Sexual harassment complaints ignored for eight years

2017-05-21 05:52
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A civil servant whose senior managers brushed off her sexual harassment complaints against her immediate supervisor for eight years has now had to apply for a protection order.

The 44-year-old government employee in the labour relations unit in the Greater Sekhukhune District Municipality in Limpopo cannot be named. She applied for the protection order against the institution’s corporate services director (who also cannot be named) at the end of March.

The municipality only reacted to the complaint after City Press started asking questions. Municipal spokesperson Willy Mosoma said that the executive mayor Keamotseng Ramaila had referred the matter to municipal manager Norah Maseko for urgent attention.

“[We] confirm that one of our employees, a manager within the corporate services department, has lodged a grievance against the director of corporate services on allegations of sexual harassment. The manager has further obtained a protection order against the director, which is currently [under the sub judice rule].

“The grievance is currently receiving the utmost attention in line with the sexual harassment policy. The municipal manager, in conclusion of her investigations, will take necessary action”, Mosoma said.

Although the woman in question declined to comment, City Press obtained her affidavit filed in court in which she alleges that her supervisor first approached her in 2009, when she was a legal administration officer, and asked her to have sex with him at his house.

She said he was offended when she rejected his advances and started regularly threatening to dismiss her. The supervisor also started scolding her in front of junior staff members, and gave her extra work that meant she had to work late at night, even on Fridays. She said she reported the matter to the former municipal manager. Instead, his co-workers undertook to “speak to him”. The supervisor allegedly responded by calling her to his office and threatening to demote her to a position of secretary in another department.

After getting no help from authorities, she relented to man’s advances and decided to date him.

“I had sex with him on a number of occasions in 2014 and 2015. I then stopped and dodged him … since 2016 he has been ill-treating me, pointing his finger at me, saying my time is coming,” she said.

Increasing sexual harassment

The employee’s interim protection order warns the supervisor against intimidation and threats of dismissal from work, sexual harassment and any other related harassment, and against insulting or scolding her.

The supervisor told City Press that he was constrained by the ongoing court processes and could not respond to questions. He said he was due to appear in the Groblersdal Magistrates’ Court on Friday to argue against the employee’s interim protection order being made permanent.

“Without going into details, I don’t agree with her allegations. They are frivolous. If it was not for the court case, I would share information with you”, he said.

Ronald Mani, deputy secretary of the SA Municipal Workers’ Union in Limpopo, said they had called on the district management “to act decisively and suspend the alleged sexual predator” to stop him from intimidating potential witnesses.

Javu Baloyi, spokesperson for the Commission for Gender Equality, said sexual harassment in the workplace has been increasing. He said 23 sexual harassment complaints were lodged with the commission between April last year and last month.

“These complaints come from both the private and public sector. The number of cases being reported over the years has been increasing,” he said.

Corporate Governance Framework Research Institute chief executive officer Terry Booysen said sexual harassment was a widespread problem occurring in many organisations worldwide. Unfortunately, there was no research or statistics available that reflected the South African situation.

“Notwithstanding popular belief, sexual harassment does not only affect women,” he said.

“Statistics reveal that men and women experience sexual harassment in the workplace, with women generally experiencing it more often than their male counterparts,” Booysen said.

He quoted a 2007 International Labour Organisation report, which stated that nearly 25% of workers interviewed in Hong Kong suffered sexual harassment, one-third of whom were men.

However, only 6.6% of men reported their grievances, compared with 25% of women because men felt too embarrassed to face “ridicule”.

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