16 Days of Activism to end violence against women
For release: late Monday 4 December 2017
Another Teflon Man – Government ignores it’s own #CountMeIn campaign
CASE 8: George Mthimunye, municipal manager in three municipalities, now senior manager at Mpumalanga Provincial Legislature
Esther Mahlangu-Mathibela was sexually harassed for three years by George Mthimunye, the then-municipal manager of the Dr JS Moroka Municipality in Mpumalanga. In 2001 Mthimunye was finally suspended and charged with sexual harassment and unauthorised or fruitless expenditure. He later settled with the municipality and resigned in 2001, reportedly having received a R5 million settlement. Mthimunye was then appointed the municipal manager of the Naledi municipality in Vryburg – and suspended in 2010 in the course of disciplinary proceedings against him, related to tender irregularities. Two years later, reportedly on the recommendation of the ANC’s deployment committee, and despite a High Court judgement against him, Mthimunye was appointed the manager of the Emalahleni Municipality. In a now-familiar pattern, Mthimunye was suspended in 2013 and the municipality placed under administration. Mthimunye resigned from Emalahleni in February 2014 and took up his new post as the Executive Manager of Corporate Services in the Mpumalanga Provincial Legislature in April 2014 – a position he continues to occupy.
Mthimunye seems to have avoided ever facing disciplinary enquiry for his actions and has consistently evaded finalisation of such processes. In a pattern already noted in previous #NotOurLeaders, he appears to have received at least one substantial settlement upon his resignation. In 2007 Mthimunye also successfully sued RCP Media and African Eye News Services for defamation after they described him both as ‘lecherous’ and as a sexual harasser. He was awarded R35 000, in addition when his harassment of Mathibela-Mahlangu went to court, the municipality reportedly paid his legal costs.
By contrast, Esther Mahlangu-Mathibela had to wait until 2012 before she saw justice. The North Gauteng High Court found that Mthimunye had committed the sexual harassment and awarded costs and damages to Mahlangu-Mathibela to be paid by the Moroka Municipality and Mthimunye. Esther Mahlangu-Mathibela reportedly faced ongoing victimisation by the Moroko Municipality during 2012 and 2013, including having her salary frozen. The municipality has also never sought to recover any costs from Mthimunye, in spite of legal advice that he could be liable for at least a portion of these.
In 2016 Mthimunye was again accused of at least three incidents of sexual harassment by a woman working in the Mpumalanga Provincial Legislature. When the Legislature failed to take up her complaint she took the matter to the Commission on Gender Equality (CGE). Subsequently the case disappeared, the CGE having concluded that the matter was ‘amicably resolved.’
ANC and municipal spokespeople have used the usual avoidance tactics when asked to comment on Mthimunye. In 2012, in the face of the High Court ruling, the ANC secretary for the Nkangala region, Tommy Nkoana, argued that the ANC could not take a position as it would be ‘“judgmental” and “passing a verdict” if it stopped Mthimunye’s deployment to Emalahleni. Emalahleni spokesperson Lebohang Mofokeng similarly argued that they could not comment on the allegations against Mthimunye because they were ‘his word against the media’.
“This case has all the hallmarks of patronage and protectionism from the ANC in Mpumalanga, it is inconceivable that a person with a track record like this could continue to advance in his career without strong political support. It is corrupt” says Sam Waterhouse of the Women and Democracy Initative.
Lisa Vetten, a gender violence specialist points out: “One of government’s messages for the 16 Days of Activism is #CountMeIn which urges people to take various sorts of actions against gender-based violence. They could do no better than to act on their own message by taking action against Mthimunye in terms of the Public Service Commission Act. He is blatantly unfit to work in the public service. Retaining, promoting and protecting him makes a mockery of every government campaign telling women to speak out.”
Action must be taken
- Mthimunye’s deployment to various municipalities is linked to recommendations of the ANC deployment committee and is overseen by the ministers and MECs of cooperative governance. Relevant ANC structures must account for their continued support of Mthimunye and his deployment in senior positions regardless of the multiple charges that he’s faced.
- Repeated appointment of Mthimunye also points to a gap in appointments processes and lack of accountability of the municipal councils and the Provincial Legislature. An accessible public record of people who’ve been disciplined and dismissed, or resigned prior to completion of a disciplinary process can increase political accountability. This should apply to senior appointments at all levels and arms of government.
For comment contact:
- Sanja Bornman, Lawyers for Human Rights, 083 522 2933
- Sam Waterhouse, Women and Democracy Initiative, Dullah Omar Institute, 084 522 9646
- Lisa Vetten, gender violence specialist, 082 822 6725
Municipal Finance Management Act (MFMA)
|RELATED MEDIA STORIES|
|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.