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Justice Sisi Khampepe appointed to lead independent commission of enquiry into allegations of racism at SU
Author: Stellenbosch University / Universiteit Stellenbosch
Published: 03/06/2022

​​​​​​​The Rector and Vice-Chancellor of Stellenbosch University (SU), Prof Wim de Villiers, is pleased to announce that Justice Sisi Khampepe has been appointed as Commissioner to conduct the independent enquiry  into allegations of racism at Stellenbosch University (SU).

Justice Khampepe will make recommendations to the Rector to assist SU in improving its culture of diversity, equity and inclusion with reference to racism that will safeguard and promote the dignity and self-worth of all students and staff.

The Commission will consider the following:

  • Incidents of racism at the University, with reference to the recent occurrences at Huis Marais and the Faculty of Law's Law Dance;
  • The current state of diversity, equity and inclusion within the University campus culture, with specific reference to racism;
  • Given the University's stance of zero-tolerance towards racism, whether the current structures of the University and its material university policies, rules and processes are sufficient and most effective to address the lived experience of students and staff with regard to racism in all its guises; and
  • Related issues and concerns that may arise in the course of the enquiry, including the need for further investigation or consideration of related issues.

De Villiers said Khampepe has an outstanding professional reputation, invaluable experience and is a person of impeccable integrity.

“We are thankful that a person of the calibre of Justice Khampepe availed herself to assist SU with this important commission.

“SU takes a zero-tolerance approach to racism, discrimination, prejudice and violence on campus. As communicated before, we want to strengthen existing and are implementing new comprehensive measures to combat such violations and continue to improve those measures on an ongoing basis. The SU leadership is sensitive to the well-being of the entire student and staff community and the impact of such incidents on our SU community."

The Commission may in its own discretion receive any evidence that is relevant to its mandate from any person and in a manner determined by the Commissioner. This may include but is not limited to the witnesses whose evidence will be presented, the invitation of written submissions from the campus community, and any other actions deemed necessary by it.

The Commission will conduct the enquiry by means of closed proceedings to provide confidence in the enquiry  and to enable candid participation on a broad basis. The identity, other personal information and evidence of witnesses are to be kept confidential.

It is expected that the Commission will commence in the middle of June.

The report with its findings and recommendations will be submitted to the Rector and Vice-Chancellor by a date to be agreed upon between the University and the commission.

All media enquiries relating to this commission of enquiry and related issues will be dealt with by the University.

Professional career

Justice Sisi Khampepe obtained her LLM degree at Harvard Law School, Massachusetts, USA in 1982.

After being admitted as an attorney in 1985, she established her own law firm, practicing under the name SV Khampepe Attorneys. Her law firm was especially renowned for defending the rights of workers against unjust laws and unfair employment practices and was one of the few black labour law firms in the country. She also represented other human rights bodies such as hawkers, civic and black consumer unions. These included unions affiliated to both Nactu and Cosatu. She was also the national legal advisor of SACAWU administrator of union funds in FIET and ICFTU.

In 1995, she was appointed by former President Nelson Mandela as a TRC Commissioner and in the following year she was a member of the TRC's Amnesty Committee. She was then employed by the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development as Deputy National Director of Public Prosecutions, a post she held from September 1998 to December 1999.

In December 2000, she was appointed as a Judge in the High Court (TPD).

Other highlights in her lustrous legal career included being appointed by former President Thabo Mbeki to chair the commission of inquiry into the mandate and location of the Directorate of Special Operation (the Khampepe Commission) in 2005.

She was also vice-chairperson of the National Council of Correctional Services from 2005 to April 2010.

In October 2009 she was appointed as a Judge to the Constitutional Court. Justice Khampepe retired in October 2021.