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Cape Town - The struggle for political parties to respond to sexual harassment and violence allegations against their members has encouraged the Dullah Omar Institute and Lawyers for Human Rights, through the #NotOurLeaders campaign to probe parties’ policies.

Vivienne Mentor-Lalu of the Dullah Omar Institute’s Women and Democracy Initiative, said that based on reports they noticed a trend where elected leaders are linked to sexual violence and abuse incidents. She said this happened in political parties, government departments and legislatures across the board.

“The legislatures oversee and make laws. But when it comes to sexual harassment they seem to think they do not need the law.

“We essentially asked for very basic information in relation to these critical leadership structures’ approach to sexual harassment and violence. We asked for copies of internal sexual harassment policies, what law and policy they rely on when faced with complaints of sexual misconduct or gender-based violence, and what mechanisms they have in place to address sexual misconduct,” said Mentor-Lalu.

She said through the campaign the organisations have written to at least four major political parties and all nine provincial legislatures to get copies of their sexual harassment policies and probe any gaps in the policies or implementations of it.

To date only the Western Cape and Eastern Cape have responded with the copies. She said the EFF promised to send its copy, but has not.

Lisa Vetten, a gender-violence specialist, said the non-response was not a shock.

“This is not surprising in a country where Mduduzi Manana admits to assaulting two women, possibly a third, and is then allowed to resign as MP almost a year to the day later. A known abuser was permitted to continue to represent people of South Africa in Parliament, for a full year. This is the state of political leadership on violence against women,” she said.

#NotOurLeaders campaign will send formal legal requests, in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act, for the outstanding information to political parties and structures who have not supplied their policies. The recipients will have 30 days to respond.

ANC MPL in the Social Development portfolio committee, Pholisa Makeleni, said the ANC members were governed by the party’s constitution which served as a guideline of how members should behave.

“The ANC is a non-sexist organisation where women are looked at as comrade, equals. We have the Women’s League that champions women protection and rights,” she said.

The DA’s Nomafrench Mbombo said the party had a sexual harassment policy passed by Federal Executive Committee.

“The policy was adopted because we believe a strong guiding policy is required which will deal with sexual harassment cases,” she said.

Faranaaz Gafoor, EFF regional co-ordinator, said the party acted against any form of violence against women and children.

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