Working for access to quality public healthcare in South Africa since 1998
26 Jul 2019

TAC Statement: TAC update on sexual harassment case within the organisation

25 July 2019, Johannesburg – On Friday 19 July 2019, Health-e published an article titled “TAC Protected the Man who Sexually Harassed Me”. A version of the article was also republished in the Daily Maverick. At the time, there was immense pressure on the TAC to make a public statement even though a number of consultations were taking place. On the 21st of July, TAC responded with a statement in good faith, to show that it was taking the claims in the article seriously, but also attempting to give some detail on its own processes that were at the time known around this case. The statement also made it plain that the leadership of the organisation had extricated itself from the investigation and adjudication processes, as stipulated in our sexual harassment policy. You can read our statement here.

 

As the Treatment Action Campaign, we reiterate our sincere apology made in our first statement to the survivor that this occurred under our watch. While much was done, we acknowledge that we could have handled some things much better. We commit to organisational self correction. We further reiterate that we did not try to cover up any heinous act as the TAC or as the TAC leadership. 

 

Details

 

We believe it important to take supporters of TAC and those who have made a number of public statements into our confidence, not only because we have nothing to hide, but because we believe that this will assist to show that there was no malice involved or any intention to “cover it up”, as was claimed by some. It is worth reiterating some of the processes taken after this came to light. 

 

  • When this matter was first brought to our attention on the 10th of September 2018, the organisation immediately suspended the then accused on his return from a trip out of the country.
  • We consulted a Board member who is a senior attorney from Webber Wentzel in order to receive advice on how to respond appropriately and lawfully.
  • Thereafter we engaged independent consultants from Central Intelligence and Investigations to investigate, as per our policy.
  • The firm, which operated completely independent from the TAC, in consultation with the parties identified witnesses, conducted interviews, and obtained relevant documentation.
  • The complainant was also offered counselling at various stages through the organisation’s HR department. She sent TAC her medical bill, which the organisation has paid.
  • Based on the report of the independent investigation which was given to members of the TAC leadership, TAC instituted disciplinary proceedings against the national staff member in question.
  • An independent Chair from Webber, Cooper and Lockman was appointed. An initiator from Labourworx, Mr Jan Mosert, was also appointed and was responsible for bringing the case in front of the Chair.
  • The hearing was held on 25 April 2019 and a continuance was held on 13 May 2019. After hearing evidence, the independent chair made findings. The then accused was found guilty.
  • After this both the employer, TAC, and the guilty employee were invited to make arguments in aggravation and mitigation related to the guilty verdict. TAC, as the employer, argued that a dismissal was justified for a number of reasons.
  • On 17 June 2019 the Chair sanctioned that actions should be taken against the guilty party based on her analysis of relevant law and the TAC Sexual Harassment Policy. These rulings/recommendations have been fully complied with. 

 

Since the publication of the article, the TAC has engaged in the following processes. We have:

 

  • held two urgent Board of Directors meetings; 
  • held multiple National Office Bearers meetings (This is the TAC’s national governance leaders);
  • held a National Council meeting, the organisation’s highest decision making body in-between Congresses, involving National and provincial leadership. This meeting was convened in Johannesburg on the 24th and 25th of July 2019; 
  • we have consulted legal experts and reviewed the processes followed in the initial case reviewed. Senior leaders cancelled long-time commitments at international meetings and our National Chairperson who was already in Mexico immediately returned home;
  • reached out to the victim and offered her further support;
  • we have met with the Raith Foundation, one of our core funders and communicated with a number of other funders.
  • we have held a public meeting on 26 July 2019 to highlight where we are now, in a bid to get buy-in and ideas for organisational correction. We value the input given from comrades in attendance.  

 

The way forward 

 

After reflection, revisiting the process and multiple consultations, the following steps are taking place with immediate effect.

 

  • Our National Organiser has received a summary dismissal. We believe that it is a more appropriate sanction, consistent with the employer’s Disciplinary Code and previous action taken against employees in similar cases. The organisation did so under clause 6.3.2 (xi) of the Staff Disciplinary Code and Procedure where it states that: 

“Senior management may review any sanction imposed by a Chairperson of a disciplinary enquiry or a disciplinary meeting should this be deemed necessary”. 

Womxn should never feel unsafe in any space and we reaffirm our commitment to make TAC a better and safer space for all. We are aware that this will likely come with significant cost and operational implications. We strongly feel that this is necessary in order to make our space better. 

  • TAC’s Sexual Harassment policy is being reviewed extensively to make it more reflective of our organisational principles and core values. 
  • The TAC’s National Council, comprised of our National Office Bearers, Provincial Chairpersons and Provincial Managers resolved to go back to all spheres where TAC works and will engage our membership and staff through workshops on the organization’s sexual harassment policy. The first phase of these will be resolved in the next 3 months.
  • The organisation will reach out to organisations with more knowledge on sexual harassment in order to learn from them. 
  • The organisation endeavours to co-create a better and safer space for women in the sector. We will reach out to Equal Education in order to have discussions so that other organisations may learn from our mistakes. 
  • The organisation, in pursuance with a comment made by at the public meeting, will look to push for a civil society wide sexual harassment body that was suggested last year. 

 

The TAC leadership, specifically the women leadership, would like to thank those who supported us during this difficult and deeply painful time. We would specifically like to thank those who did not believe the malicious claims that we had sold out the victim and had chosen to not support her or cover the matter up. It is not who we are. We have made hugely personal sacrifices to build the TAC. Our blood, sweat and tears are the foundation of this organisation. The TAC will rise and learn from what has happened and will continue to be a leading voice in the cry against the evil of rape, sexual violence, sexual harrassment, patriarchy and other gender based violence.

 

We stress that no one will be victimised based on this case or any other case brought forward. 

 

We accept and welcome the genuine concern of the media and the right of the media to investigate and report on sexual harassment and gender-based violence in the public interest. Our leadership will be available to conduct interviews. 

 

Media can contact:

 

Vuyokazi Gonyela (Deputy General Secretary): +27 73 636 1373 or via email: gonyela@section27.org.za 

 

Sibongile Tshabalala (National Chairperson): +27 74 471 6318 or via email: sibongile.t@tac.org.za 

 

Anele Yawa (General Secretary): +27 64 850 6521 or via email: anele.yawa@tac.org.za 

 

If unavailable, please contact: 

 

Ngqabutho Mpofu (Advocacy and Communications Manager): 061 807 6443 or via email: ngqabutho.mpofu@tac.org.za