South Africa: EE Treasurer Resigns, Compaint Submitted to National Council to Investigate Sexual Harassment Allegations

press release

MEDIA STATEMENT: EQUAL EDUCATION TREASURER RESIGNS, COMPLAINT SUBMITTED TO NATIONAL COUNCIL TO INVESTIGATE SEXUAL HARASSMENT ALLEGATIONS

As a movement committed to principles of human dignity, social justice, and equality, Equal Education (EE) is deeply distressed by the allegations of sexual harassment levelled against the former Treasurer of Equal Education, Doron Isaacs.

Today, Friday 18 May, Doron submitted a letter to the National Council (NC) in which he has resigned as Treasurer of EE, and as a member of the organisation. He has not accepted any wrongdoing at this stage. He has indicated that he is prepared to submit himself to an independent investigation.

In the past month, Doron, former General Secretary Tshepo Motsepe, and former Head of National Organising Luyolo Mazwembe, have resigned amid allegations of sexual harassment. This has been an incredibly difficult period for Equal Education. We know that the trust and confidence which our supporters have placed in us, and the reputation which we have built over 10 years of struggle, has been damaged by what has transpired. However, we are committed to confronting these difficult times in our movement's history, with honesty and with integrity.

We recognise this as an important moment of reckoning with class, race and gender power imbalances – issues that permeate our society as a whole. We care deeply about our core mission – the struggle for access to quality education for all – and we are determined to deal with these issues decisively.

We have acted swiftly to address every allegation that has been put before us. We have not communicated publicly about these processes at each step of the way because it would undermine the integrity of these processes. In addition we have acted in this way to protect those who have come forward as our primary concern.

On 12 May 2018, the EE National Council established an independent inquiry into the allegations regarding the former General Secretary, and the setting up of a broader assessment process to assess EE's handling of previous cases of sexual harassment and related misconduct; EE's policies and procedures in regard to sexual harassment; and the organisational norms and culture which currently exists at EE.

On 17 May, members of EE's management team wrote to the NC to request it to suspend Doron, and to investigate claims of misconduct. The letter noted that allegations of sexual harassment were circulating about the former Treasurer.

Today, 18 May, the Mail & Guardian published an article reporting that several women have spoken out of having been sexually harassed by Doron. EE's Senior Management Team (SMT) submitted an additional request to the NC in which it also asked the NC to assess the conduct of the SMT in confronting sexual harassment in the workplace, after this too was called into question in the news article.

The requests by EE management for an investigation into allegations regarding the former Treasurer  will be considered as a matter of urgency by the NC.

We remain resolute in our commitment to investigate every allegation of sexual harassment brought against members, staff or leadership of  EE. We are committed to taking the necessary steps to enable an independent, safe and respectful process that will allow women to come forward with allegations without fear and with requisite anonymity. All those who wish to come forward will, in addition, be offered the necessary support and professional counselling services.

We want to acknowledge the courage of those who have already come forward, and reiterate our call for anyone with information relevant to the work of the panel to make a submission by responding to the contact information that can be found here.

While the mandate of the panel, which was established on 12 May, is to investigate the allegations regarding the former General Secretary, it is empowered to refer any other matter arising for further investigation, exploration, or attention, either as a stand-alone matter or as part of the broader assessment process which EE is embarking on.

We reaffirm our commitment to confronting and addressing sexual harassment and other forms of gender-based violence in our organisation, and doing so in a transparent manner, while ensuring fair, independent, investigative processes, and that there is a sensitive and supportive environment for those who have been mistreated to come forward.

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