Johannesburg - Home Affairs has accused the Human Rights Commission of doing a shoddy investigation into the inhumane conditions of strippers at a Cape Town club.
The department has now asked the Western Cape High Court to instead consider getting the Hawks to investigate the plight of the strippers at Mavericks.
The request comes after the commission released a draft report on its investigation.
The draft report was issued by the commission in October, saying that while no incidence of trafficking of women could be established, the dancers’ right to dignity had been violated because women were required to perform even when they were menstruating.
The report recommended that the club comply with labour law legislation and that the Department of Labour ensure that this happen. It also recommended that the Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Bill be passed.
But, according to the department, the commission’s findings were hopelessly unreliable, its recommendations inappropriate and the court could therefore not rely on them.
“Save for its finding that the (dancers’ rights to dignity had been violated) the commission was reluctant to state categorically that there has been a violation of human rights by Mavericks,” it said in papers filed in court.
On Friday, the commission’s spokesman, Isaac Mangena, said the department’s response to the draft report was premature and the final report would only be issued on January 25.
The matter dates to October 2011, when the department withdrew the club’s two corporate permits to bring dancers into the country, alleging it did not ensure that its dancers left the country when their work permits expired.
In February, the club took the department to court to declare the withdrawal of its licences unconstitutional and to stop the department from deporting its foreign dancers.
Judge Siraj Desai dismissed the application, but ordered the commission to probe the conditions the dancers were working under.
But in papers, the department accused the commission of doing a simple on-site inspection of the premises with its manager and accounting officer.
“It is thus not surprising that during this inspection, it witnessed choreography lessons being given to a dancer. The inference is inescapable that this was staged.”
It says the commission did not try to visit the club incognito during its hours of operation to see precisely what took place.
Had it done this, it would have been able to tell how patrons interacted with women, what took place in the private booths and how the women were treated by patrons and management.
In the department’s opinion, Mavericks grossly violated several fundamental rights, including the right to dignity, the right not to be subjected to slavery, servitude or forced labour, the right to fair labour practices and the right to privacy.
According to the commission’s report, the terms of employment of exotic dancers were unclear and ambiguous.
But the department said the commission was mistaken and that the contracts were extremely exploitative and constituted de facto slavery, which violated the constitution.
Its reasoning was that the dancers did not earn a wage, but had to pay the club R2 000 a week. Foreign dancers were obliged to use the accommodation at a cost of R850 and were paid in “beaver bucks”, a currency used by the club.
The dancers work nine-hour shifts, five days a week, and 15 hours on a Friday, and had to give Mavericks a portion of the money they earned for private dances, had to drink alcohol during shifts and striptease even when they were menstruating.
They were fined R12 000 if they wanted to leave the club, R1 500 if they reported for work late or wanted to leave early and R200 for chewing gum.
Mavericks owner Shane Harrison said they would wait for the final report to be presented in January. - Sunday Independent