Pretoria - The senior Tshwane municipality official who allegedly made sexually suggestive remarks to a junior staffer had a case to answer, the Sonke Gender Justice said on Monday.
Mbuyiselo Botha, spokesman for the organisation, said there was an element of inequality, as well as abuse of power in the statement that has since prompted the staffer, Miriam Mhlongo, to file a complaint of sexual harassment against the official.
The corporate and shared services department official, who cannot be named until he has pleaded, allegedly told Mhlongo: “If you agreed long time ago to do something with me, you wouldn’t have suffered like you did.” He also asked “what she had” against city manager Jason Ngobeni that made him want to resolve the work-related problems she raised with him.
After Mhlongo laid the complaint, the city charged her for claiming an official sexually harassed her and wanted her to exchange sexual favours with him in return for a promotion.
Botha said the statements were not properly tagged and therefore undermined the integrity of Mhlongo. He said most employers did not have a clear policy on sexual harassment, and senior officials often took advantage of this.
They did as they pleased and treated women in the most inappropriate ways, Botha said. “We do conduct awareness campaigns and training in private and public sectors, including local government.
“However, we have not made a concerted effort to reach out to the Tshwane municipality in this regard, something we will look to change in the future.”
Botha urged victims of sexual harassment to speak out, seek help and ensure management was aware.
Mhlongo said she was unhappy in the manner in which her complaints were handled, saying she had made numerous attempts to meet Ngobeni to discuss the matter, but her requests were denied by his support staff.
Her work-related issues included claims that that city was creating unapproved positions, denying her a chance to attend training courses and failing to grant her salary hikes or offer her higher positions.
In 2011, Mhlongo was fired from the city for what she described as blowing the whistle on the “waste” of public money by advertising and filing positions that were not budgeted for. She was reinstated following arbitration. She claims some people wanted her out of the job again.
“Since my reinstatement, I have been rendered redundant, denied job promotion and career growth opportunities, forced to pay and given unpaid leave for work-related training, denied access to the work system and information,” she said.
City of Tshwane spokesman Selby Bokaba said Mhlongo’s complaint was taken seriously, hence the appointment of a senior manager to investigate the allegations.
He said the investigator would submit findings to the city manager this Thursday.
Bokaba rejected Mhlongo’s claim that Ngobeni failed to meet her to hear her side of the story, despite being aware of it. “We view harassment of any sort in a very serious light and will act decisively without fear or favour against anyone who is found guilty of such.”
But Mhlongo said she refused to co-operate with the investigation, arguing that arbitration on the charges the city laid against her, including that she accused the official of sexual harassment, was still pending. The city investigation was just a flimsy attempt to rectify the situation on realisation that the matter was not handled properly.