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Is this SA's worst campus cheat?

15 March 2015 - 02:00 By PREGA GOVENDER

Lwazi Mzozoyana was the envy of many of his classmates when he was at Hilton College in the late '90s. The youngster played in the KwaZulu-Natal Craven Week school rugby tournament in 1999, alongside the likes of former Wallaby and Brumbies player Clyde Rathbone.

Off the sports field, he had the gift of the gab and displayed signs of becoming a top lawyer one day. Many believed he was destined for great things.

But the former law student, who enrolled at Rhodes University in the Eastern Cape in 2005, has been unmasked as one of South Africa's worst academic cheats, and has been barred from the institution until July 2022. This was a reduced sanction - the initial one was a lifetime ban.

In 2012, Mzozoyana was found guilty of stealing two fellow students' assignments from locked posting boxes on campus and passing off their work as his own.

This was not Mzozoyana's first offence. In November 2007, while studying towards his social science degree at Rhodes, he had been found guilty of cheating in a "law of contract" exam and barred from returning until 2010.

Mzozoyana has gone to great lengths to dispute the findings. This included bringing an application in the High Court in Grahamstown in August 2012 challenging the ban . He subsequently withdrew it.

Last month, Mzozoyana, 33, ended up at the public protector's office, where he disputed the fairness of the disciplinary process that led to his expulsion.

Susan Smailes, legal adviser to the vice-chancellor at Rhodes, who has been closely involved in the case, said an aggravating factor in his case was the "complete lack of remorse" for having jeopardised the academic careers of two fellow students.

The university declined to disclose Mzozoyana's identity, but the Sunday Times was able to establish his name.

An academic, who did not want to be named, said: "He's so brazen; he hasn't shown an iota of remorse."

The academic said Mzozoyana's attempt to discredit a Zimbabwean student by accusing him of being the plagiarist nearly resulted in the student's "LLB being torpedoed". The Zimbabwean was the recipient of a presidential scholarship.

Smailes said: "He's a shocker and he still wants to be a lawyer. I said to the public protector: 'Is this someone you want to be a lawyer in our country?'"

Smailes confirmed that deputy sheriffs from the Eastern Cape and Gauteng were trying to find Mzozoyana to serve him with an attachment order because he owed the university more than R100000. The debt includes unpaid fees and a cost order of R85596 after he withdrew his high court application.

It was established that Mzozoyana applied to the University of the Witwatersrand in February to enrol for an LLB.

Mzozoyana was employed on a contract basis at Investec in Sandton. The company said it believed "it is inappropriate" to pass public comment on past or current employees.

Justin Powers, a lawyer who represented Mzozoyana during his Rhodes fraud and theft hearing, confirmed that he had issued summons against him for money owed. Powers said Mzozoyana had displayed "quite a lot of potential as a student", adding: "It's a pity he did what he did; he put his whole university education in jeopardy."

Mzozoyana could not be reached for comment.

Dodgy academics also in firing line

Several academics have been fired after being found guilty of either plagiarism or academic dishonesty.

In December, the University of Johannesburg dismissed an academic found guilty of plagiarism. University spokesman Herman Esterhuizen said the employee had resigned before the disciplinary hearing against him could be finalised, but "the inquiry proceeded in his absence and he was found guilty of all charges against him."

A spokeswoman at the University of the Witwatersrand confirmed that an academic was fired for misrepresenting his qualifications. "Another academic resigned out of his own choice after questions surfaced about teaching evaluations," she said.

Martin Ramotshela, a spokesman for Unisa, said that since the beginning of last year, one academic had been fired for academic dishonesty and another, when charged with plagiarism, had resigned.

The University of KwaZulu-Natal confirmed that an academic guilty of plagiarism resigned before disciplinary action could be taken, and another was suspended for academic dishonesty.

govenderp@sundaytimes.co.za

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