SABC like a ‘brothel run by prostitutes’
“The SABC [South African Broadcasting Corporation] is like a brothel that is run by prostitutes.”
That is what one of the complainants told the independent commission of inquiry into sexual harassment at the SABC.
Commission chairperson Barbara Watson said: “There’s a lot of fear among employees. I don’t have to tell you where that fear comes from - that dark place that the institution is coming from. In everything that is done‚ issues of confidentiality and credibility matter a lot. A lot of them [complainants] said there was a trust deficit.”
The commission found that most victims were young women‚ and that all except two complainants were freelancers.
“They [freelancers] are some of the people that experience the worst form of abuse and ultimately discrimination‚” Watson said.
The commission presented their findings on Tuesday at the SABC’s offices in Auckland Park‚ Johannesburg. The commission was established on June 1 this year and finished its work on October 31. It consisted of two gender experts‚ one legal person and a social worker. It was open to current and former employees.
A breakdown of the investigation revealed that:
- 10 cases were lodged directly by victims;
- 25 SABC officials were interviewed;
- Seven cases were lodged by whistleblowers;
- 11 alleged perpetrators were interviewed;
- Two trade unions were engaged;
- 20 external witnesses were called; and
- 40 comprehensive submissions were provided.
“[These numbers] exclude figures that still remain confidential because they could not be corroborated‚” the commission said.
The commission found:
- None of the alleged offenders were suspended or charged with sexual harassment. The alleged perpetrators often continued working and were then later found guilty of a lesser charge such as unprofessional behaviour;
- There was a strong perception that HR and senior managers often colluded with alleged perpetrator in cover ups;
- Employees rarely blew the whistle because they feared losing their jobs‚ there was a lack of trust and lost confidence in HR; and
- HR and most senior managers lacked knowledge and understanding of human rights statutes‚ gender relations and power relations between men and women.
Commission member Mfanozelwe Shozi said that the SABC’s human resources department failed to follow policy and investigate.
“Management won’t even suspend that person. The victim will work with that particular person every day… The victim will always be victimised. When the report has been finalised‚ it won’t be shared with the victim‚ but it will be shared with the perpetrator.”
Shozi said perpetrators were often sexual predators who knew how to work the system to not get caught.
“The alleged perpetrators‚ they deny these things. They said‚ ‘No‚ I am a Christian’ … or ‘I am a married man’.
“They are very arrogant. When they come before us‚ they say‚ ‘Who are you? You won’t even touch me.’ ”
The alleged perpetrators cannot be named because the commission was not a judicial inquiry with the powers to subpoena alleged perpetrators or investigate or corroborate allegations.
“If Mr X does not want to come [to testify]‚ we follow it up with another email and ultimately closer to the end of the process‚ we then informed Mr X that ‘by the way Mr X‚ we have investigated the matter and we are going to make a finding and recommendation without your input’‚” Watson said.
Common complaints included so-called “sex for jobs”.
An SABC official in KwaZulu-Natal was sexually assaulted in the presence of colleagues and the human resources department simply conducted an informal inquiry which failed to reach a conclusion.
“We learned that person [the complainant] had been given a job by the alleged perpetrator. The SABC should investigate this. Human resources did not do what it was supposed [to do]. It treated the complaint informally and there was no conclusion‚” Shozi said.
KwaZulu-Natal had the most complaints‚ and Lotus FM and Channel Africa showed a “worrying history” of gender-based violence.
One complainant said: “Lotus FM is run by men who regard the station as their fiefdom and the women their personal harem!”
Meanwhile the SABC is possibly going to retrench almost 1‚000 employees and about 1‚200 freelancers as part of its restructuring which it estimates should save about R400-million per annum.
SowetanLIVE reported that former SABC chief operating officer (COO) Hlaudi Motsoeneng said on Monday that the public broadcaster’s new leadership was “clueless and obsessed with blaming” him for the current financial crisis.
Motsoeneng‚ who is embroiled in legal disputes with the SABC over the payment of his pension‚ said at his Krugersdorp home: “The SABC was performing under our leadership - nobody was retrenched.”
But SABC spokesperson Neo Momodu said: “The SABC would like to make it clear that Motsoeneng was the central figure in the complete financial and governance collapse of the corporation‚ which the current executive is redressing.”
Momodu said the current SABC board and management had inherited over R5.5-billion in irregular expenditure from Motsoeneng’s period on the executive.