Cleared: Canham back to work

2013-09-23 00:00

THE KZN Legislature has reinstated senior communications official Wesley Canham after he successfully appealed a disciplinary finding that found him guilty of sexual harassment.

He will resume work today after the disciplinary ruling was overturned on Friday, according to his union, the National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union.

Durban resident Canham was found guilty by an internal disciplinary hearing in August of sexual harassment against a junior staff member.

Although he admitted to “a deep kiss” with the victim and touching her, he denied he forced himself on the woman against her will or made work uncomfortable.

Nehawu provincial secretary Zola Saphetha said the union was happy with the decision and would now engage with the alleged victim and assist her.

“I am in possession of a letter from the legislature saying Canham may return to work. The appeal to overturn his sexual harassment charge was made on Friday. We will be meeting with the legislature management and hope to develop a joint programme that will educate the staff just about what constitutes sexual harassment,” said Saphetha.

In another turn of events, a former Pietermaritzburg union leader has called the current Nehawu leadership “despotic”, claiming they used Canham’s case as a means to dissolve the legislature union branch.

Earlier this month the union dissolved the Nehawu KZN Legislature branch, claiming there were irregularities in how the union operated at both a political and organisational level. It is believed that the catalyst for action against the branch was linked to Canham’s guilty verdict and his refusal to have the branch represent him because he “did not trust them”.

Former Harry Gwala regional secretary of Nehawu Khaye Nkwanyana has accused Saphetha of destroying the union. Furthermore he claims the dissolution of the union branch at the legislature is directly aimed at him.

In an open letter to Saphetha, circulated around the legislature, he said Saphetha’s “recent targeting” of Nehawu’s legislature branch, under the guise of “one case of an official”, was because the branch would not “dismember me as a Nehawu member”.

Nkwanyana and Saphetha clashed in August 2012 when the provincial secretary suspended Nkwanyana on charges of not submitting regional reports. His allies then shut down several regional offices in protest to his suspension. He was later expelled, although Nkwanyana claims he resigned.

“You [Saphetha] have nearly caused havoc to the legislature by pitting employees against others. In this act that is driven by vengeance you have destroyed one of the strongest branches in the province,” said Nkwanyana.

Saphetha said Nkwanyana’s claim of it being a personalised vendetta was incorrect. “We expelled him last year because of his conduct. He is not even a member of the union,” he said.

Attempts to get comment from the legislature were unsuccessful.

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