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Durban - A senior official at the KwaZulu-Natal legislature, found guilty recently of sexual harassment of an intern, believes there is conspiracy to get rid of him because his position has already been promised to someone else.
Wesley Canham, a senior communications officer, makes this claim in an appeal submission to the disciplinary committee that found him guilty of gross misconduct.
Canham was charged with gross misconduct for repeated sexual harassment of the intern.
The intern had started work in February, but by April had become increasingly uneasy with the sexual advances, she said.
In April, the woman lodged a formal complaint against the official, alleging improper conduct, which included him kissing and touching her.
Canham alleges that his manager, Leon Mbangwa, had offered his position to another person, named as Ndumiso Radebe, and said he had text messages to prove this.
He argues that this evidence was disallowed during the hearing and had prejudiced his case.
However, Mbangwa said the legislature had processes and systems in place to recruit and employ people. “I, as Leon Mbangwa, do not have power to employ individuals,” he said.
Canham alleges that he was further prejudiced by the department’s human resource representative, who influenced what types of witnesses were allowed at the hearing.
At the disciplinary hearings, the intern claimed the official had set new office rules, which included demands that she kiss and hug him whenever he came into or left the workplace, as a sign of appreciation for the experience he was imparting to her.
Canham denied that there was a rule about the kissing and hugging.
The only rule he ever had, he said, was to bar interns from his office because they made a lot of noise.
He admits, however, that he shared a “deep kiss” with the complainant on March 13 after weeks of flirting with each other.
“The employee had testified that he had no intention of pursuing an affair or a relationship with the complainant; however this is not a case where his moral compass is put on trial. The issue is whether or not he continuously committed acts of sexual harassment,” his appeal submission reads.
He said he had “convincingly and successfully” argued during the hearing that he and his accuser were flirting with each other, which led to them sharing a kiss.
“This was unconvincingly denied by the complainant whose demeanour looked a bit rattled and shocked when this fact was brought up.”
Canham argued his accuser admitted that she had accepted lifts from him from Pietermaritzburg to Durban more than once.
“It is submitted that such a conduct cannot be attributed to a person that is fearful and uncomfortable (around the accused).”
However, Canham alleges that there was a “conspiracy” between his accuser and her witnesses who were seemingly being encouraged by other employees to get him dismissed.
Wonder Hlongwa, spokesman for KZN legislature Speaker Peggy Nkonyeni, said the official was still employed at the legislature.