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Durban - A disciplinary panel has found a senior official at the KwaZulu-Natal legislature guilty of gross misconduct after allegations of sexual harassment were levelled against him earlier this year.
The official, a senior communications officer at the legislature, was charged with gross misconduct for repeated sexual harassment of a female intern.
The Daily News is in possession of a copy of the disciplinary hearing findings.
The intern had started work in February, but by April had become increasingly uneasy with the sexual advances, she had said.
In April the woman lodged a formal complaint against the official, alleging improper conduct, which included him kissing and touching her.
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 on her.
In her letter to a senior manager she complained about the “strange” office rules and the official’s “uncouth conduct”.
She also raised her concerns with the official in an e-mail.
“The way you touch me when we are alone at the office (which you call a massage) makes me very uncomfortable, sometimes I let it happen because I am scared of what you must say if I refuse to it (sic),” she wrote.
Responding, the official allegedly wrote: “It’s ok.”
He said the reason why he told her “It’s ok” was because he felt he was responding to a girlfriend who was saying it was over.
The official said the intern often wanted him to comment on what she was wearing and when she came into the office in the morning she would hug him freely.
He testified that on March 13 he and the intern shared a “consensual deep kiss”, alleging this happened while he was on leave and after the intern called him to say she was not coping with the requisitions at the office.
He said the kiss was the result of what was first a brother-sister closeness that went beyond this.
The hearing’s presiding officer, FA Myeza, found that the official should have known what constituted sexual harassment.
“It follows that he ought to have been aware that such conduct is not acceptable at the workplace,” Myeza said. “Furthermore his ‘ok’ answer must be understood, (and) I find it, to be an admission that he indeed committed acts of sexual harassment which started from a conversation on or about February 12 and continued again at the office until formally reported.”
Wonder Hlongwa, spokesman for KZN legislature Speaker Peggy Nkonyeni, said the official was still employed at the legislature.
He said the official had the right to appeal the findings and that the matter was sub-judice.
The official declined to speak to the Daily News and referred questions to union representative, Zola Saphetha.
Saphetha could not be reached for comment at the time of publishing on Friday.