After months of denial by the Mpumalanga legislature that one of its senior managers was implicated in a sexual harassment scandal, new information has emerged which confirms the allegations.
In October 2016, the Mpumalanga provincial legislature spokesperson, Zamagambu Memela-Gamede denied that there was a sexual harassment case opened against the senior manager, whose name is known to Ziwaphi.
New information obtained by Ziwaphi in response to a Promotion of Access Information Act (PAIA) application, however, confirms that the Commission on Gender Equality (CGE) did investigate the legislature on the allegations.
“In terms of the CGE Gazetted Complaints Manual, we are required to send an allegation letter to the respondent within 10 days after the complaint has been accepted by the CGE. In the premise we received this complaint on the 29th June 2016. An allegation letter was consequently sent to the respondent on the 30th June 2016,” says CGE chief executive officer Keketso Maema in response to the PAIA application.
This new revelation by the CGE shows that at the time of Ziwaphi’s enquiry in October 2016, the legislature had already been approached to respond to the allegations, yet Memela Gamede still denied any knowledge of the sexual harassment case.
“There is no sexual harassment case in the file of the Legislature that was opened,” said Legislature spokesperson, Memela-Gamede in October 2016 in response to the Ziwaphi enquiry.
The legislature also refused to respond to further questions and whether they have complied with the Code of Good Practice in Handling Sexual Harassment Cases as provided for in the Labour Relations Act, particularly after being approached by a statutory body, such as the CGE.
A source within the legislature, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also laughed off the legislature’s denial of the alleged sexual harassment complaint.
The source claimed that the victim complained in December 2015. This was after the alleged perpetrator made advances on the complainant during a strategic planning meeting at a hotel near Sabie in November 2015, and later the same month when the legislature staff visited Johannesburg to participate in games with other legislatures, and continued into January 2016 in the offices of the legislature where the perpetrator eventually told the complainant that he wanted to have an affair and sexual intercourse with her.
“She rejected all his advances, but he persisted and the legislature did nothing about her complaint,” said the source.
The source said that when legislature secretary, Linda Mwale, heard of the allegations, he tried to charge the alleged perpetrator almost immediately, but stopped from doing so due to political pressure.
Six months later, when there was no action on the part of the legislature, the complainant reported the legislature to the CGE’s offices in Mbombela.
When Ziwaphi sent an enquiry to the legislature to confirm if the alleged victim was still reporting to the alleged perpetrator, the legislature secretly removed the complainant from the division, which is headed by the alleged perpetrator, to a division where she now enjoys more fringe benefits, in what is believed to be an effort to buy her silence.
The source confirmed the new placement.
“She was moved to a position that was never advertised. Even the trade union has not been made aware of this. Usually, whenever there is a movement from one division to another, the (legislature) secretary issues a communiqué, but this this time everything happened so quickly and secretly,” said the source.
Shortly after her placement in the new position, the complainant withdrew her complaint from the CGE.
“We… confirm that the complainant has withdrawn her complaint and any further correspondence can be addressed to her,” said the CGE in its response.
The legislature declined to confirm or deny that the alleged complainant has been moved to another division, or to say that other legislature employees were afforded the same opportunity to apply for the vacancy.
“We do not discuss issues of employees with the media and as such we cannot discuss our employee in the manner you want in the media. We will be more than happy to engage with you on the work that the Legislature had performed throughout the year 2016 relating to law making, oversight and public involvement as well as a number of Speaker’s legacy projects which have benefitted a number of needy people across the province,” said Memela-Gamede.
Even though the alleged perpetrator and his previous employer had lost a civil claim in a widely publicised case where the Northern High Court ruled that he had sexually harassed an employee for three years, the legislature claimed they were unaware of this.
“We do not know if it is the same (person) that you are referring to and the rest we have no knowledge of,” said Memela-Gamede.
When asked if they had conducted a background check before employing the alleged perpetrator, they said they had outsourced the function and they do not have the records.
“Issues of employee’s (sic) backgrounds are handled by an external vetting company and we do not have those records,” said Memela-Gamede.
The source believes that the main reason that the legislature is reluctant to investigate the matter is because the alleged perpetrator is the legislature’s key witness in disciplinary cases against some suspended managers of the legislature.
“Taking any action against him would have jeopardised the legislature’s case against the suspended senior managers, that’s why management chose to cover-up the case, but the truth is that almost everybody in the legislature is aware of this,” said the source.