Forbidden sex and bribery in hallowed halls of Academe

13 June 2016 - 10:06 By Monica Laganparsad

A messy 10-year fight between the University of KwaZulu-Natal and a retired professor over a doctorate is headed for the Constitutional Court. Nobubele Potwana, 62, has accused the university of revoking her doctorate in revenge following a sex scandal that rocked the institution in 2006.The professor was stripped of her PhD in 2009, four years after it was awarded, allegedly for failing to make changes to her thesis.Potwana challenged the university in the High Court, which ruled in her favour. The university failed in an appeal to the Supreme Court of Appeal.The university has now applied to the Constitutional Court for special leave to appeal .According to Potwana's affidavit to the Constitutional Court, the row emanates from the university's problems with her PhD supervisor, Pumela Msweli-Mbanga.In 2006 chief financial officer Kanthan Pillay, who was also supervised by Msweli-Mbanga, admitted to the then vice-chancellor that he was having an affair with his supervisor. It was alleged that Pillay had paid her R80,000 for his PhD.In 2009, Potwana and Msweli-Mbanga were acquitted in the Durban Magistrate's Court. The university had alleged that Msweli-Mbanga had accepted R16150 from Potwana for assisting in the awarding of her doctorate.University registrar Simon Mokoena told the court that Potwana's PhD was revoked because she failed to comply with academic standards.

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