NWU sets a precedent with online
The NWU is one of the first institutions in the country to conduct their disciplinary hearings online. This is in line with the technical solution devised by South African courts so that they could continue working throughout the pandemic.
Judicial Services on the Vanderbijlpark Campus was the first to successfully arrange virtual hearings for drug trafficking and domestic violence offences as well as a residence tribunal. Judicial Services on the Mahikeng Campus followed suit. They recently held two virtual hearings that addressed fraud, robbery and five Covid-19 rule violations.
All the disciplinary hearings are regulated by stringent protocols that comply with the Constitution of South Africa, the Higher Institution Education Act, Administrative Law, and the NWU’s Statute and Rules for Student Discipline.
These hearings are presided over by a committee comprising two internal assessors, an external member and a chairperson.
Ensuring smooth sailing
“Even though everyone accessed the full virtual proceedings in the comfort of their own spaces, we had to plan ahead and ensure that the hearings were successful. On both campuses we had spaces available for participants who were struggling with connectivity,” says Lucas Makoro, manager and senior prosecutor at Student Judicial Services.
He adds that the department has since been in contact with a number of other institutions that are using the NWU for benchmarking purposes.
Although there are a few challenges such as load shedding, connectivity and availability of data, the benefits of hosting these proceedings online outweigh the drawbacks. The NWU will continue to host more virtual hearings.
Lucas thanked Prof Linda du Plessis, deputy vice-chancellor for integrated planning and Vanderbijlpark Campus operations, Prof Marilyn Setlalentoa, deputy vice-chancellor for community engagement and Mahikeng Campus operations, the NWU IT department, and members of the committee, for the roles they played in making history.
Lucas Makoro is the manager and senior prosecutor at Student Judicial Services.