Political parties’ responses to sexual misconduct is insipid, sluggish and inconsistent – #NotOurLeaders calls for decisive political leadership

Since 25 November, during the 16 Days of Activism, the #NotOurLeaders has covered 20 cases of politicians from a spectrum of political parties and people in senior government positions who have faced allegations of sexual misconduct. The nature of the misconduct has included demanding sex for jobs or promotions, verbal and physical harassment, sexual assault, and rape - including rape of children. Some of the people covered by the campaign are facing criminal charges while others have faced internal complaints or disciplinary action. All of the cases have been reported on by media.

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#NotOurLeaders

16 Days of Activism to end violence against women

 

Political parties’ responses to sexual misconduct is insipid, sluggish and inconsistent – #NotOurLeaders calls for decisive political leadership

 

Cases 1 – 20: Round up

Since 25 November, during the 16 Days of Activism, the #NotOurLeaders has covered 20 cases of politicians from a spectrum of political parties and people in senior government positions who have faced allegations of sexual misconduct. The nature of the misconduct has included demanding sex for jobs or promotions, verbal and physical harassment, sexual assault, and rape - including rape of children. Some of the people covered by the campaign are facing criminal charges while others have faced internal complaints or disciplinary action. All of the cases have been reported on by media.

In the majority of cases, parties have been slow to act and the people accused have escaped sanctions and enjoyed the protection of their political parties. There are cases where people have been held to account by the party, but these seem to be the exception. “We are not arguing that these people are all guilty, we don’t know that. Rather we are pointing out political parties’ often insipid, sluggish and inconsistent responses to these serious allegations.” Said Sam Waterhouse of the Women and Democracy Initiative. While little is reported about the women involved, reports demonstrate that women who attempt to seek justice are victimised further – silence is encouraged.

Taken together, these cases show the systemic nature of the problem. They are not isolated events, but part of political systems that maintain rape culture. The positions taken by political leaders in support of their people accused of sexual misconduct justify, reinforce and enable social and criminal justice system responses that stubbornly refuse to take sexual and gender-based violence in our society seriously.

Overall, political leadership on gender-based violence is extremely weak. All parties have strong words against violence against women and children, but they don’t seem to walk the talk unless the person falls out of political favour in the party, or the person accused is from another political party.

The gaps in policy at a range of levels is an obvious problem. Political parties’ constitutions and codes of conduct seldom specifically refer to sexual misconduct, leaving it up to interpretation if the conduct constitutes behaviour that brings the party into disrepute. The pervasive misogyny and violations of women across society, including in the political sphere, mean that it requires clear policy and decisive action. Law and policy governing the conduct of elected representatives should express the highest standards of expected behaviour, but analysis shows that the standards are lower for them than for most ordinary South Africans. There’s also a gap in law regarding the conduct of people employed by legislatures and different standards for public servants employed at municipal level to those working for government departments.

But fixing law and policy alone is not going to resolve the problem. “The biggest problem is that political leadership picks and chooses which cases it wants to take seriously. As with state capture generally, those decisions don’t have any relation to the nature or seriousness of the misconduct but seem to be driven by if the person accused is in political favour or not. So patronage and protectionism support victim blaming and the down-playing of the seriousness of sexual misconduct and its impacts. No priority is given to recognising the costs to women who report these cases, to the reality that many women do not report, or to what is in place to offer protection and support to those women.” Said Vivienne Mentor-Lalu of the Women and Democracy Initiative.

“Waiting for ‘the law to take its course’ is frequently cited as the reason for inaction, this is a cop-out. Especially since it’s only raised in some cases but not in others. Legal and moral standards require employers to act on allegations irrespective of criminal charges being laid or finalised. Parties have a duty to investigate and discipline staff and members using the standard of ‘probability’, while criminal processes have a much higher standard of proving something ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. The integrity and reputation of the party should be taken into account when deciding if action will be taken, but in most of these cases alleging sexual misconduct, even the most serious ones, parties don’t raise this question.” Explained Waterhouse

Resignation is one way of avoiding disciplinary processes, in some cases people accused receive golden handshakes, paid with public money, into the millions. “We’ve seen people being moved into positions in other municipalities or branches of government, sometimes the moves result in their promotion. In contrast we’ve seen the women who speak out being isolated, losing salaries or potential for career advancement.” Said Mentor-Lalu. People who move into new positions, pose an ongoing threat in those workplaces and in the communities that they are meant to serve.

The #NotOurLeaders campaign would like to see action:

  • Political parties and Parliament must address the policy gaps, they must act swiftly on allegations against members and staff accused of any form of sexual misconduct. Immediate suspension should be considered as a standard in these cases, and any person found guilty must be stripped of their party or government positions.
  • We need greater transparency and public accountability; the names of public representatives and senior government officials who are dismissed for sexual misconduct or who resign before disciplinary action is completed must be publicly available.
  • Investigative media have played a critical role on these issues, however greater attention to reporting and following up on cases is essential.
  • As the public it is our duty to take these cases seriously, to offer support to people who are victimised by political leaders and not to underplay the impact of sexual misconduct when it’s time to cast votes in local or national elections.
  • We need strong, courageous and accountable leadership if we want to see a dent in the rates of gender-based violence and improve the appalling systemic responses so that justice can be served.

The #NotOurLeaders campaign has set up an online poll to get people’s views on how political leadership should respond to these cases, please help us to build accountability on these issues by sending your opinions to this link: https://goo.gl/forms/dGRoU4Jyc8U6P1Tt1

The #NotOurLeaders campaign will not end once the 16 days of activism is over. We will be continuing with actions directed at political parties, the legislatures and government in the following months.

For comment contact:

Lisa Vetten, gender violence specialist, 082 822 6725

Sanja Bornman, Lawyers for Human Rights, 083 522 2933

Vivenne Mentor-Lalu, Women and Democracy Initiative, Dullah Omar Institute, 082 494 0788

Sam Waterhouse, Women and Democracy Initiative, Dullah Omar Institute, 084 522 9646

The Cases

1.

Sipho Emmanuel Maselane. ANC Ward Councillor for Winterveld

Criminal charges of gang rape including rape of two 14 year-old girls in 2014 and 2015.

Criminal case set for November 2017.

Political appointment in spite of charges. No internal action by ANC

2.

Marius Fransman.

Ex Western Cape Chairperson ANC

Criminal charges of sexual assault in 2016. Criminal case withdrawn by prosecution.

ANC discipline and suspend in November 2016.

3.

Mncedisi Maphisa. IFP Deputy Mayor, AbaQulusi, KwaZulu-Natal

Criminal charges of sexual assault and other sexual offences in October 2017.

Case ongoing.

No internal action from IFP.

4.

Edmund van Vuuren. DA Chief Whip in the Eastern Cape Legislature.

Internal complaint of sexual harassment laid in May 2017.

Inquiry finds van Vuuren Guilty September 2017. Reportedly removed from his positions in November 2017.

5.

Archie Figlan DA MP

Internal complaint of sexual harassment laid in June 2015.

Suspended from party positions for five years.

6.

Unnamed ANC Councillor. JS Moroka Municipality.

Criminal charges of rape of a 16 year-old girl in May 2017.

Status of case unknown.

Placed on special leave, no further disciplinary action.

7.

Simon Mofokeng. ANC Mayor of Emfuleni.

Distributed pictures of a semi-nude 14-year old girl to other ANC leaders via WhatsApp in October 2017, further allegations of sexual misconduct.

Investigated for sexual assault and sexual grooming, unclear if charges have been laid. Girl applied for protection order.

Court date set for 28 November 2017.

Placed on special leave, internal investigation ongoing in spite of resignation.

8.

Phakane Phahlamohlaka. Sekhukhune Municipality director.

Internal complaint alleging a range of acts of sexual harassment including rape and sex for promotion over and eight-year period in March 2017.

Internal investigation finds there’s cause for disciplinary action. Resigned to avoid disciplinary action, reportedly received R600 000 payout as golden handshake.

9.

Pakamile Pongwana. Ex CEO ICASA.

Internal complaint of sexual harassment amongst others in March 2017.

Resigned; Minister of Communications indicates that ‘negotiations ended in a settlement’ of R1 000 000.

10.

Malibongwe Ngcai. Ex Eastern Cape Legislature and Government.

Internal complaint of sex for jobs in 2015.

Commission recommend action be taken in 2015. None taken.

2017 disciplinary hearing finds him guilty of gross insubordination, dishonesty and breaching trust. No sanctions ordered due to his resignation.

Employed day after resignation at EC COGTA in senior position.

11.

Basil Mase. Ex Eastern Cape Legislature and Government.

Internal complaint of sex for jobs in 2015.

Commission recommend action be taken in 2015. None taken.

2017 disciplinary hearing finds him guilty of gross insubordination, dishonesty and breaching trust. No sanctions ordered due to his resignation.

Employed day after resignation at EC COGTA in senior position.

12.

Unnamed. Ex senior manager at national Department of Environmental Affairs

Internal complaint of sexual harassment and rape allegations in 2017.

Resigned and avoided disciplinary action.

Currently employed at CSIR in senior position.

13.

George Mthimunye. Various municipalities and Mpumalanga Provincial Legislature.

Internal complaints of numerous counts of sexual harassment in 2001 and 2016.

Escaped disciplinary action by resigning from three municipal manager posts. Now employed in senior position in Mpumalanga Provincial Legislature.

Reportedly gained financially.

14.

Mduduzi Manana ANC MP and Ex Deputy Minister

Guilty of crimes of assault GBH against women committed August 2017.

ANC turnaround and indicate they won’t take internal action November 2017.

Parliament slow to respond to complaint and calls for his removal as MP, Ethics Committee still in process.

15.

Mbulelo Goniwe. Ex ANC Chief Whip

Internal complaint of sexual harassment in 2006.

Disciplinary action taken in 2006 and 2007. Found guilty.

16.

Mohapi dMohapi. ANC MP in the NCOP

Charged with assault, kidnapping and crimen injuria of former girlfriend in February 2015.

Status of criminal case unknown.

Parliament’s Ethics Committee take matter up in 2016. Outcomes unknown.

Continues in senior positions in the NCOP.

17.

Unnamed. ANC Councillor North West

Criminal charges of raping a 13-year old girl in March 2013.

In 2015 reported that the case still ongoing.

No further information located.

18.

Unnamed ANC Councillor Devland Gauteng

Criminal charges of raping his 10-year-old daughter in November 2013.

No further information located.

19.

Unnamed DA Councillor Buffalo City Metro Eastern Cape

Reportedly arrested but not yet charged with rape of his former girlfriend in February 2015.

No further information located.

20.

Unnamed ANC member campaigning to be nominee for local elections, Vryburg, North West

Criminal charges of rape of a 14-year old girl in early 2016.

No further information located.

Local branch of ANC Women’s League protested his actions vigorously. It is also unknown if he went on to stand as a local councilor.




About the #NotOurLeaders campaign

During this year’s 16 Days of Activism, the Women and Democracy Initiative (WDI) of the Dullah Omar Institute at the University of the Western Cape, Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR), and gender violence specialist, Lisa Vetten, turn the spotlight on political representatives accused of sexual violence and the practices that protect and enable their sexual misconduct and abuse. By contrasting the range of incidents reported with parties’ inconsistent – even non-existent – responses, the campaign aims to demonstrate the chasm between political-speak and political actions on sexual violence.


The campaign emphasises the need for strong political leadership by all political parties and representatives in tackling the pervasive problem of sexual violence in South Africa.

 

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