Provincial traffic chief Farrel Payne
Provincial traffic chief Farrel Payne

’Traffic chief robbed me of my career’

By Chevon Booysen Time of article published Jun 18, 2021

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IN AN exclusive interview with the Cape Times, the woman sexually harassed allegedly by a senior provincial official has told of how the alleged incident robbed her of her career.

The woman, who did not want to be named out of fear of further victimisation, said she felt trapped while living like a hostage in her own home, afraid of bumping into her boss, provincial traffic chief Farrel Payne, who lives in a neighbouring community.

While no action has been taken against Payne, the woman remains on indefinite incapacity leave.

An internal investigation report into the matter was finalised nearly three months ago.

“I’ve been booked off month-to-month since October (last year), on incapacity leave due to the trauma and my psychiatrist has advised I will be booked off until the criminal case is over. It’s just very frustrating for me that the internal people (Department of Transport and Public Works) are taking their own sweet time. They have the conclusion of the internal investigation and have received the final report on April 8 already but still nothing is being done.

“It is a serious matter and they are just doing nothing. It’s frustrating for me here at home. I just wish my life could go on,” said the woman.

Department of Transport and Public Works spokesperson, Jandré Bakker, said: “(We) can confirm that the Head of Department has received the final report on the matter and is currently applying her mind to said report. Both parties remain employed in their positions.”

On further probing, Bakker did not confirm when the final internal investigation report was received and had not confirmed if an independent body had conducted the investigation.

The woman said Payne had made various inappropriate remarks towards her and the “last straw” was when he had allegedly grabbed at her jacket in the work corridor.

“September 11 last year was the last straw when he signed a document and told me I ‘look lekker from behind’. I turned around and almost gave him a smack and I told him this is the last time you touch me.

"He is getting away with murder. He can still work but I miss my job. He robbed me of my career ... that is the hardest part for me.”

Anti-GBV and community activist Alexis Serra slammed the department, which she accused of covering up for Payne, accusing senior management of interfering in the matter.

Serra has also slated the department for not appointing an independent investigation body, as promised by former MEC Bonginkosi Madikizela, to investigate the allegations against Payne.

“No independent organisation was used to investigate the victim’s report of sexual harassment against Payne to quell public perception that there would be no biased interference from senior management, as there was, when allegations of sexual harassment surfaced against him when he was the head of the Gene Louw College,” said Serra.

She said there was no due consideration given to the well-being of the woman and sense of urgency to conclude the internal investigation.

Madikizela, before resigning as an MEC, had told the ANC MPL Pat Lekker in his reply to a question that the decision not to suspend Payne was based on “a fair and objective assessment of all the relevant factors that need to be considered before an employee is suspended as a precautionary measure”.

The department was aware that a criminal complaint had been lodged by the complainant against the official with the police, he said.

”While it is accepted that the claims made by the complainant are serious, this is not the only factor that needs to be considered. Not all allegations of serious misconduct have resulted in the precautionary suspension of employees. The concerns raised that the official may endanger the complainant’s well-being have been addressed directly by the HOD who has from the inception of this matter instructed the official not to interfere with this investigation and to refrain from making any contact with the complainant,” Madikizela had said.

Approached for comment on Thursday, Payne would only say: "I'm not allowed to comment." He referred questions to Bakker.

The Cape Times has seen a letter addressed to a Warrant Officer Rowan Andrews by advocate K Reinecke, deputy director-general for transport management, dated October 23, 2020, confirming that both Payne and the victim belonged to a directorate of which he was in charge.

According to the letter, the woman would be placed in a different building from Payne and a specific work restriction placed on Payne prohibiting him from entering that building until the conclusion of the criminal matter.

“Should any additional bail conditions be placed on Mr Payne by the court, I wish to confirm that our department will alter the work conditions of Mr Payne to ensure that those bail conditions are met,” read the letter.

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