POLITICAL PARTIES DON’T SUSPEND MEMBERS CHARGED WITH SEXUAL OFFENCES – EVEN WHEN CHARGED WITH RAPE AGAINST CHILDREN

ByAbbey Jane Hudson

POLITICAL PARTIES DON’T SUSPEND MEMBERS CHARGED WITH SEXUAL OFFENCES – EVEN WHEN CHARGED WITH RAPE AGAINST CHILDREN

#NotOurLeaders
16 Days of Activism to end violence against women

CASE 4: Unnamed ANC Councillor, JS Moroka Municipality
In May of this year an unnamed ANC councillor was accused of raping a 16-year old girl. He was released on bail of R5 000 by the Mdutjana Magistrate’s Court in Siyabuswa, Mpumalanga and the next court date set for 23 June. Rather than suspending the councillor, the ANC in the Nkangala region chose to place him on special leave pending the outcome of the case. Spokesperson Sello Matshoga indicated that the councillor would only have been suspended if the state had succeeded in opposing bail and presented evidence in court of a strong case. No further information about the progress of this case is available.

ANC is inconsistent in its approach
“The ANC is inconsistent in its stance towards members who are accused of sexual offences,” said Lisa Vetten, a gender violence specialist. “On Monday 27 #NotOurLeaders highlighted the case of Winterveldt councillor Sipho Maselane who is appearing in the Ga-Rankuwa magistrates court today (30 November) on multiple counts of rape and robbery. He has neither been suspended, nor placed on ‘special leave.’ We’ve also highlighted how the ANC acted against Marius Fransman even though the criminal investigation had not been concluded,” she said.
Another very recent example is Simon Mofokeng, the mayor of Emfuleni who distributed pictures of a semi-nude 14-year old girl to other ANC leaders via WhatsApp in October of this year. Although Mofokeng has not been formally charged with a criminal offence yet, he was placed on ‘special leave’ on 30 October and an internal investigation launched into the matter. Although Mofokeng resigned on 20 November he is not necessarily off the hook, as the ANC is reported to be still considering further disciplinary action against him.

Reluctance to suspend party members accused of sexual offences is evident across parties
The ANC is not the only party to take the path of least resistance when confronted by party members charged with sexual offences.
“On Tuesday #NotOurLeaders highlighted the case of a deputy mayor, Mncedisi Maphisa, who has been charged with sexual assault. He has not been suspended or placed on special leave by the IFP. In yet another example a DA councillor from Clanwilliam in the Western Cape was accused in March of sexually assaulting a 13-year old girl and arrested. The DA also said they would not suspend him until the criminal case has been concluded. They’ve since been able to duck the issue as the councillor had not paid his membership fees and is therefore no longer a member of the DA,” said Sanja Bornman of Lawyers for Human Rights.

Avoiding internal disciplinary procedures while criminal cases are pending
“Criminal charges are serious. It’s unacceptable that parties claim – and only in some instances – that they must wait for the outcome of a criminal trial before they can act. This is a cop out. They are not powerless to act,” says Vivienne Mentor Lalu of the Women and Democracy Initiative. “Legally, there is no requirement to wait. In fact, political parties (like employers) should run internal processes as soon as they are aware of the allegations against their members regardless of the criminal justice process. That would show that they are serious about addressing sexual violence.” 2

The ANC must act
• The #NotOurLeaders campaign calls on the ANC to provide further information on the progress of the case against the Mpumalanga councillor.
• We also call on the ANC make clear its position on the processes to be followed when a member is accused of a sexual offence. A statement must be issued in this regard and every effort made to ensure that this policy is routinely and consistently applied.
• #NotOurLeaders reiterates its call to immediately suspend Sipho Maselane and undertake an internal disciplinary investigation of his conduct. The national office should also investigate the Tshwane ANC’s handling of Maselane’s matter.

All parties must act
• The #NotOurLeaders campaign challenges all parties to develop procedures for suspending political representatives accused of sexual offences.

For comment contact:
Lisa Vetten, gender violence specialist, 082 822 6725
Vivienne Mentor-Lalu, Women and Democracy Initiative, Dullah Omar Institute, 082 494 0788
Sanja Bornman, Lawyers for Human Rights, 083 522 2933
CRIMINAL CASES AND INTERNAL DISCIPLINARY ACTION
Criminal trials and disciplinary actions are separate processes, with different purposes and levels of proof needed. This is why withdrawal of charges, or an acquittal in a criminal court does not always mean an incident did not happen. It means that the state could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that it happened. The purpose of an internal disciplinary process, in most cases, is to maintain behavioural standards and create a safe working environment – which employers are required by law to do. The onus of proof is lower in internal disciplinary processes than it is in criminal trials. In these processes the case must be proved on a balance of probabilities – so they look at what is more probable. Internal disciplinary processes can and should run at the same time that a criminal trial is running. They also can and should be run, when the allegations constitute misconduct, even when there is no criminal case.

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Abbey Jane Hudson editor

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