Editorial: ANC’s tiny step on abuse

For an organisation that fought for a nonracist, nonsexist South Africa, and that is now in power and thus able to make policy to build a transformed nation, the ANC is woefully lacking in policy on sexual harassment.

The ANC, as a party and in government, surely has sufficient experience of patriarchy, male domination and toxic masculinity to know it has to tackle sexual harassment.

To cite just one example, in the early 2000s, Norman Mashabane, the South African ambassador to Indonesia, was accused by several women of sexual harassment. He was found guilty in an initial hearing, and again in a second case brought against him two years later, but Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, then the minister of foreign affairs, supported his appeal, argued for his innocence in court documents, and allowed him to continue in his post. She even developed a conspiracy theory to account for why there were complaints against him.

Perhaps Mashabane was innocent, but the way the ANC-in-power dealt with the matter does not look impartial or fair.

The case of party spokesperson Pule Mabe, who was recently cleared of sexual harassment charges by an ANC panel, emphasises its lack of policy and general inability to deal with such matters. Mabe is back at work in Luthuli House after his former personal assistant’s complaints against him were dismissed by the panel. She says the panel ignored the evidence of several witnesses, and it’s easy to believe the ANC was lax about this — look at how it conducted its ethics inquiries during the years of the Jacob Zuma presidency.

At least the panel recommended that the party put a sexual harassment policy in place within three months. It certainly should — and we should closely monitor its progress towards that goal.

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