 (£9,000) settlement.

The council of Unisa has accepted Advocate Motimele's resignation. He will leave at the end of the year.

Professor Orr, 47, who is now director of the Centre for Learning, Teaching and Development at the University of the Wi****ersrand, originally claimed R650,000 in damages.

She was paid the lower settlement, but lawyers are still wrangling over the legal costs, which are estimated at R400,000.

Giving evidence in the Johannesburg High Court, Professor Orr said Advocate Motimele began making sexual advances towards her in January 2000. At that stage she would have accepted an apology, but the harassment continued.

In the beginning there were hints that she might be able to climb the corporate ladder if she got to know Advocate Motimele on a personal basis, she told the court.

Professor Orr made an internal complaint against him and, after not making it to a vice-principal shortlist, wondered if she "was being punished for not playing the game".

Professor Orr resigned from Unisa in December 2000. An internal commission failed to resolve the issue and she took the matter to court.

Advocate Motimele denies the accusations.

He said: "I understand the price one pays in leadership and for one's views."

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