Commissioner Mfanozwele Shozi said SABC managers covered up for perpetrators, leading to the victimisation of complainants, who were forced to work alongside their perpetrators. Picture: Bhekikhaya Mabaso/Africa News Agency(ANA)

Johannesburg - An enquiry by a commission appointed to probe allegations of sexual harassment at the SA Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) found that management and unions trivialised complaints, with the human resources department ignoring the implementation of the corporation's sexual harassment policy.

The commission was comprised of experts in gender, law, social work and counselling. They received 40 submissions, interviewed 11 perpetrators for 10 cases lodged by complainants. At least 25 SABC managers were interviewed and seven cases lodged by whistleblowers. 

Commissioner Mfanozwele Shozi said SABC managers covered up for perpetrators, leading to the victimisation of complainants, who were forced to work alongside their perpetrators. The complainants ended up leaving the SABC due to undue pressure and inefficiencies by management, he said.

"Human resources did not do what it was supposed to do and follow SABC sexual harassment policy...the cases were badly handed by SABC human resources, They would not follow policy but deviate and opt to address the issue through talking. Complainants told us when one approaches human resources with sexual harassment cases and would be told 'don't worry, it happened before, you will be alright," Shozi said.

He mentioned various cases of women coming forward to state their cases. All cases of sexual harassment were by women against men, who were mostly their line managers at the public broadcaster. The names of complainants and perpetrators were withheld to allow the SABC  to implement the recommendations in the report.

In one case, hospitalisation and divorce befell a  female employee who suffered episodes of sexual harassment under her line manager. Her husband was also an employee at the SABC at that time She turned down sexual advances by line managers and laid a complaint with the human resources department. The manager remained persistent even when the woman told him he was a married woman, said Shozi.

"She would go home and tell her hubby about the problem she faced at work, just one week after her employment. The manager victimised her and did not recognise her work. At one point, she fainted at work was taken to hospital," he said.

"The manager once sent her a picture of a gun, telling her he was once a soldier. She resigned as this became too stressful and toxic. Her husband ended up resigning from the SABC too."

The couple ended up divorcing as a result of her suffering under her line manager. She took her case to the Commission of Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) and to the Labour Court.

"The manager was arrogant and refused to appear before us. He even approached his union in his quest to not give us answers. He then requested us to send him the allegations before he can say anything...he has never accounted to his behaviour until today. We recommend that the SABC immediately suspend him and investigate this matter," said Shozi.

Commission chairman Barbara Watson said sexual harassment was costly and cannot be taken lightly.

"This couple divorced... that is the tragedy of this case. The family is in poverty because of sexual harassment. The [human resources] HR and managers covered up. Of all the cases that were reported, no perpetrator was suspended or fired. Those who were charged got soft finding against them," she said.

She added that the human resources department demonstrated lack of knowledge and ability to execute its own policies. They lacked knowledge on gender relations and issues of power relations between men and women and had been complicit in the violation of the rights of complainants.

"One of the complainants wants redress in the form of an open hearing to confront her perpetrator. All complainants except for two were freelancers, showing how the power to hire and fire freelancers corrupted certain people in the SABC," she said.

"Most of the cases were older than five years, yet complainants still carried the pain and hope that one day they will see justice done for them. Some were still battling to cope emotionally when reliving the harassment and expressed the joy at having approached the commission, which they saw as independent and credible."

The internal investigation received submissions from all provinces except the Western Cape. 

African News Agency (ANA)