'Sex-pest' case continues to dog minister

By Christelle Terreblanche Time of article published Jun 13, 2004

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The Commission on Gender Equality is considering issuing a subpoena to Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the foreign minister, to answer questions relating to her exoneration of alleged "sex-pest diplomat" Norman Mashabane.

Nombuso Shabalala, a commiswoman, said this was because she failed to respond to questions on the matter sent to her more than three months ago.

"We will subpoena the minister if she fails to respond to the questions," she said.

Shabalala was speaking on behalf of the commission's investigator, Matari Mashawu, who she said was pursuing the matter brought to the commission by some of the victims.

Mashabane, South Africa's ambassador to Indonesia, was found guilty of more than 20 cases of sexual harassment but this was overturned on appeal by Dlamini-Zuma.

He alleged the claims were fabricated after he uncovered corruption among diplomatic staff in Jakarta.

Dlamini-Zuma last week confirmed that she believed some of the women might have colluded against Mashabane by fabricating harassment claims against him.

During debate on her budget vote in parliament, Dlamini-Zuma said Mashabane had blown the whistle on a "corrupt scam on cars in Indonesia" and had repeatedly asked the department to investigate the matter.

Asked in an interview if she honestly believed the women had colluded because he had uncovered a scam among staff, she said: "Yes. Yes."

"They all colluded?" she was asked.

"I don't know whether all," she said. "But if you have some women putting charges around the same issue and one of them later writes and signs a letter to say they were asked to collude ... Once there is doubt like that, what do you do?

"For you as a fair manager, you have to have been satisfied beyond doubt that the person is guilty."

Dlamini-Zuma told reporters that the police had given an interim report and were continuing their investigations.

"The interim report does show there is a problem," she said.

Mashabane would continue as ambassador until she was sure he was not a victim of a campaign to undermine him, she said.

The Mashabane case is also under investigation by the public protector following two complaints lodged by the Democratic Alliance.

The first case does not deal with Mashabane's conduct or that of the foreign ministry, but the fact that the appeal, which cleared him, took so long to finalise. He was found guilty of misconduct in 2001 but acquitted only this year.

The second complaint wants Lawrence Mushwana, the public protector, to investigate whether the foreign affairs minister's decision to uphold Mashabane's appeal was politically motivated.

Ironically, Nicolette Teichmann, a spokewoman for the public protector, said Dlamini-Zuma had swiftly responded to questions sent to her by Mushwana.

He had already requested further clarification from her.

"We are definitely looking into both matters," Teichmann said.

Asked why Dlamini-Zuma had not yet responded to the Commission on Gender Equality's questions, Ronnie Mamoepa, the foreign affairs spokesman, said he was sure the minister was still considering the questions. "She will respond to the gender commission, not the media," he said.

On suggestions that parliament should consider its oversight of the matter, chairperson of committees Geoff Doidge said parliament could take up the case only if it received a petition from the public.

"If so, the speaker would have to decide on its merits and refer it to the most appropriate committee," Doidge said. This would most likely be either the committee on foreign affairs or the joint monitoring committee on the status of women.

However, the women's committee has not yet been constituted by the new parliament.

Doidge said this committee would be constituted soon and that he was waiting for the names of MPs to serve on it.

The charges against Mashabane stemmed from complaints by Indo-nesian and South African staff at the embassy in Jakarta.

He was found guilty in 2001 on 21 workplace charges, and a panel recommended that he be fired.

The complaints included stro-king the buttocks of an employee, molesting a staff member in a lift and making suggestive gestures with his tongue to an embassy employee.

In June last year, another charge was laid against him by a South African staffer and he was again found guilty.

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