GENDER POLITICS, POLITICS

#NotOurLeaders Day 8 – George Mthimunye

#NotOurLeaders

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
  •  
Relevant Policy

Municipal Finance Management Act (MFMA)

 

 

RELATED MEDIA STORIES

https://www.news24.com/Archives/City-Press/Municipality-scrambles-to-pay-sexual-harassment-costs-20150430

https://www.news24.com/Archives/City-Press/Municipal-clerk-still-on-ice-after-winning-sexual-harassment-case-against-boss-20150429

https://witbanknews.co.za/10850/past-municipal-manager-now-legislature/

https://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/sex-case-just-disappears-20170204

 

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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GENDER POLITICS, POLITICS

#NotOurLeaders Case 7 – COGTA

#NotOurLeaders

16 days of activism to end violence against women

 

AIDING AND ABETTING SEXUAL HARASSMENT

CASE 7: Getting away with it, with help from your friends Malibongwe Ngcai and Basil Mase, Eastern Cape Government

On 1 June 2017 Malibongwe Ngcai started his job as general manager of corporate services in the Eastern Cape Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), and Basil Mase the general manager of strategic information management, also in COGTA. Both men had resigned their positions as senior managers in the Eastern Cape Legislature only one day before joining COGTA – so evading any sanctions arising from the disciplinary proceedings against them.

In 2015 an investigation by the Neela Hoosain Commission appointed by the Legislature recommended that action be taken against Ngcai and Mase for demanding sex in exchange for jobs or promotion. But this was not the focus of the disciplinary enquiry conducted during 2016 and 2017. Rather, it was their bringing the Legislature into disrepute by challenging the Commission’s report in court and attempting to prevent implementation of its recommendation that prompted the disciplinary action. While the presiding officer of the legislature’s disciplinary hearing found them guilty of gross dishonesty, gross insubordination and breaching the trust relationship with their former employer, no sanctions could ultimately be ordered as the duo had left the employ of the legislature.

This case raises two issues of policy:

  • Resignation and shuffling of staff as strategies to evade disciplinary sanctions
  • Appointing officials who have resigned in the midst of disciplinary proceedings to another arm of the state

Gender violence specialist Lisa Vetten points to a similar matter involving an unnamed former senior manager at the national Department of Environmental Affairs: “He too simply resigned in August once allegations of sexual harassment by him began being investigated. In October he was employed at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) – despite being accused of sexually harassing six junior employees and allegedly raping two women in his unit. Disturbingly, spokesperson for Environmental Affairs, Albi Modise, was reported as claiming that it was ‘not the duty of his department to give references about their former employees to new employers.’”

“A significant policy gap enables this questionable shuffling of staff,” says Sam Waterhouse of the Women and Democracy Initiative. “Staff at legislatures, who are employed in a branch of government and paid with public money, are not governed by any specific law, except the standard labour laws. Interestingly, the regulations to the Municipal Systems Act recognise that some people resign in order to escape the consequences of internal disciplinary action. To address this the Regulations state that the Minister and provincial MEC must be notified if a municipal staff member resigns before the disciplinary hearing is completed. If this clause was applied across the public services and to staff at legislatures, it could assist in monitoring and preventing the movement across different branches of government of people accused of sexual misconduct.”

Said Vivienne Mentor-Lalu of the Women and Democracy Initiative, “The lack of consideration for women’s safety in the workplace shows its low priority. This is rape culture. Women who report sexual violence are sidelined, never to be heard of again, while the men who perpetrate sexual abuse often get to quietly move on and prosper. Is patronage politics at play in these cases?”

Action must be taken

The #NotOurLeaders campaign is calling on the Eastern Cape Department of COGTA to immediately engage in an internal investigation and due diligence exercise with regards to the appointment of Malibongwe Ngcai and Basil Mase. COGTA spokesman Mamnkeli Ngam said in July 2017 that the department “was not aware” of any judgment against the two and thus could not comment on the matter. This is unacceptable.

  • The ANC, which leads both the Eastern Cape legislature and the executive department where the two men are now employed, must publicly condemn the evasion of justice by the pair, and strengthen institutional safeguards preventing those guilty of sexual misconduct from taking up senior positions in government.
  • Parliament must prioritise policy development to address the gaps in law and policy regarding the conduct and discipline of staff at legislatures and within the public service.

 

For comment contact:

  • Lisa Vetten, gender violence specialist, 082 822 6725
  • Vivienne Mentor-Lalu Women and Democracy Initiative, Dullah Omar Institute, 082 494 0788
  • Sanja Bornman, Lawyers for Human Rights, 083 522 2933

  

Relevant Policy

Municipal staff are covered by the Municipal Systems Act of 2000, and staff in government departments by the amended Public Service Act of 1994. The regulations to the Public Service Act has a four-year prohibition against re-employing someone in the public service if there was a disciplinary finding that they committed sexual harassment. However, it only applies to people who were found guilty – not those who resigned prior to the finalisation of proceedings. The regulations also require any public service employee to immediately report to the relevant authorities any act which constitutes a contravention of any law (not limited to criminal offences) and any act which is prejudicial to the interests of the public which comes to their attention.

But the Public Service Act only applies specifically to those who work the public service, and not those employed in other spheres of the state. This means there is a gap around the appointments and dismissals of staff of legislatures who have been charged with sexual harassment. Staff employed by the legislatures are covered by labour legislation generally, and any internal policy that may have been developed. #NotOurLeaders has been unable to locate internal policies regarding staff at the legislatures.

 

RELATED MEDIA STORIES

http://www.dispatchlive.co.za/politics/2017/07/03/commission-finds-manager-duo-guilty/

http://www.dispatchlive.co.za/news/2017/06/05/top-posts-two-despite-scandals-appointment-sex-pals-jobs-officials-infuriates-union/

https://www.sowetanlive.co.za/sundayworld/news/2017-10-10-alleged-sex-pest-gets-new-job-at-csir-despite-two-rape-accusations/

 

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.

 

OPPORTUNITIES

Call for Blogs: Tell AWID how you put a STOP to sexual assault

April and May are months dedicated to Sexual Assault Awareness and we would like to hear about how you, young feminists from around the world, work to put an end to sexual assault in your communities, countries, and around the world.

Tell AWID your story of how you have taken an initiative to raise awareness, organize a campaign, created a group, created a mural or art piece or blog, or participated in any other form of resistance to put an end to sexual assault in your schools, neighbourhoods, communities, countries, or even internationally.

Send your submissions by email to yfa@awid.org with the title “Sexual Assault Awareness” in the subject line by Wednesday April, 30th 2014.

To learn more about the guidelines for submissions, click here.

Spread the word in your networks!

CURRENT AFFAIRS

5 articles to read this morning

Oscar Pistorius’ Trigger. Read here

Forcing a woman to have a cesarean is an assault we won’t tolerate. Read here

In the public interest. Covering SMSes, sobs and shootings. Read here

Leering glances. The silence on sexual harassment is untenable. Read here

Redefining feminism. Read here

and a bonus, for funsies, 

Quiz: Are you a bad feminist. Take the quiz here

TRAVEL

A train ride

By Tammy Sutherns

He is standing too close, staring at me, his eyes burning holes into my head. I’m embarrassed and trying to pretend I don’t notice, shuffling a little away from him as nonchalantly as I can manage. I don’t want to be rude or overreact just because he is a he and I am a she. The crude words form on his tongue, delivering themselves into the air. They are met with cackles, the humour appreciated in such an awkward, close situation. It is not appreciated by me as my face grows hot. I shift uncomfortably from foot to foot. “Lighten up chick,” someone says. “Shame, she’s shy,” someone else says. I want to look directly into someone’s eyes, so they see the anger and the fear the wells up inside of me. I want to lash out, to roar at them that it is not OK to make me feel this way. It is especially not OK to make me feel this way because I am a woman. A polite woman. A woman who just wishes to mind her own business. A woman with things to do and errands to run. Instead I stare at my toes, wishing the world will swallow me up. I can feel his breath on my ear, he is standing so close. If I was a man, I would be able to stare him down, stop him, be rude even. But I am just a woman.