LETTER: Civil society condemns Satchwell report

The writers do not think that an inquiry like this can make any legitimate findings unless the survivors’ experiences have been considered as evidence. (Graphic: John McCann/M&G)

The writers do not think that an inquiry like this can make any legitimate findings unless the survivors’ experiences have been considered as evidence. (Graphic: John McCann/M&G)

LETTER

As members of civil society we strongly condemn the ‘findings’ of the Equal Education appointed panel of inquiry into sexual harassment, and stand by those whose voices and statements were dismissed by the panel because they asked for protection, and who have been dealt a great injustice as a result.

Rather than taking the opportunity to think deeply about how to craft a victim-centred approach to investigating sexual harassment and intimidation, the panel has hidden behind unconvincing legal and procedural arguments to dismiss all submissions because they were made anonymously. It considered the needs of powerful men over the submissions of 19 women who came forward to meet with lawyers and share their stories, some of whom agreed to be questioned via their lawyers, but chose not to disclose their names to the panel for fear of reprisal and retaliation.

We strongly condemn this. 

To ‘clear’ someone from wrongdoing and to call their version of events ‘plausible’ without considering any of the evidence submitted from victims is utterly inappropriate.

We are aware that sexual harassment and sexual abuse is widespread across all parts of South African society, including civil society, and we have seen how women who speak out about their experiences consistently face discrimination, abuse and threats on their well-being. We believe that until this changes, being able to submit complaints anonymously is vital for ensuring the safety of victims.

It is clear that this panel was never concerned with running a victim-centred process.
Their lengthy report merely underscores how little they wish to empathise with those who said they were sexually harassed and abused. The language used in the report illustrates this; at one point Judge Kathleen Satchwell describes her feelings of ‘disgust’ for women who submit confidential testimony and choose not to expose their identity.

EDITORIAL: We will continue to tell the news

From the 19 submissions they did not consider, as well as ‘Jane’s’ account shared in the Mail and Guardian, it is obvious that there are many people who want to speak. Failing to consider this while ‘clearing’ Isaacs and Achmat of wrongdoing is wrong, and affirms the long held reputation of these men as powerful and therefore unaccountable.

We do not think that an inquiry like this can make any legitimate findings unless the survivors’ experiences have been considered as evidence.

We note that the only panellist with expertise in gender justice and women’s rights, Professor Manjoo, has distanced herself from this report and its findings, stating that “ I find myself unable to associate myself with the findings…. this report reads like a judgement and makes findings which include exonerating individuals — despite us not hearing the victims (by their choice), not discussing fully the 19 statements received (which we agreed was not evidence — but which we cannot pretend does not include substance worthy of our attention), and also not having tested the authenticity of documents produced, especially by Isaacs and Achmat….”.

READ MORE: Independent inquiry clears former Equal Education leaders

We call for Equal Education to make a public statement acknowledging the shortcomings of the ‘findings’, distancing itself from the report and committing to a properly victim-centred approach to set a precedent for adequately and sensitively dealing with sexual harassment.

Following the publication of this letter, the following people added their names to this statement — David Lydall, Camaren Peter, Indira Govender, Claudia Gastrow, Fezile Kanju, Vuyiswa Doo, Jane Qui, Jennifer Radloff, Gcobani Qambela, Phumi Mtetwa, Niall Reddy, Nolene Morris, Femke Brandt, Daniel Mackintosh, Sithabile Ncube, Tapuwa Moore, Zaide Harneker, Astrid Turner, Gathoni Blessol, Gavin Singh, Sham Moodley, Buhle Xaba, Arvin Nirmal, Mishca Peters, Rahma Leuner, Anand Govender, Katleho Shoro, Pancho Ramith, Janine Moolman, Paddy Nhlapo, Sarah Delius, Rajendra Govender, Daniel Moss, Gcinashe Nqabeni, Candice Sehoma, Tarryn De Kock, Nailla Dollie, Nokubonga Ralayo and Lynsey Bourke.

Signed below:

Civil society members

Civil society members

Abeedah Adams, Skye Adams, Anele Yawa, Nerisha Baldevu, Brandon Bauer, Calvin Bauer, Koni Benson, Asanda Benya, Milisuthando Bongela, Christine Bosman, Roxanne Bouwer, Ryan Brunette, Whitney Cele, Andile Cele, Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT), Ruchi Chaturvedi, Emily Craven, Peter Craven, Mandy Crystal, Karen Daniels, Iqraa Daniels, Rus Davids, Azola Dayile, Tariq Desai, Phillip Dexter, Brendhan Dickerson, Crystal Dicks, Saskia Druyan, Michelle Du Toit, Vuyiseka Dubula, Frances Eberhard, Aragorn Eloff, Phila Fakude, Keitumetse Fatimata Moutloatse, Sarah Fickling, Charlotte Fischer, Benjamin Fogel, Arielle Nicole Ford, Robert Freeman, Willow Gainsford, Rethabile Jessica Gamede, Kelly Gillespie, Luis Gimenez Amoros, Miriam Gleckman-Krut, Sarah Godsell, Rumbi Goredema Gorgens, Barbara Gorgens, Prakashnee Govender, Joey Hasson, Hassan Haughton, Adam Haupt, Tiffini Hein, Karabo Hiine, Lorna Houston, Michelle Huber, Matt Huber, Heloise Hunter, Anzio Jacobs, Eleanor Jane Rosenthal, Anzio Jacobs, Liezemarie Johannes, Victoria John, Melanie Judge, Kim Jurgensen, Irshad Kathrada, Jon Keevy, Claire Kelly, Leila Khan, Motlatsi Khosi, Sean King, Dominique Le Roux, Carolyn Le Tang, Boitumelo Lerato, Megan Lindow, Nomfundo Lorraine Eland, Genevieve Louw, Talya Lubinsky, Matokgo Makutoane, Rebecca Marcus, Maia Marie, Lebogang Mashile, Ayesha Meer, Shamim Meer, Talia Meer, Nadia Meer, Julie Mentor, Rikky Minyuku, Kharnita Mohamed, Molemo Moiloa, Kelley Moult, Seán Muller, Ruth Muller, Danai Mupotsa, Ntobeko Mzolo, Camalita Naicker, Unathi Ndiki, Ntsiki Ndumela, CA Newcombe-Jakeman, Zandile Ngubeni, Lwazi Nodada, Philile Ntombela, Gugu Ntuli, Ria Ockhuys-Van Niekerk, Fundiswa of #TheTotalShutdown, Nadira Omarjee, Tabitha Paine, Jens Pedersen, Niklas Peters, Clémence Petit-Perrot, Kerry Petrie, Laura Phillips, Jeremy Phillips, Tholoana Phoshodo, Peggy Pillay, Rebecca Pointer, Yusra Price, Estelle Prinsloo, Alison Pulker, Simon Rakei, Kealeboga Ramaru, David Rosenthal, Kelly Rosenthal, Georgia Saacks, Jared Sacks, Cyril Sadiki, Victoria Satchwell, Charlotte Savage, Hannah Schultz, Laura Schultz, Paula Scott, Thabo Scott, Charity Sebopela, Rethabile Sehlabi, Joyce Seroke, Fatima Shabodien, Achume Sidyiyo, Louise Simpson, Danica Snyders, Nicola Soekoe, Hermoine (Yasmin) Solomons, Luke Spiropoulos, Marion Stevens, Amor Strauss, Marlon Swai, Frances Taylor, Nazeema Teladia, Martha Tholanah, Natasha Vally, Nuku van Coller, Lucinda van den Heever, Peter van Heusden, Anna Versfeld, Ian Verwayen, Paola Viglietti, Mary Vilakazi, Lorenzo Wakefield, Dominica Wannenburg, Claire Waterhouse, Jacqui Watson,Carla Watson, Marc Wegerif, Tara Weinberg, Lesley Wright, Stha Yeni, Nomzamo Zondo, Gcinashe Nqabeni, Candice Sehoma Read more from Civil society members

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