But the complainant and her supporters are taking the fight forward for her
The ANC has closed its sexual harassment case against spokesperson Pule Mabe after the party’s grievance panel ruled last Monday that the complainant’s version was not supported by evidence.
In contrast, Mabe’s version was “corroborated by witnesses whose relevant evidence the complainant did not refute or challenge”, said the panel, which was chaired by ANC national executive committee (NEC) members Sdumo Dlamini and Thoko Didiza.
As the party’s top six closed the matter last week, City Press understands that the 26-year-old woman, who was Mabe’s personal assistant at the time the alleged harassment took place, has options to fight the outcome, including going to the Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration or the labour court.
The complainant had also laid a case against Mabe at the Sandton Police Station with the same allegations, which the “panel felt is an independent matter of the law enforcement process and does not have a bearing on the hearing”.
The woman’s sympathisers in the ANC’s NEC were expected to fight the matter at a meeting scheduled for Sunday to endorse the party’s final candidate list for the May 8 elections.
The woman laid the charge against Mabe in November, alleging that he had made unwanted sexual advances towards her.
According to a 14-page letter outlining her complaint, she claimed that Mabe forced himself into her bed on two separate occasions.
After she refused Mabe’s alleged sexual advances, he allegedly made her job miserable by reducing her salary and emotionally abusing her. Mabe has been on leave since December.
During hearings last month, the panel heard of three alleged incidents of sexual harassment that took place in July at St George’s Hotel in Tshwane and another at the Ranch Resort in Limpopo.
The panel noted disputes of fact around the number of rooms booked and whether Mabe and the complainant were alone at some point.
On the day of the first alleged incident, ANC Gauteng secretary Jacob Khawe was present and testified that he and Mabe left the complainant’s room after work.
The panel found the complainant failed to “question or challenge” his statement.
The complainant described the first incident at St George’s after Khawe left, alleging: “There were two beds in the room and when [Khawe] left, Pule then invited me to sit next to him on the bed he was lying on … I initially refused.”
She said Mabe insisted because he wanted to see the notes that she was reading out to him and “I then did as he said. I was so uncomfortable, such that it lasted for two minutes and [I] went back to the bed I was on at first,” she told the panel.
“He invited me again and insisted on his story of wanting to see what was written on the paper. I couldn’t wait until he was finished so that I could go back to the bed I was on. When he was done, I immediately jumped off the bed to the one I was alone on earlier. I began making remarks about being tired and so forth … after a long while, he gave in and left the room.”
During her comments on the second incident, she said she wanted to tell him that she needed space to rest, “but this was my first day of work. I had not yet signed the contract, the money that paid for the room was his and I didn’t have a car to go back home, nor did I have money to catch a cab.”
She dozed off “until such a time I felt so hot and woke up. To my surprise, the lights were all off, there were blankets on me and comrade Pule’s legs on top of my body.”
Regarding the second incident, the panel found Mabe’s version was corroborated by two other witnesses, including “a friend” of the complainant.
When referring to the alleged incident in Limpopo, the complainant said they had supper in the kitchen and, after a conversation regarding work, she decided to go to her room.
“I bathed and got into my pyjamas, I had resolved that I … will rather get into bed. I got on the phone … until comrade Pule decided to walk into my room while I was lying there on the phone [and] he lay on the bed.
“He moved closer to me and put his arm on to my shoulder. I knew then that I had to gather courage to tell him to move. He left the room and I got under my blankets with the lights and TV on. I slept until I heard movement in the room and realised that it was him. I opened my eyes and covered my head. I saw him plug his power bank to the charger and he stood there for a while as if he was trying to think of his next move. My heart was beating so hard as I was thinking of what could possibly happen and how I was going to escape the situation.”
About the third incident in Limpopo, the complainant testified that Mabe walked into her room and touched her on the shoulder, but he denied this.
“The allegations of sexual harassment were manufactured and fabricated by the complainant to cloud and muddy, as well as to divert attention from, genuine and real concerns relating to poor work performance, lack of qualifications and actions taken by the human resource unit in response,” read part of Mabe’s affidavit.
“As it is common with cases where there are lies and fabrications, the complainant’s statement is riddled with inconsistencies, improbabilities, discrepancies, dramatic presentation of events and material omissions.
“Based on the amount of lies that the complainant tells, it is inescapable to draw an inference that she is a habitual liar. Not only did she lie in relation to her qualifications and the sexual harassment allegations, she recently continued to lie in her communication to the media.”
The complainant wanted the matter decided on the basis of circumstantial evidence, while Mabe preferred direct evidence.
The panel found that the complainant “does not indicate what circumstances are indicative of the alleged sexual harassment”.
“The panel also observes that the complainant seemed to forget certain aspects of her version which are critical to her case and would then immediately change her statement. Further, the panel believes that, even if such circumstances were highlighted, same could not outweigh the direct evidence led by the witnesses to the effect that they left with [Mabe] on the nights in question.”
The panel also found against the complainant regarding claims that she lied about her qualifications and that she did not occupy a leadership position in the Congress of SA Students as her CV stated, or that Mabe was abusive towards staff.
Mabe contended that the woman made the complaint because her salary was cut.
The panel found the complainant’s “questioning of the HR process disingenuous and/or inconsistent”.
The complainant’s lawyer, Brenda Madumise, said: “I can confirm that a ruling has been made. My client and I are perusing the documents and I am thus not in a position to comment.”
But those close to the complainant questioned the ANC process, saying some witnesses who would have backed her version were not called by the panel, and that some who initially corroborated her story had later changed their minds and sided with Mabe.
The case would be used to challenge the culture of “patriarchy” within the ANC and to ensure there is “justice” for women abused by powerful men.
They pointed out that the panel ignored the fact that Mabe, as a senior leader and member of the NEC, should not have been in the junior employee’s room in the first place.
Among the recommendations the grievance panel sent to the ANC’s top six last week was that the party update its recruitment policy, especially regarding headhunting.
The panel recommended that the complainant remain a full-time employee at Luthuli House, but in a different department; that the ANC adopt a sexual harassment policy; and that both parties be taken for counselling.
Dlamini said he could not comment.
ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa said he could not comment before a report had been presented.
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