Former UJ lecturer accuses varsity lawyer of accessing her medical records without consent

Former University of Johannesburg lecturer, Lyness Matizirofa, has accused the institution’s legal representative of accessing her medical report unlawfully in preparation for her dismissal. Picture: Supplied

Former University of Johannesburg lecturer, Lyness Matizirofa, has accused the institution’s legal representative of accessing her medical report unlawfully in preparation for her dismissal. Picture: Supplied

Published Apr 14, 2024


A FORMER University of Johannesburg (UJ) lecturer who was dismissed in 2020 has accused the institution’s legal representative of accessing her medical report without her consent.

This was heard at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) where the former employee, Lyness Matizirofa, is currently fighting her dismissal against the university.

Matizirofa, who was a lecturer in the UJ statistics department, was fired for poor performance and gross dishonesty in February 2020. However, she maintained that these were trumped-up charges.

Matizirofa, who originates from Zimbabwe, said she was unfairly dismissed based on xenophobia and the fact that she has a disability.

She said UJ and its legal representative, Eversheds and Sutherland (SA) INC, plotted her dismissal through her medical report.

Matizirofa said this was after Nadia Froneman, a legal practitioner at Eversheds and Sutherland, and a UJ HR practitioner, colluded to share her medical report on August 29, 2019 without her consent. She said this was before she was dismissed as a lecturer based on poor performance and dishonesty in March 2020.

She said this was after former vice-chancellor Professor Tshilidzi Marwala realised that it was more expensive to “reasonably accommodate” her because of her disability and plotted her dismissal.

She submitted a report of reasonable accommodation but UJ allegedly failed to accommodate her disability at the Doornfontein campus after she complained about a lack of facilities at the John Orr Building.

The email of the report was shared with the building managers, HR and third parties including Froneman.

The email read: “Dear Lyness. Please find the attached report from the UJ Disability Unit. Attached further hereto is the letter which you received in March 2019.

“According to the attached, you have been reasonably accommodated and the University has taken reasonable steps to address your concerns. In his capacity as HOD, Mr van Appeal communicated a reasonable and lawful instruction to you. You may exercise your rights as mentioned in your email. The university’s rights are also reserved in this regard.”

On Monday, Matizirofa’s legal representative, advocate Macgregor Kufa, told Commissioner Piet van Staden that this violated Matizirofa’s human rights as the medical history was unlawfully accessed.

He said the records were accessed prior to the disciplinary hearing against Matizirofa.

“When I consulted with the client, she told me that because Froneman would shout at her, he would make her nervous and jumpy because she has her medical history. She said Foreman did not deal with her in a humane way because she was aware of her condition,” said Kufa.

However, although she admitted that she received the medical records saying they were part of the grievance, Froneman said she did not receive them on August 29, 2019. She told Van Staden that she could not recall if she received the report before or in preparation for the disciplinary hearing. She also stated that some of her emails had been deleted.

UJ and Marwala previously contended that the allegations were designed to cause irreparable harm to their good names and reputations.

Kufa insisted that this was a violation of Matizirofa’s human rights, saying according to the South Africa Human Rights Commission, the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 protects the rights of all people in South Africa.

“Human rights are applicable to all people, therefore everyone in the country is entitled to human rights by virtue of being human. Section 9 of the Constitution provides that everyone is equal before the law and has equal protection and benefit of the law. No person, including the state and private companies, may unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly on one or more grounds against any person on one or more grounds including race, gender, colour, age or disability.

Section 10 of the Constitution further provides that everyone has the right to have their dignity respected and protected. It further states: “South Africa is a party to international laws and agreements such as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) of 2006, which South Africa ratified in 2007, which means that the country accepts all the legal obligations that are imposed by this instrument. The CRPD seeks to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights by persons with disabilities.”

Matizorofa also launched a complaint against Froneman, her colleague Sandro Milo and Eversheds and Sutherland with the Legal Practice Council in July 2023. The complaint is against the alleged behaviour of the three in their effort to limit her rights to pursue justice.

She said the three had employed calculated and overbearing legal strategies and rules that implicated her, while “immunising” themselves by the use of discriminatory practises.

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