Pretoria - In yet another blow for suspended DA councillor Thina Bambeni, she lost her legal bid to be reinstated and also did not succeed in her application that the disciplinary hearings against her be reviewed. Bambeni also lost her bid for an unreserved written apology about the way she claimed she was treated by the party.
Johannesburg High Court judge N Manoim said her application was premature, as the disciplinary proceedings against her were still ongoing.
The saga surrounding Bambeni started in July 2018, when she, as councillor in the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality, raised her hand to speak at a meeting of her party’s’ council caucus.
The agenda item then being discussed was known as the congratulations and condolences segment. But Bambeni spoke on neither of these topics. Instead to the surprise of all present she used the occasion to say that the chairperson of the caucus, Shadow Shabangu, had on four prior occasions sexually harassed her.
She claimed that her complaint was not properly dealt with and ultimately dismissed. Instead, it led to her as the complainant becoming the victim, as she then faced disciplinary action to remove her from the caucus, Bambeni told the court. The disciplinary process against her has yet to be concluded.
Bambeni’s allegations have led to several internal party enquiries, magistrate court proceedings brought by her against five DA councillors for protection orders, as well as two urgent applications to suspend the disciplinary enquiries against her.
Bambeni claimed that Shabangu had previously sexually harassed her.
She lodged a complaint in writing against Shabangu with senior members of the DA on the same day she rose to speak at the caucus.
Two days later a disciplinary committee convened and interviewed her brother and Shabangu concerning the complaint. The panel recommended mediation but both rejected this proposal.
Another panel later interviewed witnesses who Bambeni claimed would have overheard Shabangu’s remarks. According to the DA, none of these witnesses confirmed the applicant’s version.
She was then informed she must appear before a disciplinary committee to face a charge of laying a false complaint. A month later, in March 2019, she received a notice telling her she had been suspended from caucus activities.
She was later suspended from the party, pending the final outcome of a disciplinary hearing. This was after the DA’s Federal Legal Commission concluded there was no basis to her complaint against Shabangu.
Bambeni later succeeded in interdicting the further disciplinary proceedings against her pending the outcome of this latest application. She maintained that her complaint into Shabangu’s conduct was managed insensitively and without due regard to her feelings. She also objected that the party “turned her from a complainant into an accused”.
The DA, however, said she was the author of her own misfortune, both by exaggerating the facts and how she handled the matter.
Judge Manoim said that it was not necessary for the court to decide at this stage which party was correct regarding the facts of the matter. He said the disciplinary proceedings have not been finalised and it is thus premature to ask for an order to review it. The fact that she was suspended pending the finalisation of the disciplinary action did not change matters.
“Her suspension was not punitive as she remains a councillor and receives her full remuneration.”
Wanting an apology at this stage is also premature, the judge said.