UNIVERSITY OF FORT HARE COMMENTS ON COURT ORDER ISSUED BY THE BISHO HIGH COURT
The University of Fort Hare is responding to misleading information circulating on social media platforms regarding the outcome of a case heard at the Bisho High Court involving suspended student, Mr Mbali Silimela, who was suspended on 13 May 2021 in relation to alleged misconduct as defined in the Rules for Student Discipline. The suspension order was done strictly in terms of the University’s rules, based on evidence received from various quarters, and to deter further harm to the University resulting from the student’s disruptive behaviour. In terms of the University’s suspension order, the student may not continue to occupy a university residence, come on campus, or participate in University activities save for online learning.
The student elected to approach the court to have his suspension lifted. The University was called upon by the court to respond to the allegations made in the student’s application and submitted a detailed answering affidavit giving reasons why the suspension should not be overturned.
In the Court Order, the court has not instructed the University in any way to lift its suspension order, and it remains firmly intact.
The University of Fort Hare is therefore satisfied with the ruling of the court, but needs to put the following on record:
- Voting: The University at no point took his voting rights away. The prohibition in terms of the suspension order that he cannot participate in University activities means that he could not contest the elections himself. In relation to this provision in the Court Order, Mr Silimela has not gained anything that was not already his.
- Participation: He is not participating in the elections as an individual. His party, COPE, is participating. There is no prohibition on COPE from participating, because COPE is not suspended. There is a prohibition on him as an individual in terms of the suspension. The Court Order clearly states that he must be allowed to exercise the right to compete as a candidate for his chosen political party. The right to be a candidate of COPE was not affected by the suspension. This provision of the Court Order becomes moot because he was never registered to contest the elections as an individual.
- Holding office pursuant to the outcome of the elections: The University agreed to this as part of the settlement as the suspension does not prohibit him from holding office. His ability to hold office would only be affected by a guilty verdict in a formal disciplinary hearing constituted in terms of the University’s rules. In short, if COPE is elected and deploys him to the SRC, he may hold office. If the disciplinary hearing is concluded in his favour, then he continues to hold office; if he is found guilty, he ceases to be a member of the SRC automatically in terms of the UFH Statute.