Leon de Kock has been charged with crimen injuria, after an employee at an Observatory restaurant opened a case with police.
He made his first court appearance last week and is currently out on a warning to appear at his next court date.
De Kock is the author of The Love Song of André P Brink, the first biography of this major South African novelist, and in 2015 took early retirement from Stellenbosch University, which allowed him to retain the title of professor emeritus in English studies.
A witness posted on social media that she saw De Kock call a woman the k-word. He apparently harassed another woman insisting she wanted his babies and then called her a “stupid girl”. The post received many responses from people in the academic field, as well as friends and family members.
De Kock’s son Luke apologised for his father’s behaviour in a post on Facebook, and said he had been institutionalised following the outburst.
Police spokesperson FC Van Wyk said: “A 62-year-old-man was arrested on Thursday, May 9, shortly after an incident of crimen injuria was reported to have been committed at a known restaurant in Lower Main Road, Observatory.
“It has been alleged by the complainant that while a female employee was busy cleaning the restaurant, the suspect made racial and offensive remarks to her.”
Van Wyk said the suspect appeared in the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court on Friday and was subsequently released on a warning to appear in court at his next court date.
Stellenbosch University spokesperson Martin Viljoen said: “Stellenbosch University is investigating the complaints it has received pertaining to the conduct of Professor Leon de Kock, an emeritus professor of the institution.
“The university has not received any information about his health status thus far, but even if we were to be informed, we would not be in a position to provide any personal information to the media.”
Police urge anyone who may have witnessed the incident to contact investigating officer Constable Dumetri Onverwaght at the Woodstock police station on 0214862840, or anonymously Crime Line on 0800 10111 or SMS Crime Line on 32211.