Lotus FM ‘sex pest’ claims probed
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Durban - A manager at the beleaguered Lotus FM radio station has been labelled a “sexual predator” who allegedly told young women to send him naked selfies in exchange for jobs.
The allegation comes from a highly placed source at the SABC, who said he was aware of more than one victim.
“Young women should not fall prey to people in authority just to get a job. This matter requires urgent attention,” he said.
A former Lotus FM employee, who worked at the station for more than a decade, claimed sexual harassment at the station was “a reality”.
She alleged that the station’s management even requested photographs of females when applying for jobs.
“We knew all too well about that roving eye. I also had advances made to me.”
Yesterday, SABC spokesperson Neo Momodu confirmed they had instituted a high-level commission of inquiry into the sexual harassment claims at Lotus FM.
Former eTV reporter and author Vanessa Govender has testified at the commission on the allegations of sexual harassment at the radio station.
Momodu said the outcomes of the inquiry and a forensic investigation would shed light on the veracity of the allegations and would allow them to make recommendations to the SABC management.
She urged all aggrieved parties to approach the commission before October 31.
Momodu added that the SABC management was aware of the challenges Lotus FM was facing and necessary steps were being taken to ensure the station’s stability.
Govender said she was asked to testify soon after the release of her book, Beaten But Not Broken.
“The commission tracked me down via my publishers and requested an interview with me. My commitment to helping other women, who have suffered similar physical, sexual and verbal abuse, compelled me to testify three weeks ago.
“I have been frank and brutally honest about my experience during my time at Lotus FM.
“I believe in the power and integrity of this commission and I have no doubt the SABC is also committed to cleaning out its corridors of the rot that has been tarnishing its image and credibility,” said Govender.
She said the commission had been ordered by the highest authority in this land “so, make no mistake, they mean business”.
Govender said she had not named her abuser publicly but the commission was aware of who it was.
“History is going to remember this time. The narrative of the South African Indian woman is being altered dramatically and drastically every time one of us speaks out.”
Govender described sex shaming, revenge porn and domestic violence as the “work of cowards and monsters masquerading as men”.
“They must now be the ones to live in fear and shame of being exposed for who and what they really are.”
She described the rot at Lotus FM as “deep-rooted”, revolving around certain individuals.
“These individuals - my abuser among them - have used Lotus FM as their personal playground to prey on female staff and listeners.”
With the rapidly declining listenership at the station, community leaders have called on the SABC to take decisive action.
The president of the South African Tamil Federation, Mickey Chetty, said the station should not suffer because of poor management. He described the allegations as serious and called on the commission to expedite its investigations.
The president of the South African Hindu Maha Sabha, Ashwin Trikamjee, said Lotus FM was a community radio station and called on the SABC to engage with the community to find solutions to the problems.
Dr Anshu Padayachee, of the Advice Desk for the Abused, said it was clear that Lotus FM was facing a leadership crisis.
“The root of the alleged sex scandals is (that) the leadership has failed to address these issues. The appropriate people who are able to deal with the mission and vision of the station must be appointed.”
MF leader Shameen Thakur-Rajbansi suggested the SABC conduct its investigations but an internal review needed to be held with all parties involved.
Former eThekwini speaker Logie Naidoo said the allegations were disturbing and a result of “poor management”.
Community activist Reverend Cyril Pillay said the station was “our national asset” and it should not be allowed to sink.
“I suggest that the rot be removed and call for religious and community leaders to rally around our radio station and host an indaba to reinstate morals, character and integrity in our present and new staff. Our forefathers taught us resilience and displayed a high work ethic.”
The chairperson of the South African Muslim Network, Dr Faisal Suliman, said the SABC has had crisis upon crisis in recent years.
“One hopes that this will not result in serious issues like accusations of sexual harassment and intimidation being ignored.”