Tangled web of blame
Western Cape community safety minister Lennit Max’s PA, Patricia Lloyd, and office manager Nicolette Van Zyl-Gous were “ganging up to protect their jobs” by denying allegations that Max had made sexual advances to them, Max’s axed spokesperson, Julian Jansen, claimed this week.
Punted as a possible replacement for the Democratic Alliance’s provincial leader, Theuns Botha, Max’s chances looked dim last week when a former Lansdowne police clerk, Belinda Petersen, claimed she had had sex with him in exchange for legal advice in a disciplinary hearing she faced at work three years ago.
An advocate, Max has denied the sensational claim, saying he withdrew from her case when Petersen made sexual advances to him. Max’s woes appeared to deepen this week when it emerged that Jansen had written to Western Cape Premier Helen Zille alleging that his former boss made sexual advances to Lloyd, who had confided in him, and Van Zyl-Gous.
Both women, who are married, told the Mail & Guardian that the allegations were false and embarrassing. Told of Jansen’s letter to Zille, they said they asked for a meeting with her to set the record straight.
“There has been no impropriety and Lennit Max did not make any advances to me,” Lloyd said.
Van Zyl-Gous said that while lurid headlines dominated the press in the past week, they were trying to focus on their work. “It’s business as usual in this office,” she said. “All the urgent stuff is being handled by the premier.”
Asked if Max had made advances to her, Van Zyl-Gous said: “Personally towards me, never.”
Jansen is appealing against his dismissal in February. A former teacher for 18 years and journalist for three, he was accused of neglecting his duties and found guilty on four charges by a disciplinary committee. But he claims Max charged him because of “extremely stressful” undercurrents in the office.
Jansen claims Max had once told him he had placed a camera in a pen on his desk and had footage of Jansen and Van Zyl-Gous in a compromising position. Max had also sent him text messages asking whether he had had sex with Van Zyl-Gous, Jansen said, as well as insisting that he explain to the staff that there was no affair and publicly apologise for spending so much time with Van Zyl-Gous.
Max could not be reached for comment, but Van Zyl-Gous said: “That is unfortunately not true. I know minister Max denied spying on the two of us, as there was never any form of intimacy between me and Jansen,” she said. “I don’t know why Jansen is making these claims.”
Van Zyl-Gous said she did not want to tarnish Jansen’s professional integrity, but had to defend herself. She believed that he might feel aggrieved because she had given him written and verbal reprimands because his performance was substandard.
Jansen said he had done “a fair and good job” after becoming Max’s spokesperson last July. “But I always felt under threat, because doubt and mistrust always permeated the office.” He said his tenure had been “sad and traumatic” and he had been placed on antidepressants after his suspension.
Max was granted special leave on full pay to deal with the controversy. He has threatened lawsuits against Jansen and various journalists and newspapers. He has also insisted that he could not have fathered a love child with Petersen because of an undisclosed medical condition.
Lodging a complaint of extortion against Petersen at the Cape Town police station last week, he said she had threatened to leak her story to a tabloid newspaper if he did not hire her as his spokesperson.
While Western Cape police commissioner before his ministerial appointment, Max was linked to two sexual harassment cases. The allegations were investigated and found to be without substance, he said in a statement, and in both cases, they followed disciplinary action against the complainants.
Insisting that the latest saga was part of a smear campaign, he described Jansen as “an aggrieved individual” who would soon be issued with legal papers “to afford him the opportunity” to prove his allegations.