News / South Africa / Courts
The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) has upheld a sexual harassment claim against ex-Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC) president, union bigwig and CCMA board member Narius Moloto.
This on the back of shocking testimony from former Building, Construction and Allied Workers’ Union (BCAWU) stafferTshepang Pitsi.
Moloto, the general secretary of BCAWU, yesterday denied all allegations against him. But at the CCMA hearing, Pitsi testified to a number of incidents ranging from him calling her “baby” and sending her explicit videos and text messages – one of which he said “Give me the vagina”.
She even told of having to resort to threatening him with hot water after an incident in the office kitchen.
“He massaged her buttocks and she objected. He said that she was uptight. These advances made her uncomfortable and unsafe. She threatened to pour hot water over him and he stopped. She felt like he could rape her and did not feel safe in his space,” commissioner Johnny Mathebula – who presided over the case – said as he recounted her evidence in handing down his decision on Tuesday.
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Pitsi brought the CCMA case against BCAWU, which axed her shortly after she lodged an internal complaint against Moloto. It was, however, not about Pitsi’s dismissal but rather BCAWU’s liability for her sexual harassment. Ultimately, the commission found Pitsi had indeed been subjected to sexual harassment at the hands of Moloto.
Mathebula said she had provided “overwhelming” evidence and that in the absence of any contradictory evidence from Moloto himself – who didn’t testify – this stood unchallenged.
The union was found liable for R50 000 worth of damages. Mathebula labelled “a sham” the follow up process instituted in response to the internal complaint Pitsi lodged, which was promptly abandoned.
At the hearing, Pitsi testified to having been reluctant to rock the boat by lodging an official complaint in the beginning but in mid-2018, finally working up the courage.
But aside from a single meeting arranged with then president Strike Makutu and current incumbent Medupi Maile, her complaint was met with silence. And three months later, she was dismissed after being accused of having a bad attitude.
Maile testified that the union’s leadership had met, too, with Moloto, who had explained the explicit videos he had sentPitsi by saying his phone had contracted a virus.
Moreover, he claimed Pitsi had refused to provide any evidence to back up her complaint and that there was nothing they could do.
Mathebula wound up accepting her version of events – that she in fact volunteered to provide same but was told it was unnecessary – instead, and found “there was a failure on the part of the employer to consult” and “nothing to show that [the union] took any steps that were reasonably practicable to rid itself of such conduct”.
Moloto yesterday referred questions on the award to Maile but disputed the CCMA’s findings – insistent they weren’t appraised of the allegations beforehand.
He said he had not been able to testify before the CCMA because of a related application pending before the Labour Court but denied any wrongdoing.
“Those things are false, they are man-made,” he said.
Maile was unavailable on thecontact number provided. Various other union officials, too, were unavailable.
The Commission for Gender Equality had a special focus on workplace sexual harassment during this year’s 16 days of activism for no violence against women and children campaign and said the organisation’s Javu Baloyi yesterday, the issue was “prevalent”.
He said many organisations didn’t have policies that spoke to sexual harassment or struggled to implement their policies. He highlighted the dynamics at play, saying: “It’s also about power relations. We see oftentimes junior staff members, interns and others are being abused by senior people but that everyone looks the other