Black Business Council chair accused of sexual harassment

innocent until proven guiltySello Rasethaba denies the allegationsPHOTO: khaya ngwenya
innocent until proven guiltySello Rasethaba denies the allegationsPHOTO: khaya ngwenya

Two women have accused prominent businessman Sello Rasethaba of sexual harassment.

One of the women claims he asked her for sex and touched her thigh, while the other accused him of sending “inappropriate” text messages and taking pictures of her without her permission.

Rasethaba, chairman of the Black Business Council’s (BBC’s) financial services working group, has got away with allegedly sexually harassing the women during Brics trips he went on last year.

The matter has been brought to the attention of Iqbal Surve, the council’s chairman.

Businesswoman Hawa Khan, who gave City Press permission to reveal her identity, wrote a complaint to Surve on January 21.

Khan said she was harassed in June during a trip to Tianjin, China.

“[Rasethaba] placed his hands on my upper thigh while we were in a meeting at a club lounge in Tianjin. Several times [he] propositioned me to sleep with him at dinner and breakfast time when he found me alone,” she wrote.

“I politely indicated to him that I was in a committed relationship and did not engage with anyone in the manner he was propositioning. He indicated that he was married but that did not stop him.”

In the letter, Khan detailed how she began avoiding Rasethaba and warned other women about him at a subsequent Brics conference in Xiamen.

In response, she claims, Rasethaba started spreading rumours about her being a lesbian and made references to her alleged relationship during professional presentations. She also claims he tarnished her “good name and reputation to all and sundry”.

“As a senior businesswoman I wish to put an end to women being subjected to this type of humiliation and for people to stop bringing the good name of Brics into disrepute,” reads the complaint.

Rasethaba denied the allegations, saying they were linked to the infighting in the BBC.

“Khan is a fellow traveller, a good friend of [suspended president] Danisa Baloyi and a director of Merit Energy, which was implicated in the laundering of R5 million worth of BBC funds.”

But another woman, a Sekunjalo Investment Holdings employee whose name is known to City Press, also laid a formal complaint after attending the conference in Xiamen.

In her complaint to Surve, who founded Sekunjalo, the woman claims Rasethaba and Brics financial services secretariat Jerry Mashamba sexually harassed her.

She also expressed her displeasure at the manner in which her previous complaints were handled by the private equity firm.

“The initial incidents of harassment occurred during the Brics summit that took place from August 31 to September 2 in Xiamen as well as the council meeting held on November 3,” said the woman.

“They have continued over the course of my interactions with the aforementioned.

“The harassment comprised advances in person and via text, inappropriate comments pertaining to my appearance and even photographs taken of me without my consent.”

In her email, she claims she told Sekunjalo senior executive Zenariah Barends about the incidents and the “emotional distress” she suffered.

“It is only through the support of family and friends that I found enough courage to write this letter.”

Despite Barends’ promises to talk to Rasethaba and Mashamba about the matter, she claims nothing happened.

“There are several witnesses to this harassment as well as additional members of staff who have experienced the same treatment,” reads her complaint.

The woman told City Press that she wrote the formal complaint but said the matter had been settled.

Barends declined to comment and referred City Press to the BBC.

Rasethaba maintained his innocence, saying he had a “good working relationship” with the Sekunjalo employee.

“All allegations of sexual harassment are lies made up by those who are trying to hijack the BBC leadership and its successes in fighting for radical economic transformation,” he said.

“Those who stole money from the BBC are hell-bent on feeding negative news to the media.

“We have evidence that they are supplying the media with selective information and have malicious intentions.”

City Press’ questions to the BBC, which received both complaints from Barends, were not responded to.

Other questions sent to Mashamba were also not responded to, despite undertakings to do so.

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