Celebrity chef in a pickle over sexual advances

2009-09-19 15:45

CELEBRITY chef Citrum Khumalo has been accused of sexual harassment by board members of a chefs’ association who claim his ­derogatory statements and sexual advances have become unbearable.

Two of his colleagues at the ­Culinary Arts Association of South Africa (Caasa) have laid charges against him following his alleged ­refusal to have the matter discussed at a special board meeting.

While only two women laid ­criminal charges City Press understands that four of the five females on the board have called for Khumalo to appear before a disciplinary hearing.

However, the chef, who has his own cooking show on SABC TV and is deputy president of Caasa, denied the claims and dissolved the board that would have discussed them.

Bongi Sodladla said Khumalo rubbed his private parts against her in full view of employees during the launch of Caasa in July.

“He rubbed against me and said ‘all I want to do is to f**k you’.”

At first Sodladla said she thought Khumalo was being silly and that his sexual advances would stop but the harassment continued despite her stern warnings.

“When I told him I was married and that nothing would ever happen between us he would just say, ‘even better’,” said Sodladla.

Police spokesperson Nomvula Mbense said a case of ­sexual harassment had been opened at Orlando Police Station but was later withdrawn for lack of evidence.

Sodladla said police told her that a complaint of sexual harassment was an internal matter and should be treated as such.

Nomsa Mbatha, who allegedly witnessed the July incident, said Sodladla was literally shaking with anger after it.

“If Citrum wants you and he ­cannot have you then you are a problem and must be dealt with. Women are being abused in that kitchen,” said Mbatha.

Another board member, Mpume Dlomo, laid a complaint after ­Khumalo allegedly made derogatory statements at a meeting attended by female board members during the final match of the Confederations Cup in June.

“We were working at the stadium when he called a short meeting. He walked in and said, ‘when I look at all of you my blood just flows and my dick stands’,’’ said Dlomo.

Khumalo was the only man at the meeting.

KwaZulu-Natal police spokesperson Bongiwe Masuku confirmed that Dlomo, who lives in the ­province, had opened a sexual harassment case a month ago but was ­advised to transfer the matter to ­Johannesburg.

“It takes longer to investigate a case that doesn’t fall under our ­jurisdiction so it’s best for her to open the case in Johannesburg. But I can confirm that the case was opened here,” said Masuku.

Khumalo dismissed the claims as lies and jealousy from his former colleagues. “Bongi came to me at Ubuntu Kraal (conference centre in Soweto, where the launch took place) and gave me a hug like a ­normal hello and then she goes and claims that I rubbed my private parts against hers. It is the biggest joke of my life. I don’t have time to do that,” he said.

Khumalo said Dlomo’s ­allegations against him had only come after he stopped her attempts to have her friend employed by Caasa at a cost of R40?000 a month to do its marketing.

He added that board meetings were turned into a platform to ­discuss the allegations and he ­decided?– as the founding member of Caasa?– to dissolve the board.

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