BLA president's suspension lifted after probe into sexual harassment allegations

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An independent investigation has cleared suspended Black Lawyers Association (BLA) president Mashudu Kutama of sexual harassment charges by two members of the organisation's Students Chapter. (Getty Images)
An independent investigation has cleared suspended Black Lawyers Association (BLA) president Mashudu Kutama of sexual harassment charges by two members of the organisation's Students Chapter. (Getty Images)
  • Black Lawyers Association (BLA) president Mashudu Kutama's suspension has been lifted.
  • Kutama has been cleared of sexual harassment allegations.
  • An independent investigator found that whatever happened between Kutama and the complainants was consensual.

The suspension of Black Lawyers Association president Mashudu Kutama has been lifted following an independent investigation that cleared him of sexual harassment allegations levelled against him by two members of the organisation's Student Chapter.

Kutama was suspended in June after the complainants alleged that he had sexually harassed them in a hotel room in Kempton Park in May.

The BLA had held a general meeting at the hotel, attended by members of its executive committee, delegates from provinces and members of its Student Chapter.

A statement by the organisation's national executive committee (NEC) sent to its members stated that it has considered the report and "formed a view that the report was flawed in a number of material respects. Further, a request was sent to the investigator to clarify her conclusion, but her response was to stand by her original report, and that did not help the NEC to reason with the report".

It said: 

The NEC accordingly took a resolution not to accept the report and informed the complainants accordingly. The NEC could not, in good conscience, accept the report but was of the view that its conclusions, made as they were by an independent investigator, had to be honoured except one for reprimanding the victims.

"The consequence thereof was that the president's suspension was uplifted, and the president has thus resumed his duties," the organisation's NEC said.

An independent investigation conducted by advocate Xolelwa Goci found that Kutama did not threaten the complainants or coerce them into joining him in his room.

READ HERE | Suspended BLA president's urgent application struck from the roll, with costs

The report concluded that whatever happened between the women and Kutama in his room "was consensual".

It also stated that sexual harassment claims were made against Kutama after the complainants realised they did not get what they had wanted from him.

"The undisputed facts in this case are that: the complainants, out of their own free will, were in Mr Kutama's hotel room until the early hours of the morning.

"They consumed alcohol voluntarily, and they further moved in and out of the room, either to answer a telephone call or to fetch more alcohol during the course of the night."

READ | Suspended BLA president says complaints against him are 'Hollywood-like movie script fabrications'

Furthermore, both had an opportunity to leave Kutama's room if they felt threatened, but they did not do so.

"They had a choice to leave that room the moment they felt it was not safe for them to be there, but in their both statements [sic] one left to answer her phone and come back [sic] and the other left to fetch another carry pack of savannahs [sic] from her room and comeback [sic]... the question is why did the complainants come back [sic].

"The conclusion I make is that the acts perpetrated between the complainants and Mr Kutama were consensual. My only finding is that they did not feel threatens [sic] at all, hence they went back [sic]," the investigator stated in the report.

The BLA suspended Kutama in June as a precaution until the investigation was completed. The organisation said the complaints were serious and raised a "reasonable suspicion of impropriety on the president".

Kutama then took his organisation to court, challenging the suspension. His urgent application was struck off the roll in the Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg with costs.

Judge Ingrid Opperman said Kutama was only placed on precautionary suspension but rushed to court with no regard for the seriousness of the complaint.

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