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Sexual harassment complaints against NTI manager ‘ignored’

A financial clerk who alleges she was fired after spurning sexual advances by her manager at the embattled state-owned Northwest Transport Investment (NTI) is demanding reinstatement. She has requested the assistance of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) in her fight for justice. 

For 15 months, Andisa Thubana worked for the NTI, with the understanding that her temporary position would be made permanent. But in October, she was told that her contract would not be renewed again. 

In a two-page statement that Thubana wrote to her union, Numsa, she claims her former boss, Presley Maleka, had made sexual advances and harassed her constantly. She believes she was fired because of her refusal to entertain his advances. 

Maleka dismissed her allegations, saying: “You can ask the company about it. All I know is that the lady was a contract worker, and her contract expired.” 

An internal document seen by the Mail & Guardian recommends Thubana be reinstated. 

Bridget Laka, the acting head of legal for NTI, wrote to the chief executive last year, stating that an employee has a reasonable expectation of being granted permanent employment if their temporary contract is extended several times. 

Laka noted that there were unfair labour practices surrounding the termination of Thubana’s contract, because she was summarily dismissed without notice. Laka added that “the fact that there was a critical need for the vacancy to be filled, and since termination, the post remains vacant” is in Thubana’s favour. 

NTI spokesperson Freddy Sepeng said the entity had brought in an external independent labour relations advocate, who dismissed the allegations “for both jurisdictional and meritorious reasons”.

However, an NTI source close to the matter alleged that the process was a farce. Neither the union nor Thubana were asked to participate, and nor was the company’s legal department approached, as due process requires.

The sexual advances allegedly began in 2019, at the time Thubana joined NTI. “When I was starting the job, he offered to book me into a B&B that he would pay for. That was suspicious for me, and I turned him down,” Thubana told the M&G.  

“Most of my colleagues knew about his sexual advances because I told them. I also confronted him about how I hate how he spoke to me. He never stopped,” she said.

Thubana said she began working at NTI as a financial clerk in July 2019. Her contract was renewed every three months. 

When she joined, Thubana says she was promised her job would be made permanent. But things turned sour after she allegedly turned down sexual advances from the man who was her boss. “Mr Maleka had made several sexual advances towards me. He first asked [me] to have an affair with me. I didn’t agree to this, and he kept on addressing me inappropriately. There was a time [when] he asked me once to stay behind after work,” she wrote in her statement.

Thubana said she felt very unsafe being alone with Maleka at the office, so she asked a male colleague to remain with her. During this time, she discovered that the only work Maleka had for her was to scan and send letters to him using email. 

“He would come to my office and make comments like ‘One day I will get you.’ There was this one time I was working in December [2019], and it was the last day. As I went into his office to say goodbye, he leaned in for a hug and tried to kiss me. But I pushed him away,” she added.

The NTI is not new to controversy and poor management. In 2018 the M&G revealed that Melusi Motha, the industrial relations manager at the time, had been handed an 18-month sentence for fraud and forgery back in 2004, when he was a prosecutor at the Middelburg magistrate’s court.

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 He had also been charged with 24 crimes, including gross misrepresentation, gross negligence, corruption and failure to disclose that he had a criminal record at another position, when he worked for the Greater Tubatse municipality in Limpopo.

But he was hired nonetheless.

Then in 2019, a year into his NTI job, Motha was charged with four offences: contacting a service provider, asking for a bribe and sending the service provider his banking details, as well as bringing the NTI into disrepute. 

He was fired while law enforcement authorities are investigating criminal allegations against him. 

The company was also placed under administration between August 2019 and May 2020.

Numsa shop steward in the North West, Smith Nkosi, said the union had escalated the sexual harassment allegations and other issues — including the fact that NTI did not pay into the workers’ provident fund for 10 months — to Numsa at the national level, because the company is not prioritising these grievances. 

“All we want is for Andisa to be given her job back and this alleged sexual perpetrator [to be] disciplined. The company is well aware of our demands, and they told us that this matter is sitting with their company secretary,” said Nkosi.

However, Sepeng said that the provident-fund issue was still being discussed by NTI, labour unions and Old Mutual.

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Chris Gilili
Chris Gilili is a climate and environmental journalist at the Mail & Guardian’s environmental unit, covering socioeconomic issues and general news. Previously, he was a fellow at amaBhungane, the centre for investigative journalism.

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