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Africa University staffer suspended after investigation

 


The Africa University choir performs during a 2006 U.S. tour. Choir director Benon Kigozi (far right) has been suspended following an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct and sexual harassment. A UMNS file photo by Suzy Keenan.

By Linda Green*
April 20, 2007 | OLD MUTARE, Zimbabwe (UMNS)

 


Bishop Marcus Matthews addresses members of the Africa University Board of Directors. A UMNS photo by Linda Green.

A staff member of Africa University has been suspended following an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct toward female students and women related to the university.

Benon Kigozi, the school’s music lecturer and choir director, is to face a disciplinary committee comprising members of the Africa University Board of Directors. The suspension came after findings of an independent investigation were presented during the board’s annual meeting April 12-14.

The board guides policy and overall development of the private, pan-African and United Methodist-related university, located nearly 11 miles outside Mutare, Zimbabwe’s fourth largest city.

Allegations and complaints had been lodged against Kigozi over a two-year period, prompting the board’s executive committee in November to authorize an independent investigation.

"The allegations that were received cover both sexual harassment and sexual misconduct," said Vice Chancellor Rukudzo Murapa, adding that the university’s policy and position "on sexual harassment is very clear."

"We will not allow, we will not tolerate sexual harassment, particularly one that takes place between the students and staff," he said. "We will not tolerate that and will take the sternest action. We are guided by our rules and regulations and the laws of (Zimbabwe) to follow certain procedures."

The investigator, who is a member of The United Methodist Church and also a local magistrate, presented her findings to university officials, legal counsel and the board’s executive committee.

 


Rukudzo Murapa

Murapa called it "a disturbing report."

"It was clear that this was a serious allegation and we had to act on it promptly," said Bishop Marcus Matthews, vice president of the board of directors. "The board, along with the university administration, took immediate steps to protect the students and all others involved." He said it is critical that the board and administration "provide a safe space at the university for these young people."

Murapa said the magistrate cannot take legal action against Kigozi, but that the complainants or alleged victims can.

"The magistrate carried out this investigation, not in her capacity as magistrate, but in her capacity as an independent assessor acting on (my) request," he said. "Her opinion is not a legal opinion. It is simply her findings and therefore using university procedures, those findings became the basis for a disciplinary hearing."

Kigozi resigned quickly following his April 14 suspension but rescinded his resignation on April 15. University officials said Kigozi indicated he might resubmit his resignation after seeking legal advice.

Because Africa University is a church-related institution, Murapa conveyed to the entire United Methodist Church that "we at Africa University take seriously the issues and allegations of sexual harassment. We are committed to routing it out from our campus and will take appropriate action whenever we receive a complaint."

*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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Resources

Africa University

United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry

Commission on Status and Role of Women

Mutare, Zimbabwe


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