Edmund van Vuuren
Cape Town - The DA has terminated the membership of its former Eastern Cape chief whip Edmund van Vuuren, who was found guilty of sexual harassment of a staff member.

Van Vuuren was found guilty on one of the four charges he initially faced following an internal disciplinary process by the party’s Federal Legal Commission (FLC) panel.

The complaints were lodged by a 26-year-old woman. It was alleged Van Vuuren had made inappropriate comments to the recently married woman during a telephone call, including offering to stand in for her husband “if necessary”, the Women and Democracy Initiative (WDI) at the University of the Western Cape’s Dullah Omar Institute.

The FLC panel had recommended his removal from the position of chief whip and termination of his membership of the party, but that this be suspended until 2019. 

But DA Federal chairperson James Selfe on Wednesday told the Cape Times they had recently resolved that the penalty was “inappropriately lenient”, and substituted a penalty that his membership be terminated, adding that Van Vuuren had the right to appeal.

“Mr van Vuuren was found guilty of sexual harassment by a panel of the Federal Legal Commission (FLC). It recommended that Mr van Vuuren be removed as the chief whip and that his membership be terminated, but that this termination be suspended until 2019. 

"This sanction was reviewed by the federal executive at its meeting on November 25, 2017.”

This as the WDI called on the DA to explain why Van Vuuren, continues to hold senior positions in the provincial legislature.

As part of this year’s 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children, the WDI, Lawyers for Human Rights, and gender violence specialist Lisa Vetten, under the #NotOurLeaders campaign, have turned the spotlight on political representatives accused of sexual violence, and what they said were practices that protect and enable their sexual misconduct and abuse.

WDI’s Vivienne Mentor-Lalu said that to date, the impact of that process on Van Vuuren within the party and in the EC Legislature seems to have been zero.

“Little wonder that the other complaints went nowhere. The DA has no policy on sexual harassment of their staff by its members, which complicated the commission’s handling of the Van Vuuren matter. In the absence of a policy, the commission had to turn to the Labour Relations Act and its Code of Good Practice on the handling of sexual harassment incidents,” said Vetten.

The #NotOurLeaders campaign wants the DA to report on whether it followed the recommendations of the commission to undertake further investigation into the offices of the DA Eastern Cape Legislature.

Selfe said the delay in finalising this matter was largely due to the unavailability of Van Vuuren’s legal counsel. “The DA has several policies dealing with sexual harassment, but none deal with incidents involving staff and public representatives. This is now being addressed.” 

Van Vuuren said he would not comment as he was in a meeting on Wednesday.

Cape Times