Sex row stirs up KZN Agri Dept

2007-12-15 00:00

A HIGH-LEVEL investigation into wide-ranging allegations of staff victimisation, including a charge of sexual harassment, is under way at the KZN Agriculture and Environmental Affairs Department.

Sources within the embattled department told Weekend Witness that a high-ranking departmental official is being investigated for sexually harassing a senior manager five months ago.

Weekend Witness has also learnt that the office of the KZN director-general, Dr Kwazi Mbanjwa, is aware of the alleged incident and has instituted an investigation into the matter.

The scope of the investigation has been widened to include irregularities pertaining to procurement issues surrounding the official, according to the source.

The official, who started working at the department in August, allegedly committed the offence in the same month he assumed responsibilities at the department. Details of how the alleged offence took place have not been divulged.

However, at least eight sources have confirmed that the offence was allegedly committed against a senior manager, who is also a married woman. Weekend Witness has the name of the victim.

The official cannot be named until the completion of the probe or if he pleads guilty to the charge.

The sexual harassment charge, whose details were circulated to senior managers and directors, apparently opened a can of worms leading to a host of other charges.

These include the victimisation of staff and the harassment and humiliation of senior managers in front of their subordinates.

Weekend Witness also has it on reliable authority that the probe commenced a month ago after the allegation was brought before Mbanjwa, who hired a Durban-based law firm, Andile Khoza Attorneys, to look into the matter.

Another source close to the investigation and who has been interviewed by the law firm said all the allegations were brought to Premier S’bu Ndebele, who reportedly instructed Mbanjwa to investigate. The source said that of particular concern to Ndebele was the sexual harassment allegation.

Another source revealed that a list of grievances was compiled and forwarded to both the official in question and Mbanjwa’s office. Weekend Witness is in possession of two documents. One of the documents deals with a comprehensive list of grievances, while the other deals with untoward comments made by the official to senior staff members.

Another grievance pertains to the removal of managers from the Cedara College without notice or informing the managers concerned.

Several components within the department are said to have ground to a halt because the managers are either on suspension or red taped.

“It’s shocking that an already beleaguered department had the audacity to appoint a person of his [the official’s] calibre; he has no people skills and little management skills. Several projects [that he apparently ran] have been called off [and] have incurred huge expenditure,” said a source.

Mbanjwa confirmed yesterday that there is an investigation under way, but refused to give details, saying it would be improper to make any statement until the investigation is concluded.

The official in question, through departmental spokesman Mbulelo Baloyi, declined to speak about the allegations, saying he would not be giving any comments.

Baloyi also confirmed that there was an internal process under way and questioned why people have preferred to use other channels.

nathi@witness.co.za

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