Pretoria - A high-level investigation has commenced into allegations that a senior colonel at the SAPS Training College in Hammanskraal, north of Pretoria, sexually harassed a student.
National police spokesman Lieutenant-General Solomon Makgale said given the matter’s seriousness, it had been escalated to head office and was receiving urgent attention.
“We have made contact with the complainant to ascertain exactly what happened. We instructed the person appointed to attend to sexual harassment matters to send the complainant’s report to head office.
The student said she went to the colonel’s office to request a gate-pass, but he pushed her against the wall and forced himself on her.
The 36-year-old sergeant and divorced mother of three had finished her exams. She then booked a bus to her home in the Eastern Cape. She had been attending a course on resolving crime.
She had regarded the colonel, as a father figure, she said. He pretended to be passing her the paperwork but allegedly grabbed her, pinned her against the wall and fondled her private parts, she claimed.
“I pleaded with him to stop, telling him hayi colonel, hayi colonel (no colonel, no colonel),” she said.
Her appeal for help to another officer, who was working on the computer in the same room, yielded no response.
“I can still see the look on the colonel’s face. I told him I would suffocate if he kept pushing me against the wall,” she said, speaking on condition that her identity was not revealed.
The colonel had his penis out. “I could feel it touching me,” she recalled.
Realising he had no intention of stopping, the sergeant resorted to being submissive.
She was too traumatised to reveal the graphic details of what had happened when she spoke to the Pretoria News.
The colonel kept talking to her, asking which class she was in, to which she responded, Class 16.
He demanded to know why she not visited his office often. She told him the class was too far from his office.
He eventually allowed her to leave, but only after making her promise to phone him when she returned to the college, and that she would not tell anyone about what had happened.
The sergeant, who has been in the SAPS for 11 years, reported the incident to an officer who deals with sexual harassment cases.
Together they went to the colonel’s office to talk to him, but he was not available. He was phoned and he promised to return after 3pm. However, the alleged victim had to be on the bus by that time, and could not wait for the meeting.
She later spoke to a social worker at head office, but nothing was done.
Desperate, she wrote to the brigadier in charge of the college. He too never responded.
At least two senior officials were aware of the incident, but instead of dealing with it, they isolated her, she said.
They told her to stop going to parade so that she would not see the colonel. At get-togethers, they would ask others to dish up food for her.
“I fear for my colleagues who are still at the college,” she said.
The incident is the third within a month at the SAPS.
A senior official in the forensic science laboratory in Silverton, Pretoria, was suspended for sexually harassing a clerk, Mapula Makwela, for almost two years.
Thabi Kunene, who works in the same unit in KwaZulu-Natal, went through the same ordeal.
Both expressed unhappiness at the manner in which the cases were handled by management.
They are undergoing counselling and doing well.
Internal processes on Makwela’s case are under way, while Kunene was transferred to another area.
She has turned her attention to studying and community work as a way of healing.
Makgale said that from an employer’s perspective it was always disappointing to hear about these incidents.
“We assure the complainant and the concerned public that this matter will be thoroughly investigated and corrective action taken,” he added.