Sexual harassment policy ‘dysfunctional’

2010-02-16 10:12

Western Cape Premier Helen Zille yesterday admitted that the

province’s policy on dealing with sexual harassment in the office, was


People appointed as councillors to deal with employees’ concerns

had not been properly trained, employees feared victimisation if they reported

cases, and the policy had not been updated since it was introduced in 1999, said

Zille during a media briefing in the legislature.

Zille’s admission follows recent accusations of sexual harassment

levelled against the province’s flamboyant, Harley Davidson-riding safety and

security MEC Lennit Max.

Max has been accused of sexual harassment a number of times in the

past, the most recent being levelled by 33-year-old Belinda Petersen, who made

headlines last week after telling the media she had sex with Max in 2007 in

exchange for his help as an advocate in a criminal case in which, ironically,

she charged four police officers with sexual harassment.

Petersen’s allegation comes a few months after claims by Max’s

former spokesperson, Julian Jansen, that Max had made sexual advances toward two

other women employed in the provincial legislature.

Jansen was fired last month after an internal disciplinary hearing

found him guilty of neglecting his duties.

Zille said she met the two women Jansen had mentioned, and they had

both denied that they had been sexually harassed by Max.

Media reports over the weekend suggest the latest drama involving

Petersen started when she wanted Max to employ her in Jansen’s place, failing

which she would tell the newspapers about their sexual relationship.

On Thursday last week, Max asked Zille for special leave, which was


Zille said the difficulty of establishing the facts relating to the

most recent allegations of sexual harassment showed that a functional system

that enabled the facts to emerge immediately was needed.

She said infringements needed to be dealt with, through due

process, in order to uphold the rights of all involved.

She said while the provincial government has had a sexual

harassment policy for a decade, adopted by the provincial bargaining council

under a DA government in 1999, it had “fallen into disuse”.

“A functional policy is necessary to prevent people making

vexatious and false allegations, to deal with issues immediately and

professionally, to protect all parties and establish the facts as soon as

possible, and to prevent various agendas and extraneous motives coming into


To resurrect the policy and bring a new focus to the prevention and

policing of sexual harassment in the workplace, Zille said policy was being

reviewed and would be completed by the end of March.

She said the existing department counsellors who manage allegations

and reports of sexual harassment, would receive intensive training before May,

and all new employees would participate in a training course to sensitise them

to sexual harassment.

– West Cape News

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