South Africa

South Africa

Politicians behaving badly: When will leaders walk the talk on respect for women?

Politicians behaving badly: When will leaders walk the talk on respect for women?

On Sunday, it was reported that an ANC politician who chairs the National Council of Provinces committee tasked with dealing with women’s issues is being investigated for allegedly beating up his ex-lover. On Tuesday, it was reported that a DA deputy shadow minister has had a sexual harassment charge laid against him. A leading figure within the EFF caucus in the Gauteng legislature remains a man previously fired from a social justice organisation over a rape charge. When will our leaders start leading by example? By REBECCA DAVIS.

Jihad Mohapi Mohapi, chairman of the select committee on cooperative governance and traditional affairs in the NCOP, has been charged with assault by his former girlfriend. According to The Sowetan, Mohapi – who is married – lost it after his girlfriend – who is also married – ended their affair.

The complainant’s police affidavit, seen by the newspaper, specifies that Mohapi assaulted her with “clenched fist several times for a long time and when he realised that people would see what he was doing, he decided to drive from the scene to another scene”.

Mohapi allegedly proceeded to beat her at a second location. The complainant’s statement also said that Mohapi insulted her about a rape case she had pending, accusing her of being a “whore”.

The Sowetan “saw pictures of [the complainant’s] injuries where she had bruises on her left upper arm, on both her breasts, her collar region, her left thigh and a blue eye”.

The committee which Mohapi chairs has been assigned to deal with issues pertaining to women and youth ever since the Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities was disbanded, and with it its relevant committee in the NCOP.

Mohapi has a patchy attendance record of the meetings of his committee.

In 2011, Mohapi was also accused of involvement in the assault of two men while he was Mayor of the Moqhaka municipality in Kroonstad. During the incident, one of Mohapi’s councilors allegedly referred to a female police officer as a “useless bitch of a white woman”.

The Sowetan reported that in the current incident, Mohapi was yet to be questioned by police “because he told them he would see them when he returns from Parliament in Cape Town”.

One reason why an MP might want to lie low in Parliament is because the Powers and Privileges Act of Parliament stipulates that “a person may not within the precincts execute or serve or tender for service any summons, subpoena, or other process issued by a court” without the permission of the Speaker or the Chairperson.

On Tuesday, meanwhile, the DA confirmed that a female staffer has laid a formal complaint of sexual harassment against a deputy shadow minister in the National Assembly.

DA Federal Chairperson told EWN that an investigation was underway, following the allegation that the unnamed senior MP had grabbed a woman’s hand and placed it on his crotch.

A friend of the complainant told the Cape Argus that the alleged incident took place during the DA protest march in Cape Town before President Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation Address.

After the complainant – who is herself a DA staffer – told the MP that she couldn’t meet with him because she was busy with the picket, her friend alleged:

“He then came up behind her, calling her by her name and demanded to know why she did not respond when he called her. When she told him she was busy with a picket, he grabbed her hand and put it on his private parts saying ‘picket here’.”

The newspaper reported that three other DA workers had corroborated the complainant’s claims, while one supporter of the MP said: “He has a unique sense of humour, which can easily be misconstrued”.

The two biggest parties are not alone in having senior male representatives accused of sexual misconduct.

In November 2013, Daily Maverick reported that the EFF’s then-Gauteng spokesperson Patrick Sindane previously had been expelled from a social justice organisation after being charged with involvement in the gang rape of a sex worker in late 2008.

Charges against Sindane and two other men were dropped after the sex worker in question allegedly disappeared, so Sindane was never found guilty of rape. But the social justice organisation announced at the time that their own internal inquiry into the matter had concluded that the men’s suspension was warranted.

When Daily Maverick brought this matter to the EFF’s attention in 2013, national spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi told us: “We will look into it”.

Ndlozi could not be reached for comment on Tuesday as to the results of any EFF inquiry into the matter, but Sindane is listed as an EFF representative of the Gauteng provincial legislature.

All three of the parties have stated policies against sexism, gender discrimination and violence against women.

At the launch of last November’s ’16 Days of Activism’ campaign, for instance, the ANC called on law enforcement agencies to demonstrate “zero tolerance” for violence against women and children.

“Our communities must not be quiet or turn a blind eye on the perpetrators of such violence,” the statement read. “Let us expose and isolate individuals behind these despicable acts.”

After the Daily Maverick reported on the rape charge previously laid against a senior EFF figure, EFF leader Julius Malema urged voters to trust his party because “we don’t have a history of being accused of rape”.

In 2010, the DA complained against the appointment of then-Deputy Public Works Minister Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu’s husband Simon Zulu as the Minister’s personal assistant while there were sexual harassment charges pending against him.

“Sexual harassment charges are very serious and should always be regarded with the weight that they naturally engender,” the DA said at the time. “This is especially true of the public service”. DM

Photo: White Temple in Chiang Rai, north Thailand (Unknown source)

Read more:

  • MP punched me for dumping him – lover, in The Sowetan
  • DA MP accused of sex harassment, on IOL
  • EFF: Two senior party officials accused of involvement in 2008 gang rape, on Daily Maverick

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